Talk about race and you'll pay for it.

That's the lesson learned from the outcries from the left when ABC's Jake Tapper, trying to give a compliment to Barack and Michelle Obama on his Twitter feed, compared them to Cliff and Claire Huxtable from "The Cosby Show."

The cry of racism for saying "Lovely pix of the Obamas. Very much the Camelot Huxtables" was swift. It was also silly.

Much of the media, especially African-American outlets, have asked the question about how the Obamas change the perception many Americans have about black families.

It's not as if Tapper compared the Obamas to the Evanses from "Good Times" or the Thomases from "What's Happening."

When we've gotten to a point where one can't even offer a compliment — which essentially means the entire issue of race is verboten — we've instilled a chilling, silencing effect that is destructive to our culture.

It's no wonder Republicans are afraid to talk about race. Who can blame them? (Well, I can, but that's only because I've seen minority inclusion work.)

While he's been unfairly targeted, Tapper's lucky. Not everyone has his deep Rolodex and can get prominent African-Americans to defend him in a matter of minutes. So when anyone else makes a comment on race that is wildly misinterpreted, all they can do it say they didn't mean to offend and apologize. Which never mollifies critics. Much as "The White Shadow" was the first show to feature black and white youth interacting as equals, for those growing up in the 1980s, "The Cosby Show" was the first show that showed an African-American family as successful, as intellectual.

The Huxtables weren't George and Weezie, nor did they run a junkyard.

Tapper was giving a compliment — and not a backhanded one. For that, he owes no apology.