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Richard Cohen, once 'tired' of being called racist, now feels intense guilt about slavery

Credit: PatrickMcMullan.com

Quite the shift in attitude from Washington Post anomaly columnist Richard Cohen.

(Clint Spaulding/PatrickMcMullan.com)

Back in July Cohen lamented that throughout the George Zimmerman trial, he was "tired" of being called "racist" for acknowledging "the widespread fear of crime committed by young black males." He said he could "understand" Zimmerman's suspicion of Trayvon Martin's "uniform" (a black hoodie) on the night that Martin was shot and killed.

It's a new day. One trip to see "12 Year's a Slave" and Cohen is feeling deeply ashamed. He writes in his latest column:

“12 Years a Slave” is art at its highest, not just on account of mastery or talent but because of what it makes yesterday say about today. We obscured, we covered up — we made the past conform to the present and insisted that hurt or pain had no right to persist, as if family tales told at the kitchen table dissipate when the silverware is put away. As a nation, we like to look pretty, but sometimes we weren’t. The grave obligation of art is to show us what we look like. [Director Steve] McQueen has held up a mirror. God, we look ugly.

Well, yes, most Americans are aware of slavery's nasty history. But few of us exhibit such bipolar behavior when discussing the state of race relations across the country.

Here's hoping Cohen's newfound guilt is soon relieved.


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