What and Wow! Racism Circa 2014
What and wow! This was Blackacre’s original reaction when the racially charged comments made by Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and NBA Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling were exposed. As a general rule, Blackacre tends to shy away from commenting on the outrage of the moment. Adding yet another voice to an already hyper heated situation is usually not a good idea. More often than not joining the Amen Chorus contributes more heat than light. But the statements here and the lingering underbelly of racism they reveal demand a Blackacre response.
For the last 20 years Cliven Bundy has grazed his cattle and trespassed upon land which he has never owned, i.e., federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. In so doing, Mr. Bundy has amassed a debt of over one million dollars. To date, he has paid not one red cent of this bill and refuses to do so.
According to Mr. Bundy, he is the victim of government overreach and oppression. Mr. Bundy contends that he is entitled to feed his cattle on federal land because as he puts it, “his family settled the land surrounding his ranch in the 1800’s.” Not only does he believe himself entitled to use the use the land and its resources as he sees fit, he further contends that the federal government is illegitimate. He therefore claims the moral and legal right to not only continues grazing his cattle on federal land but to resist the collection of grazing fees by force of arms.
Well known members of the political right have jumped on the Bundy bandwagon as the cause of the day, labeling him and his supporters as true patriots. Other “true patriots” many of whom are armed have joined the crusade. Should violence ensue between them and federal authorities, they promise to make their female supporters the first casualties, by putting them on the front lines. Apparently no sacrifice is too great when it comes to making a political point.
This in and of itself is sufficient blog material. But Mr. Bundy’s recent comments on race are even more noteworthy. During a recent video taped and recorded interview Mr. Bundy stated:
“I want to tell you one thing I know about the Negro. I recall driving past a public housing project in North Las Vegas and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids – and there is always at least a half dozen people sitting on the porch – they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.
And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
As to Mr. Sterling, a phone conversation allegedly between him and his girlfriend was recorded by said girlfriend and leaked to the media. During the conversation the unidentified male voiced his objection to her taking and posting a photograph she took with former NBA player Magic Johnson. The male further admonished her about “bringing black people to his games and referred to African Americans as “the enemy.” Blackacre’s position on these comments is as follows.
First, the Bundy and Sterling comments on race are breathtakingly ignorant. Slavery was not a benign institution that benefited African Americans. It was one of the worst institutions ever created; one of the saddest examples of man’s inhumanity to man one could imagine.
Slaves were not persons within the meaning of the Constitution and from a legal standpoint were not measured as human beings. As such, African Americans were considered unworthy of legal recourse and protection and completely undeserving of the minimum in human respect and dignity.
African Americans were instead property, more specifically chattel; beast of burden to be used or misused in any manner our masters desired. Stated differently, “the Negro” as Mr. Bundy so indelicately puts it, had the same legal and constitutional rights as his cattle. In fact, given the evolution of laws regarding cruelty to animals, cattle today had more rights than did the ante bellum slaves.
As to slaves having a family life, slaves were legally prohibited from marrying. What little family we were entitled was sundered by the routine selling of family members to other plantations and/or the equally routine abuse and murder of African Americans. Thus, slaves were permitted neither a family, nor in many cases life itself.
Furthermore, there is nothing ennobling about picking cotton, especially when forced to do so. Picking cotton does not build character, does not make one a good, kind or decent person and is not a particularly attractive career move.
In short African Americans did not prosper under slavery and we were not better off as slaves than we are as free citizens of the United States, our current difficulties notwithstanding. Nor is there is any reasonable comparison between slavery and the receipt of government subsidies. Our receipt of said assistance is no more the equivalent of modern slavery than is the receipt of millions if not billions of federal dollars by others, including but not limited to Mr. Bundy.
Lastly, Mr. Bundy knows as much about African Americans simply because he has observed some while driving by a housing project in North Las Vegas than the author of this blog knows about “the Whites” merely because he observes some thumping cantaloupes at a neighborhood Wal-Mart.
The Sterling comments are beyond ignorant. His apparent objection to a minority girlfriend taking a photograph with another minority and the statement that blacks are the enemy is nothing less than insane paranoia.
Second, the Bundy and Sterling positions are patently hypocritical. It bears repeating that minorities are not the only ones who receive government subsidies. Every segment of American society receives government welfare in one form of another, including but not limited to corporations, religious institutions, children, the elderly, veterans, farmers, politicians and women via Title IX preferences. Hence, the question is not who receives government assistance but who doesn’t?
And few have prospered more from government handouts than Mr. Bundy. For 20 years he has trespassed upon and used land that he knew was not his for his own pecuniary gain to the tune of a million dollars. Even this figure is subsidized by the very government he disdains.
