Opinion

The condescending racism of (some) white liberals

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David Cohen
Former Deputy Assistant Sec. of the Interior
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      David Cohen

      David B. Cohen served in the administration of President George W. Bush as U.S. Representative to the Pacific Community, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior, and as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He is the author of “<a href="https://www.createspace.com/3859219"> Left-Hearted, Right-Minded: Why Conservative Policies Are The Best Way To Achieve Liberal Ideals</a>.” Follow him on Twitter @DavidBCohen1.

No decent person believes that the color of your skin should limit what you’re allowed to achieve or what you’re allowed to earn. So why do some liberals believe that the color of your skin should limit what you’re allowed to think? When people of color refuse to think the way they’re “supposed to” think, when they follow their conscience to conservatism, do they forfeit their right to be treated with dignity and respect? The obvious moral answer is “no,” but some liberals don’t seem to get that. And it is particularly troubling when white liberals attempt to enforce racial groupthink in communities that are not their own.

The GOP convention featured a long and impressive list of minority elected officials. That won’t stop the large majority of African-American and Hispanic voters from supporting President Obama this year. As a conservative, I understand and respect that; historical voting patterns will not reverse course overnight. The case for conservatism in minority communities is an ongoing conversation that will continue for years.

Some white liberals insist on barging in on that conversation without showing the proper respect. “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2010. “Do I need to say more?” No, Harry, you don’t need to say more. Your clueless paternalism says it all.

At the GOP convention, Senator Marco Rubio spoke movingly about his working class parents. “A few years ago during a speech, I noticed a bartender behind a portable bar at the back of the ballroom,” recalled Rubio. “I remembered my father who had worked for many years as a banquet bartender. He was grateful for the work he had, but that’s not the life he wanted for us. He stood behind a bar in the back of the room all those years, so one day I could stand behind a podium in the front of a room.” New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, a former Democrat, spoke just as movingly about her humble origins — and how she eventually came to realize that the Republicans, not the Democrats, were the party of opportunity for families like hers.

The majority of Hispanics currently vote Democrat, and that’s fine. But who on earth is Harry Reid to disrespect the choices made by people like Rubio and Martinez? Reid has no idea how patronizing it is to tell Hispanics that their political thinking must be determined by their skin color and surname.

It is not my intention to make “white liberal” a pejorative. I myself used to be a half-white liberal — just as white, and probably just as liberal, as President Obama. While I’m no longer liberal, I know that many white liberals are extraordinarily decent people — especially those with the humility to recognize that their ideology does not hold a monopoly on decency, those with the maturity not to demonize people for thinking differently than they do.

During the convention, several white liberal reporters seized the opportunity to anoint themselves as guardians of racial correctness. With Hurricane Isaac bearing down on the Gulf Coast, Yahoo News’ Washington bureau chief David Chalian proclaimed that the Romneys “were happy to have a party with black people drowning.” (He was fired, presumably for voicing what other reporters were thinking.) MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell accused Sen. Mitch McConnell of racism for joking about the frequency of President Obama’s golf outings. Tiger Woods is half black, you see. O’Donnell’s colleague, Chris Matthews, implied that GOP Chairman Reince Priebus was racist for allegedly “foreignizing” President Obama — by likening his policies to those pursued in Europe. You see, “Europe” equals “foreign” equals “the other” equals “black.” In the fevered incoherence of Matthews’ brain, the dots are all connected.