Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Racism, Real and Imagined

The nation is all aflutter over Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling, and American racism. I'd like to throw in my two cents:

First, it's amazing to me that some people are concluding that the United States is still a racist country. How they can say this when the condemnation of Sterling has been virtually universal is beyond me. If the United States was a racist country then a lot of people would have just yawned. The outrage suggests that racism, at least public racism, is no longer tolerated in this society.

The lefty media, nevertheless, seems so desperate to find racism in American culture that they seized on the perfectly innocent but awkward sentiments of an elderly rancher named Cliven Bundy as an example of it. This was an exercise in absurdity. Bundy's only offense was social maladroitness. He's labelled a racist because he used the word "Negro" and "Mexicans," and wondered, clumsily to be sure, whether poor blacks were better off under slavery than they are if they're being subsidized by the government.

This was certainly an inept way to frame the question, but the essence of the query itself is legitimate: Are poor blacks as a whole better off today after sixty years of a war on poverty than they were before so many of them became wards of the state? In many ways the answer is surely no, and that's what Bundy was trying to say. The media, however, tried to burn him at the stake of political correctness for the sin of being terminologically unfashionable.

To criticize him for calling blacks "negroes" or calling Mexicans "Mexicans" is asinine. Martin Luther King called his co-racialists "negroes" and Mexicans are, well, Mexicans. People who made a big deal out of this, including some on the right like Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, need to grow up.

As racists go, Donald Sterling, on the other hand, is the real deal, at least if the tape of his tirade with his girlfriend is genuine. If it is, Sterling's views are as bizarre as they are outrageous, but all they really demonstrate is that there are still among us a few octogenarian white racists with a lot of money, just as there are octogenarian black racists with a lot of money.

The fascinating thing about the Sterling brouhaha is that his racial views have been an open secret for years, but the media never said much about it. Indeed, he was to be awarded an NAACP lifetime achievement award in May even though he was a known bigot.

Why was he allowed to get away with his bigotry for so long? One reasonable guess is that he once supported Democrat candidates and causes. As anyone can attest who has observed the relatively forbearing media reaction to the fatuous remarks by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid - and the explicitly racist remarks by then Senator Joe Biden - about candidate Obama, as well as Bill Clinton's one man war on women, being on the right team earns one a lot of grace among liberals.