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“The Sagebrush Provocateur”: Racist Liberal Media Invent More White Racism

Wouldn’t you figure it would be Adam Nagourney of the New York Times who would ruin the splendid living theater of patriotism being acted out in Nevada by quoting everybody’s hero Cliven Bundy as having views about black folks that might embarrass your local Grand Dragon:

[I]f the federal government has moved on, Mr. Bundy — a father of 14 and a registered Republican — has not.

He said he would continue holding a daily news conference; on Saturday, it drew one reporter and one photographer, so Mr. Bundy used the time to officiate at what was in effect a town meeting with supporters, discussing, in a long, loping discourse, the prevalence of abortion, the abuses of welfare and his views on race.

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled 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 a 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?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often 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.”

Since Nagourney’s story came out late yesterday, you can imagine the consternation in conservative-land, which has for the most part adopted Bundy as a sort of sage-brush counterpart to Duck Dynasty‘s Phil Robertson. What to say? Dean Heller’s staff was smart enough to immediately distance The Boss from Bundy’s racist rant. It took Rand Paul a bit longer to get there. Texas GOP gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott’s people also disavowed an earlier effort to link his cause to Bundy’s. It’s probably a matter of moments before someone accuses Nagourney of inventing the quote about “the Negro,” and it’s probably crossed more than a few minds that Bundy is an agent provocateur. Seems to me the old cowboy really, really wanted to say what he said; he had to understand he was blowing up his own game.

All I know for sure is that the next ten or a hundred conservative gabbers who claim the only racists in America are liberals who play the “race card” are going to have to deal with Bundy’s example. They, not liberals, made the man an icon. Let them explain how his racism is unconnected with all the other reactionary features of his world view, which are pure as ever.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 24, 2014

April 25, 2014 Posted by | Cliven Bundy, Racism | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“With Cliven Bundy, The Right Is Reaping What It Sows”: He’s Theirs, Down To His Last Ugly Thought

Some great causes achieve their goals and transform the world, while others fizzle out when it’s discovered that their leaders are unadorned racists who think black people were in much better shape when they were slaves. Isn’t that how it goes? At least that’s what some conservatives must have thought today as they learned of the New York Times report on Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who has been grazing his cows on federal land and refusing to pay grazing fees, what you or I might consider “stealing,” but what the folks at Fox News, who have given Bundy hour after hour of glowing coverage, consider a principled stand against federal overreach in the finest American traditions.

Prior to this morning, Bundy’s fans were a limited but influential group, including senators Rand Paul and Dean Heller, the entire Fox network (but especially Sean Hannity), and the National Review, where one writer compared him to Gandhi. Now that Bundy’s fascinating ideas about “the Negro” have come to light, they’ll no doubt pretend they never really liked the guy in the first place, then they’ll stop talking about him. I predict, for instance, that after practically being Sean Hannity’s co-host for the last couple of weeks, Bundy will never be seen on Fox again, and he’ll be wiped out of their future discussions like a disfavored Soviet leader airbrushed out of a photo of the Politburo. But is there anything to learn from this episode? I think so. First though, here are the comments in question:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled 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 a 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?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often 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.”

Who would have thought that a gun-toting rancher who thinks he can graze on public land for free because “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing” would also be a racist? So weird.

Now hold on, you might say, that’s just a stereotype based on some things about who he is and what he believes about an entirely separate matter. And yes, it is. Which is why it would have been unfair to assume, before we knew it to be true, that Bundy was a racist. But I didn’t see anybody doing that. The only commentary I saw having to do with race before today came from people like Jamelle Bouie and Ta-Nehisi Coates, who pointed out that if Bundy were black, right-wing figures would not exactly be flocking to his defense, and the government might be dealing with him differently as well.

And the conservatives who embraced Bundy were doing so because of their own stereotypes about him. It wasn’t as though he had some kind of compelling case to make. It was clear from the outset that the guy was a nut (see the above comment about not recognizing the existence of the United States government). His only cause was that he shouldn’t have to pay fees to graze his cattle on land he doesn’t own. To most people he looked like a crazy old man with a sense of entitlement that would put any “welfare queen” to shame.

But to his advocates, he was an avatar of freedom. Why? Well, he does ride a horse and wear a cowboy hat, and he loves guns and hates the government. What else did they need to know?

