Ease Up on WaPo’s Richard Cohen, As of Last Week He’s Totally Down with Slavery Being Bad


Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen is getting, and this is not racist, horse-whipped over a new column in which he seems to suggest that gagging at the thought of interracial marriage is not racist, but merely “conventional.”

But all the haters really ought to ease up on Cohen, who, as of last week, realized that American slavery wasn’t “a benign institution in which mostly benevolent whites owned innocent and grateful blacks.”

That’s gotta count for something, right?

This epiphany came to Cohen as he watched the new film 12 Years a Slave, which forced Cohen to “unlearn” the following:

  • slavery was not a benign institution in which mostly benevolent whites owned innocent and grateful blacks.
  • slavery was wrong, yes, that it was evil, no doubt, but really, that many blacks were sort of content.
  • Slave owners were mostly nice people — fellow Americans, after all

Cohen says he learned all of this in school, but you’d be hard-pressed to produce a list like that from someone who was home-schooled by the banjo kid from Deliverance. If it’s even possible, the lessons he took from 12 Years a Slave are even weirder:

  • “slavery was not only incomprehensibly cruel — it had to have had consequences.” – Sure, but like a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon, who could ever begin to guess at what those consequences could be without a movie to untangle them?
  • “Families are broken up — not just like that, with a casual statement of fact, but with a rending of garments and an awful pain and a tearing of the soul.” – So it wasn’t all like “Hey, I’ll never see my kids again. BT dubs, I think they’re putting sage in this gruel, are you going to finish that?”
  • 12 Years a Slave has finally rendered Gone with the Wind irrevocably silly and utterly tasteless, a cinematic bodice-ripper.” – Yes, who could have known the realities of slavery before last week, let alone in 1939?
  • “(Solomon Northrup) goes from being a human being to a blotted entry on a ledger. We can all connect to that. At the same time, we connect less with the slaves he left behind when he was freed. He is restored to the life he once had. They remain with the life they have always had.” – Even with a really great movie as your guide, empathy has its limits.

Stay tuned for Richard Cohen’s next column, about how Birth of a Nation went kinda easy on the Ku Klux Klan.

For all of his racial insularity, though (and it is considerable), at least Cohen is a few steps ahead of Sarah Palin.

(h/t Wonkette)

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