November 15, 2013

Regarding the Nov. 13 Style article “Interracial comment is criticized”:

Post columnist Richard Cohen explained that he “was expressing not my own views but those of extreme right-wing Republican tea party people” when he commented in his Nov. 12 op-ed column, “On to Iowa?,” on “a gag reflex” elicited by New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s interracial marriage.

The problem with this interpretation is that it does not fit the column as written. First, the phrase “people with conventional views” clearly excludes followers of any “extreme” ideology. Second, in the sentence immediately preceding the offensive remark, Cohen declared, “Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled,” meaning that the party’s members cannot possibly be the ones who “gag” at the breaching of a racist taboo.

That said, I’m willing to give Cohen the benefit of the doubt. If he meant what he said he meant, his mistake was to soft-pedal his critique of the “extreme right-wing Republican tea party people” to the point of incoherence. If he had been willing to call them out explicitly on their “gag reflexes” and refrain from attaching a nonsensical “not racist” disclaimer to a description of racist behavior, the people now calling for his head would instead be praising his courage.

Stephen Brinich, Springfield

In 12 years of marriage, my wife and I have never encountered a “gag reflex” at the mere sight of our interracial marriage. In fact, we have seen a country full of welcoming hospitality.

I grew up in Wisconsin and just assumed my future wife would be white like me. Like every other couple, we met, found we had many common interests, laughed a lot, enjoyed spending time together and fell in love. All of that is true regardless of her, or my, race. I love my wife. I love who she is. What color she is does not change that. It’s irrelevant.  

We were married in our church in rural south Florida by an old-time, Pentecostal preacher. We were the first interracial couple he had ever married and, much to his credit, he wanted us only to consider the possibility of greater difficulties because of our interracial marriage and whether our relationship was strong enough to deal with that. We’ve found people to be overwhelmingly friendly and accepting. I think people recognize that love is hard enough to find, so you better hold on to it, even when it comes in a shade you didn’t expect.

Nathan Moon, Tallahassee

Richard Cohen clearly and concretely described the cultural changes that enrage many on the politically extreme right wing. He noted that the interracial marriage (and, of course, biracial children) of the newly elected mayor of New York probably drives some people in the United States crazy. What of that description is mistaken? Cohen didn’t opine; he illustrated the huge and disturbing changes that have caused a chasm in our society. The negative effects of this division are demonstrated daily in a Congress with approval ratings of 9 percent.

Most important, Americans of all stripes should quit adopting the “fire that person” solution whenever we are offended by something that fails our test of political correctness. We are beginning to sound like those who put out a hit on Salman Rushdie for his novel “The Satanic Verses.”

Cohen did not personally insult anyone. He reported facts to support his opinion.

Joan Salemi, West Springfield

I am a conventional person. As a schoolteacher (high school English), I enforce a code of conventional dress, decorum and language usage daily. As a mother, I conventionally urge my daughters to stand up straight, practice good manners and respect their elders. I have been a PTA president, a classroom helper and a stay-at-home mom, and I have driven my kids and their friends to more than our share of sport and school activities.

How dare Richard Cohen presume to know what I and those like me would feel at the sight of a biracial family. How dare he put forward the Neanderthal views of a few as “conventional.” Nothing about racial hatred is conventional. To suggest otherwise is abhorrent.

Susan Allen,

Thousand Oaks, Calif.