The Bureau of Land Management charges a grazing fee of $1.35 per head of cattle per month, compared to the market rate of over $15.00 per head per month. But for this federal subsidy, Mr. Bundy would owe 15 times his current debt. It is also important to note that other Nevada farmers who use federal land for grazing purposes act responsibly and pay their fair debt. So too should Mr. Bundy?
Equally as important, his assertion that he is entitled to free grazing on government property because his family settled the land in the 1800’s is patently false. His ranch was not acquired by the Bundy family until 1948. In short Mr. Bundy is anything but a victim of government gone rouge, a conclusion verified by multiple court rulings.
The conflict between Mr. Bundy and the government has been duly and fully litigated. That Mr. Bundy has consistently lost these legal proceedings may be unfortunate. However, he has been afforded the full panoply of legal rights and the government is not acting inappropriately by trying to collect on the debt. It is well established that a successful litigant may take the property of a losing party in lieu of payment of a legitimate debt.
More revealing is that Mr. Bundy demands law abiding behavior from others but exempts himself, that he rails against the evils of abortion and welfare but is blind to the evil of slavery that he insists upon freedom absent any corresponding sense of responsibility, that he believes himself privileged to trespass upon and use the land of another without recompense and that he cries foul and considers himself a put upon victim when he is taken to tasks. Mr. Bundy then compounds his hypocrisy by insisting that while he should enjoy the benefits of unlimited freedom others would be better off as slaves who have no such liberty.
The irony of Sterling position is even more duplicitous. Clearly, his contempt for blacks extends neither to his bank account or his dating preferences, his protestations to the contrary.
Mr. Sterling’s business is driven by “the enemy” and his income is derived predominately from African American players and a huge black fan base. Thus, he is seen and fraternizes with his players, most of whom are black and the NBA’s black fans on a daily basis. But for the very people he refers to as “the enemy”, he might not be so wealthy. Stated differently, Blacks are not Mr. Sterling’s enemy in any manner, form or fashion. Rather, blacks are his bread and butter.
Even more hypocritical is his personal relationship with “the enemy” in the form of his half black and half Mexican girlfriend. How is it beyond the pale for said girlfriend to take photographs with a former NBA player and basketball legend who happens to be black? Why is it inappropriate to bring blacks to a basketball game? It is difficult to imagine a greater lever of hypocrisy than that exhibited by Bundy and Sterling.
Third, the Bundy and Sterling beliefs are morally repugnant. How could any moral, ethical person reasonably advocate a system of race chattel slavery where African Americans are things and not people, where we were treated like animals and sold like cattle, where our labor was forced with no expectation of compensation, where we could be murdered, sexually assaulted, beaten, humiliated and otherwise dehumanized at whim with no legal recourse, where one group of Americans had the absolute right to legally, politically and socially dominate another group of Americans, where the forced picking of cotton was considered sound business and public policy and where a return to this system of racial oppression and injustice is in anyone’s best interest?
It is akin to arguing that Jews prospered during the Holocaust and that any problems the Jewish community may face is the result of never having experienced the gas chambers of Dachau, that Native Americans were better off walking the Trail of Tears and that their problems can be cured by the theft of their land and the receipt of blankets infected with small pox, that women benefited by being persecuted as witches during the Salem Witch Trials and that a good burning at the stake will improve their situation or that Christians flourished while being persecuted in ancient Rome and that the cure for their ills is to be fed to the lions by a modern Nero.
The notion that blacks are the enemy and should not even be seen with is equally repulsive. And while none are perfect and it has yet to be verified that the voice on the recording is his, it has been reported that Mr. Sterling’s has a well know history of racial insensitivity. In 2003 and 2006 he was a party to two lawsuits alleging housing discrimination and in 2009 he was sued by another black NBA legend, Elgin Baylor for age and race discrimination.
In past blogs, Blackacre has argued that not ever dispute is a question of race and that in order to achieve a post racial America we are better served by approaching public policy issues from a socio-economic versus racial perspective. Our position remains unchanged. But we are not there yet and it would be remiss not to respond to comments as atrocious as these.
The comments and beliefs of both Bundy and Sterling regarding African Americans are nothing less than racist rubbish, pure and simple. And what is worse are those who enable and encourage these sentiments.
As the Bundy/Sterling comments clearly show, racism is real and material, from the top of American society to the very bottom. We can neither ignore this unfortunate reality nor pretend to the contrary. We are instead obligated to denounce racial injustice whenever it rears its ugly head. Anything less would be a material breach of duty.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and President, Blackacre Policy Forum,