Apologizing Was the Least Melissa Harris-Perry Could Do

What’s the lesson? Progressives can have biracial families but conservatives can’t?

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Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney pauses as he addresses campaign workers while visiting a campaign call center in Green Tree, Pa., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.

It's a mark of where we are, in terms of race relations, that someone in a white, conservative family would adopt a black child. And it's another, more upsetting mark of the complicated, suspicious way many people deal with race that the family in question was ridiculed for it on national television.

The family is that of former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose family photos indeed had a certain Stepford wives-and-husbands quality to them, with the sons looking (predictably) very much alike, and everyone dressed in coordinating clothes and colors. Lots of families still do their family photos this way. Bu there's a new addition to the Romney clan, an African-American baby adopted into the family and looking cute as a Brooks Brothers button in a recent photo.

What wrong with this picture? Nothing. It's a family photo, and anyone who thinks "family" is only made up of people who share the gene pool of the rest of the clan is not only wrong but cruel.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the Democratic Party.]

And still, panelists on Melissa Harris-Perry's MSNBC show made fun of the photo. One even sang the Sesame Street song, "One of these things is lot like the other." Another came up with a bizarre and offensive explanation for why someone would offer a home to a child who needed one, saying:

It sums up the diversity of the Republican Party and the RNC, where they have the whole convention and they find the one black person.

This takes the race discussion to a new and more disturbing level. Instead of lauding the Romney family for being color-blind when it comes to caring for children, the critics reversed the argument, suggesting that only liberals have the inherent credentials as nonracists.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

Would any of those panelists ridiculed New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's family? De Blasio is white, is married to an African-American woman (who used to be a lesbian) and they have mixed-race children, one of whom sports an Afro that became its own campaign actor. So what's the lesson here – if you're leftist, you can have your own little "Modern Family," but if you're conservative, it's some sort of hoax?

Harris-Perry (who, for what it's worth, is an African-American woman with a white mother) apologized, which is the least that should have been done. And Romney, extremely graciously, accepted her apology. It's terrible that the MSNBC panelists are automatically suspicious of a conservative white family adopting a black baby. Or maybe they don't like the idea of a black child, or any child, growing up in such a conservative home. It's not their place to make that judgment. And at least we know the child will grow up in an environment of forgiveness.