As I noted today over at the Washington Post, there are more than a few parallels with the case of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson. Robertson too was someone conservatives knew they loved, since he was their kind of guy, even before they heard his views on gay and black people. Robertson’s statement was remarkably similar to Bundy’s, just substituting Jim Crow for slavery (“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues”). Since no black people ever brought their complaints about the terroristic system of Jim Crow directly to Phil Robertson, he’s pretty sure they were all “singing and happy” back then, unlike today with their entitlement and their welfare. Cliven Bundy once drove past a housing project, so he has a deep understanding of how pathological those black folk are.

The conservatives who elevate figures like Robertson and Bundy may not share the full extent of their views on race, but they can’t escape them either. Because those people know which party and which ideology is their natural home. Sure, you may not hear Rush Limbaugh say that black people were better off as slaves, but you’ll hear a lot of other things that make Cliven Bundy nod his head in agreement. You’ll hear him say that Barack Obama’s agenda is “payback” for slavery, a way to stick it to white people. You’ll hear him say that Barack and Michelle Obama’s lavish lifestyle, where they live in a big white house and travel on their own airplanes, isn’t just what presidents do; instead, “they view it as, as an opportunity to live high on the hog without having it cost them a dime. And they justify it by thinking, ‘Well, we deserve this, or we’re owed this because of what’s been done to us and our ancestors all these’ — who knows?” When you watch Fox you’ll see story after story about welfare queens and food stamp cheats and all the other schemers and scammers who are taking your hard-earned money away from you. And you’ll be told, again and again and again, that racism against black people is but a fading memory, while the false accusation of racism is something liberals and blacks use to keep the white man down.

Conservatives didn’t invent Cliven Bundy, but when he rushed to their embrace they encouraged him and applauded him and made him into a national figure. He’s theirs, down to his last ugly thought.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April 24, 2014

April 25, 2014 Posted by | Cliven Bundy, Racism, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Missing White Poor”: Guess Who Makes Up A Plurality Of America’s Poor?

You may have heard about how last week, Paul Ryan made some unfortunate remarks about poverty, blaming it at least partly on, well, lazy black people: “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular,” Ryan said, “of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.” The reason many people got angry about this is that when we talk about poor white people, nobody suggests that it’s a product of a pathology that lies within those particular people. Republicans may think persistent poverty in rural areas is a regrettable thing, but they aren’t delivering lectures to those people about their “culture.” It’s kind of a generalized version of the fundamental attribution error—people like me are poor because of conditions outside themselves, while people unlike me are poor because of their inherent nature.

Ryan’s words set off a predictable round of “Is Paul Ryan racist?” contemplation (see here, for example), and in response to that we have to remind ourselves that that is always the wrong question. It’s impossible to know with certainty whether anyone is racist, because that requires looking into their heart. But much more importantly, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what people say and do, not what lurks within their souls. You can say to Paul Ryan, “Here’s what’s wrong with what you said” without shouting “You’re racist!” which not only doesn’t convince anyone of anything, it only leads everyone who doesn’t already agree with you to shut down and refuse to listen to anything else you have to say. Before we get to today’s chart about race and poverty (oh yes, I do have a chart), you should play this classic from Jay Smooth every time you’re tempted to call a politician a racist.

Now, on to our chart. Everyone knows that minority populations in America, particularly blacks and Hispanics, suffer from disproportionate levels of poverty. For the moment, we don’t have to go into why that is and what can be done about it. I just want to note something that seldom gets mentioned: the actual racial makeup of America’s poor. In fact, when I tried to find a chart laying it out to paste into this post, I couldn’t find one. So I took poverty data and population data and made one myself (this is as of 2012):

The point of this chart is that even though blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately poor, the largest group of poor people in America is … white people.

Despite that fact, when you say “the poor,” what pops into most people’s heads is an image of a black person, probably due in no small part to the fact that poverty in America is represented in the media as a largely black phenomenon (I’m not just saying that; there’s research backing that up).

I’m not saying there aren’t different kinds of poverty that might demand different solutions, given the particular economic challenges that characterize particular areas where certain people are concentrated. Though it’s worth noting that many of the states with the highest poverty rates among whites also have the highest poverty rates among blacks. These are largely in the South, where Republican economic policies of low taxes and light regulation have, weirdly enough, not resulted in economic nirvana for all. But the point is that when we talk about “the poor,” the image of a white person should be just as likely to come to your mind as the image of a black or Hispanic person. But I’ll bet it isn’t.

