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David Brooks welcomes ‘Enrique Cohen-Chan’ diversity

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Last week the conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a piece that documented America’s growing diversity, expressed some “anxiety” about it, but celebrated it in the end: 

Because high immigration is taking place at a time of unprecedentedly low ethnic hostility, we’re seeing high rates of intermarriage. This creates large numbers of hybrid individuals, biracial or triracial people with names like Enrique Cohen-Chan. These people transcend existing categories and soften the social boundaries between groups….

On the whole, this future is exciting. The challenge will be to create a global civilization that is, at the same time, distinctly American. Immigration reform or not, the nation of mutts is coming.

New York Times readers were upset and angered by the fact that Brooks titled his piece, “A Nation of Mutts.” Margaret Sullivan, the public editor at the Times, questioned Brooks about the choice, and he wrote to her:

To take the word “mutt” as a derogatory term, you have to believe that purebred things are superior to mixed-breed things, whether it is dogs or people.

President Obama surely agrees with Brooks. The president once described himself as a mutt.

Of course the goal is to de-valorize the term “purebred”— whatever that means when you are talking about human beings mating.

And Brooks has a spotty record on this issue. Just a couple of months ago, he seemed to deplore America’s growing diversity in a piece celebrating the Orthodox Jews of Brooklyn. That piece expressed disapproval of the Enrique Cohen-Chans as diffusers of a “deeper… collective purpose”. 

The Orthodox are “incredibly self-confident,” Brooks said– and in honoring their “moral order,” he touched on intermarriage:  

a young person in mainstream America can choose to marry or not. In Orthodox society, young adults have an obligation to marry and perpetuate the covenant and it is a source of deep sadness when they cannot.

“Marriage is about love, but it is not first and foremost about love,” Soloveichik says. “First and foremost, marriage is about continuity and transmission.”

The modern Orthodox are rooted in that deeper sense of collective purpose.

Writes a friend who is in a diverse family: “I’ve got other things to worry about than Brooks calling us ‘mutts,’ but I sure didn’t see him calling Orthodox Jewish kids ‘purebred,’ presumably because he recognizes a lot of people would be rightly angered by the term. Brooks is on precarious ground when you recall his earlier piece.”

I agree. I think these matters are incredibly personal, everyone has strong feelings about them, and our choices reflect those feelings. Temperamentally, Brooks is surely for the “existing categories” of human culture and religion; the Jewish Week reports that his wife converted to Judaism and changed her name, and keeps a kosher household.

The great news in his latest column is that American diversity is here and only increasing and all conservatives should learn to embrace it. And let’s be clear. As Alex Kane pointed out this morning, and as Tony Judt pointed out ten years ago: As America changes and there are more and more “Enrique Cohen-Chan”s walking around, a Jewish state is going to seem like more and more of an anachronism. Some day David Brooks will flipflop on that one too.

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13 Responses

  1. surewin
    July 4, 2013, 2:50 pm

    ” As America changes and there are more and more “Enrique Cohen-Chan”s walking around, a Jewish state is going to seem like more and more of an anachronism. Some day David Brooks will flipflop on that one too. ”

    Uh, I’m going to say he won’t. In fact, when I began to interpret Brooks as an Israel-Firster a few years ago, I found it to be an illuminating hypothesis. He’s mild-mannered about it most of the time, even somewhat covert, but I think that’s a more effective approach, and whatever we might think of his ideas (so to speak), he is a very effective, even dangerous, propagandist. He writes about a lot of topics, but I get the impression that in the end there’s really only one thing he cares about.

    • philweiss
      July 4, 2013, 3:56 pm

      Well: It’s a fair question, with all these neocons. That’s why I am so transparent about my religious identification questions. Note that he said he was gooey-eyed about Israel and had been there a dozen times. That’s a real attachment. I wish he’d talk about it more.

      • Reds
        July 5, 2013, 9:22 am

        Hi Phil,

        Did you catch this from one of the readers?

        “Talking about people as dogs is problematic in any context, but it’s worth exploring Brooks’s blatant racism in that column. He writes first that the U.S. was an “outpost of Europe,” and then in the next paragraph writes, “Soon we will not be an outpost of Europe but a nation of mutts …” So, in his column, a word that is used for dogs only describes Americans when they are intermarrying with non-Europeans (i.e., brown and black people).”

