Bret Stephens Did A Racism, Which Means Soledad O'Brien Is The Real Racism

We're trying not to give attention and lucrative clicks to people who are what Jay Smooth called "wrong on purpose." Bret Stephens wrote a racist column for the New York Times this weekend that made racist points in all seven of the lively racist arts. Here's a lowlight:

[The Democratic Party] makes too many Americans feel like strangers in their own country. [The Democratic Party] puts more of its faith, and invests most of its efforts, in them instead of us.

They speak Spanish. We don't. They are not U.S. citizens or legal residents. We are. They broke the rules to get into this country. We didn't. They pay few or no taxes. We already pay most of those taxes. They willingly got themselves into debt. We're asked to write it off. They don't pay the premiums for private health insurance. We're supposed to give up ours in exchange for some V.A.-type nightmare. They didn't start enterprises that create employment and drive innovation. We're expected to join the candidates in demonizing the job-creators, breaking up their businesses and taxing them to the hilt.

We have better things to do than repudiate Stephens's "Notes From the Racist Underground." There are only a few facts present in the entire column, and a concerned white person called the cops on them. Soledad O'Brien provided our favorite response.

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It's impossible to imagine O'Brien saying these words without a some sort of drink with an umbrella in it in her hand. Anyway, we're only writing about Stephens and his racist column now because apparently he doesn't think the column's racist and is really upset that people think he's racist for writing for it.


Stephens should consider submitting his future racist fan fiction to The New Yorker. This was an op-ed piece, so readers logically assume the editorial commentary reflects the author's opinion. Why would anyone read the New York Times opinion pages for an "ordinary" person's point of view? We have free access to racist memes on social media. Well-paid Times columnists cosplaying Al Bundy isn't worth the subscription price.

It is also clearly Stephens speaking as himself when he voluntarily wrote the following words:

[Kamala] Harris, meanwhile, came across as Barack Obama in reverse, especially with her scurrilous attack on [Joe] Biden for the sin of having had a functional political relationship with two former segregationist senators in the 1970s. This was portrayed as a clever debate move but it will come to haunt her.

First place, Senators James O. Eastland and Herman Talmadge were never "former" segregationists. This implied they had renounced their white supremacist beliefs at some point, like a common Robert Byrd. They never did. No one thinks Mike Pence is a "former" anti-abortion and anti-gay politician just because abortion and gayness are, for now at least, legal. It's not a secret he'd change the law if he could.

Obama's political genius was to emphasize what Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, authors of "The Coddling of the American Mind," have called "common-humanity identity politics"— he made you feel comfortable no matter the color of your skin. Harris's approach, by contrast, is "common-enemy identity politics." Making white Americans feel racially on trial for views they may have held in the past on crime, busing and similar subjects is not going to help the Democrats.

Yeah, "ordinary voters" often reference the work of Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. Once we stopped at a bar in Appalachian Ohio, and they were discussing The Coddling of the American Mind at their monthly book club. We also didn't expect to see the MLK-ification of Barack Obama start so soon. Stephens couldn't stand Obama even in 2008, and his contempt never wavered. When comparing Obama to Donald Trump, Stephens said Obama was "aloof and calculated." Conservative criticism of Kamala Harris today is eerily similar to their criticism of Obama yesterday. Don't try to gaslight us.

Stephens thinks it's unfair for Soledad O'Brien to have an opinion about an opinion columnist whom she "doesn't know." If you need to meet all your readers individually for coffee to explain what you write, you are not very good at the "communication" part of your job. How can a woman of color claim a white person who writes racist garbage is in fact racist when all his white friends insist he isn't?


The president of the United States is a card-carrying racist, so we hardly think anyone calling Stephens racist because of his racist body of work will irreparably damage his reputation, especially in the conservative circles that welcome the likes of Ben Shapiro. If Stephens is what passes for a "principled conservative," we're going out on a limb and declaring there are no principled conservatives. It's like if the last doughnut in the box has a hair on it. There really are no more doughnuts in that scenario. Also: What's with the claim that someone doesn't have a racist "bone" in their body? Racism has nothing to do with skeletal structure. Even He-Man villain Skeletor did not literally have a "bigoted bone" in his body. That's not how any of this works.

A white man vouching for another white man's lack of racism is peak white maleness. Stephens had no problem calling Rep. Ilhan Omar, whom he doesn't know, a "naked anti-Semite." (We don't think he's seen her undressed, either.) We doubt that Stephens or Max Boot would take seriously the word of non-Jewish Stephen Robinson that Omar doesn't "have a bigoted bone" in her body. Why should they? The insulted party gets to weigh in. We're talking about racism not rubbish hat wear. Stay in your lane, Mr. Boot.

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Can conservatives just stop saying "woke" for at least a week? Co-opting black slang as a form of derision also doesn't help your "we're not racists" argument. Boot got ratioed because he stuck his fedora in a racist trash heap. Sure, Boot's taught a course at Columbia on op-ed columnists and their absence of racist bones. But we happen to have Bret Stephens right here and he thinks Boot "knows nothing of his work."

Ever told—or laughed at—a bigoted joke? I have, and I cringe today at what I once found funny. Ever used one of the more common ethnic or sexist slurs—"gypped," for instance, or "bitch"—or dropped the f-word as it commonly refers to gay people? I've been guilty of this too, to my shame.

Stephens went all Arthur Dimmesdale about his bigotry in a column he wrote just this February defending Ralph Northam. It seems the only Democrats Stephens likes are those in blackface or who pal around with segregationists. Stephens was born in 1973, so he was a functioning adult in the 1990s -- back when everyone was yelling "the f-word" at their gay waiters. But, hey, people who've written for the Weekly Standard think Stephens is next of kin to a freedom rider. Is O'Brien ready with her apology now?

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Damn, girl.

[New York Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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