Bob Herbert is a black liberal columnist for the New York Times. There’s nothing remarkable about his writing or much original about his ideas: America is racist white country, Republicans are bad people, and so on. (He could be on to something about the Republicans, though.) His haughtiness during television appearances is off-putting.
In what might seem to be an unusual twist, this Saturday he took on Nikki Tinker, a black woman who recently unsuccessfully challenged Steve Cohen, a Democrat who represents a majority black district in Tennessee.
Tinker’s sins: an ad linking Cohen to the Ku Klux Klan, and another suggesting that he’s a hypocrite to visit “our” (i.e., black) churches.
Herbert actually waded in to defend Cohen’s vote against renaming a park in Memphis currently named for the Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Ku Klux Klan founder. Why the sudden burst of Klan-defense from Manhattan?
Well, as the surname “Cohen” suggests, Cohen is Jewish. Herbert delights in quoting him: “It’s not like Nathan Bedford Forrest was inviting Jews over to celebrate Seder.”
For Herbert, this was an easy racial power equation to solve: Black and white may squabble down below, but the most sacred of the cows is the Jews. They are, as I have documented, Herbert’s bosses, both at the Times and as a political and cultural matter generally. So, explaining the spectacle of a black man denouncing a black woman and defending a “white” politician is really fairly easy.
I have not plumbed all Herbert’s columns, but it’s a safe bet none defend a white gentile politician in even remotely the same way.
Down below Herbert’s office in Times Square, there’s the occasional band of odd black nationalists who hector passers-by, both white and Jewish (rough video — in it, a man sparring with the black nationalists screams “I’m Jewish! I’m on your side!”, to which the lead speaker responds by belittling the Holocaust, causing the Jewish man to cry.)
I certainly don’t endorse this bizarre band, but as the comments about Jews show, its speakers have not learned the lesson of ascending to power: You may — and should — denounce white gentiles, but must always defend Jews. Even if they voted in support of a Klansman. For having learned this lesson, Bob Herbert keeps his elevated station, far above the craziness of the street.
Christopher Donovan is the pen name of an attorney and former journalist.