        His use of “Mutt” was in regards to Non-Europeans having babies with White Europeans.

    • Walker
      July 5, 2013, 9:13 am

      He’s mild-mannered about it most of the time, even somewhat covert, but I think that’s a more effective approach, and whatever we might think of his ideas (so to speak), he is a very effective, even dangerous, propagandist.

      You’re right. Brooks is a master of the little throwaway line. Who, me? Let’s move on . . .

  2. Sin Nombre
    Sin Nombre
    July 4, 2013, 4:26 pm

    Phil Weiss wrote:

    “And Brooks has a spotty record on this issue. Just a couple of months ago, he seemed to deplore America’s growing diversity in a piece celebrating the Orthodox Jews of Brooklyn. ”

    Phil, how could you miss this? This isn’t being being “spotty.” It’s called … condemning as “racist” or etc. any and all racial or ethnic or cultural singularism or favoritism or particularism or whatever in every single race or ethnic *other than* for or amongst Jews.


    And just as surewin says, I’d bet quite a bit that no, you’re never going to see Brooks flip-flopping on this. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him, like Marty Peretz, and like Rabbi Yoffie has indicated his desires, and so many others have done, is after spending the better part of their lives living here, pretending to hold this country’s best interests as their own but typically lecturing us on how racist and terrible we are, go and retire to somewhere in Israel. Where, like Rabbi Yoffie says, he can be among Jews who he prefers. [….]

    Very possibly even retire somewhere to Israel squatting on stolen Palestinian land.

  3. Krauss
    July 4, 2013, 4:37 pm

    Hmm, I think you underestimate(or overestimate, if you want to call it that) Mr. Brooks.

    Read the column carefully and notice how he dismisses a minority individual as being a part of a ”bogus term” (his choice of words).

    Also notice how he salivates at the thought of the non-white minorities battling each other in a brown/black-dominated underclass.
    This ties into the recent Cornel West controversy where he wrote, truthfully enough, that gays had supplanted blacks as the new favourites of the (white) liberal establishment. Of course, he revealed a world view that was very zero sum. And he got shit for that, appropriately, as if gay progress was a threat to black progress(which was how it did sound).

    But I think it is true that blacks just dont command the attention of the elite anymore same way, in part because of the increasing non-white portion of it(particularly Asian) and how gay rights have ascended over the past 10-15 years.

    Brooks is usually quite skeptical of diversity and the Jewish lens here is that he praised the Orthodox for their anti-diversity stance. Now he praises diversity, for the Gentiles, by calling them mutts.
    But aside from the interesting question if he is so enthusiastic about Jewish intermarriage(because it would reveal his more truthful positions), there lies another question. Is he even factually relevant? The mixed population of America is very small. About 4%, perhaps even less. Even among new-born it is a clear minority.
    The mixed population will not reach even 20% for many decades. That means that distinct racial categories(let us seperate the religious aspects) will remain.
    Brooks seems to realize this, as he salivates over the thought of non-white conflict in he underclass. If they(read: preferably the goys, and most preferably the brown/black ones) are becomming ”mutts” then why would there be that much ethnic conflict?

    Finally, by choosing a word which sounds pretty trashy as ”mutt” – it sounds almost degenerate because it is used in such contexts, which Brooks knows and uses as his defence – he too reveals his distance. So why did he end up praising it? Because he writes for the NYT. He can slam diversity when it comes to a narrow group like Jews, that is his privilege and he has a lot of elite backup on that opinion.

    For me, at least, a more interesting discussion is why Brooks felt safe to slam diversity for Jews but not for everyone else. And also, does he have differing opinions on this question depending upon if you are Jewish or not?

  4. just
    July 4, 2013, 5:44 pm

    Brooks is a supremacist & prefers for the Jewish to be kept “pure”. I found his characterization of “Enrique Cohen- Chan” thinly veiled racism. I saw no “celebration” for diversity on his part– more like dismay at the inevitable. Sorry.

    That is all.

  5. tokyobk
    July 4, 2013, 6:19 pm

    What is happening is the redefinition of “white.”

    What race will Enrique Cohen-Chan?

    When my parents were married their “interracial” union was still illegal in some states. When I was born in the late sixties and growing up in the seventies there were still the Osmonds and the Jacksons and they were considered culturally distinct. (there is on youtube a visit by the Jacksons to the Carol Burnett Show with plays on this distinction, where the brother’s speak “jive” and she tries to dance with them).

    And blackness then and only till the very, very, recent now conformed to a one drop rule. My last fully African ancestor was born in 1850 and most of my family was brown, usually light. But they were forced (and occupied proudly) the category of “black.” When I was a kid I never met black people who did not know the cues for seeing another “white looking” black person as black. Starting around the early 2000’s I began to meet young black people (students mostly) who had not been trained to differentiate the curls or a certain type of yellow complexion, that is to ID the passers. That no one told them or forced on them code proficiency told me that change was coming. Now, even someone who is half-African can plausibly say they are multiracial without being jeered.

    In fact, most African Americans are “Mutts” and by the way, white Americans always described themselves as mutts, they just meant French, German, Scots-Irish and of course an Indian Princess.

    For a lot of reasons, including Obama, this has changed. Even black heritage, and especially Latino and Asian, does not preclude one from participating in “whiteness.”

    The kinds of flexible identities (bi, multi, pan, nothing, double) that were ridiculed by black people as denial and rejected by white people, are now permissible.

    The US of A will become more like other parts of the Americas where blackness is associated with class and many of black heritage slip into a sense of majority whiteness, especially those in the revolving “meritocratic” elite. I don’t think this is necessarily good, but imo likely.

    About Jews, the complexion of Judaism is changing too. Any synagogue will have a Cohen-Chen and black converts are as likely among the Hasidim as among the conservative. The numbers are hard to get but there are certainly several hundred thousand self id’d Jews of color in the States now. Where do they stand on Israel? Probably the same range as white Jews.

    imo, and in my experience in the racial inter-zone.

    • Krauss
      July 5, 2013, 12:26 pm

      I’ve seen the opposite effect. It’s now not a stigma to be black and in progressive cirlces viewed as positive.
      The one drop rule lives on, although the motivations for the rule has changed.

      It used to be whites who instituted it to keep out the colored people. Now it’s many who are colored who, usually mixed, want to preserve a sense of identity.

      Take Obama. He is half-white but he only selected black on the census.
      Which goes to show that what our genes actually show matters less to people than what they want to tell themselves.

      Just as many mixed whites, with Indian blood, were terrified at even trying to find out if they had any. Some had black ancestors and had darker shades and were also usually afraid if people thought they were just “passing”.

      In both cases, even if you’re mixed, there is a deeper set of beliefs that influence how you view your racial ancestry and may cause you to think of yourself as a single race, to keep the mud out.

  6. American
    July 4, 2013, 6:52 pm

    Brook strikes me as scared for the Jewish or US zionist ( is he a zionst?) continuity or perhaps place or status in the coming new demographic powered order in the US.

    He writes…..
    “Finally, it would make sense that the religion of diversity, which dominates the ethos of our schools, would give way to an ethos of civic cohesion. We won’t have to celebrate diversity because it will be a fact.
    The problem will be finding the 21st-century thing that binds the fluid network of ethnic cells. ”

    There is no problem with finding the right tie binds the nation but a tribalist like Brooks would never think of it. The ‘fluid network of ethnic cells’ will be bound by or have to revert to the old fashioned original bond, an allegiance or dedication to the nations common good that transcends individual ethnicity…..Or…. it wont and it will break apart.
    Either way that goes ….today’s US zio tribe’s split allegiances and court power will likely be slam out of luck. Because it will either be totally rejected in the new order America if it goes the right way, or they will lose to the larger ethnic groups own split allegiances in the new America if it goes the wrong way.

    • annie
      July 4, 2013, 7:03 pm

      it would make sense that the religion of diversity, which dominates the ethos of our schools, would give way to an ethos of civic cohesion.

      he’s wrong, it’s not a religion of diversity that dominates the ethos in our schools, it’s MLK. were seeing the results of a generation raised with his ethos, and if that’s not a sign of civic cohesion i don’t know what is.

      • American
        July 4, 2013, 9:26 pm

        I can only say what my impression of his article is….the reason behind his mental meandering around … it’s written to not mean what he really means.
        It’s irritating.

    • just
      July 4, 2013, 9:18 pm

      I think that Brooks is covert Z. I think it satisfies him and his goals. He can appear to be reasonable about some things. He never seems to want to seem unhinged, unlike lots of neocons.

      I thought it pretty telling when he was advocating a McCain/Lieberman ticket. I think that Kristol advocated the same.


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