Finally, a programming note. All this week I’ll be guest-blogging for Greg Sargent at the Washington Post, so my posting here will be somewhat lighter. Be sure to check both places!


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Writer, The American Prospect, March 17, 2014

March 18, 2014 Posted by | Paul Ryan, Poor and Low Income, Poverty | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The New GOP Confederacy”: The US Civil War Is Playing Out Again

Nearly 150 years after the end of the US civil war, the South and the federal government are poised for a rematch over the voting rights of black Americans, and ultimately over the fundamental rights of all Americans. Once again, the former Confederate states are determined to defend their traditions and way of life, while the Union forces in the North – the federal government – are positioning themselves to defend justice and equality.

But this time, in an ironic twist, two black men – President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder – are leading the charge.

In the 1860s, the fight between the North and the South was about slavery and the right of the Confederate states to maintain a dreaded institution that kept people of African descent in bondage. Unprecedented carnage resulted.

A century later – in light of the 1954 US supreme court decision in Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, which ended racial segregation in public schools – the South struggled to maintain a Jim Crow system that kept black people legally and politically impotent, all in the name of states’ rights.

Two hallmarks of the civil rights movement are the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, the legislative victories were achieved only through the blood of civil rights workers, both black and white, who were beaten, sprayed with fire hoses, shot, firebombed, bitten by police dogs and lynched.

The purpose of the Voting Rights Act was to apply a nationwide ban against discriminatory election practices such as literacy tests. The existing anti-discrimination laws, Congress concluded, were insufficient to overcome the Southern states’ resistance to the Fifteenth Amendment.

In June 2013, the nation’s high court cut the voting law at its knees in Shelby County v Holder when it eviscerated the key component of the act – the section 4 preclearance requirement – which determined which states must receive approval from a federal court or the Justice Department before making changes to their voting procedures. The act applied to nine states – Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia – and various other localities and counties across the country.

In the second decade of the 21st century, the latest battle centers around southern states with a history of voting rights violations, and currently exhibit the most anti-black, racist sentiment. These states want to employ restrictive and racially discriminatory voter suppression methods such as voter ID. This time, the Republican party has replaced the Dixiecrats as the party of white supremacy and the old Confederacy, of racial discrimination and voter suppression. And Holder has decided to make an example of Texas, firing the first shot at the Lone Star state.

Within 24 hours of the high court decision, five states – Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia – decided to move forward with their voter ID laws. They required preclearance under section 4, which no longer exists. Moreover, Holder and a federal court had already blocked the South Carolina and Texas voter ID laws because they violated the Voting Rights Act.

Florida has resumed its purge of Hispanic voters following the supreme court decision, and after a federal court lifted a ban on removing potential non-US citizens from the rolls. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory is about to sign into law the nation’s most restrictive voter suppression measure, though, he admits he has not read the provision prohibiting 16- and 17-year-olds from pre-registering to vote. The law also eliminates same-day registration, cuts early voting by a week and requires government-issued ID to vote. According to the North Carolina secretary of state, voter ID laws are having a disproportionate impact on Democratic voters and voters of color.

SB 14, the Texas voter ID law considered the most severe in the US at present, requires Texans to prove their citizenship and state residency in order to vote, using a passport, military ID or birth certificate if they lack a driver’s license, concealed handgun license or photo ID. In 2012, a federal court struck down the Texas law on the grounds that:

The implicit costs of obtaining SB 14-qualifying ID will fall most heavily on the poor and that a disproportionately high percentage of African Americans and Hispanics in Texas live in poverty. … We therefore conclude that SB 14 is likely to lead to ‘retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise.’

Yet, in light of the Shelby County decision, the Supreme Court discarded the lower court’s Texas voter ID ruling, and threw out a ruling that found Texas’ state redistricting maps were “enacted with discriminatory purpose” and diluted the Latino vote. Although Latinos made up nearly 40% of the Texas population in the 2010 census and accounted for 65% of the growth in the state population, Texas Republicans essentially pretended Texas is a white state. The GOP kept Latinos and black voters out of the redistricting process, added only one minority district, and manipulated an electoral map “that would look Hispanic, but perform for Anglos”.

In addition, the court found that 603,892 to 795,955 Latino voters in Texas lacked voter identification – as Texas Republicans had intended. Student IDs are not adequate identification at the polls, but gun permits are acceptable, reflected a preference for Republican constituents.

Holder announced he would ask a federal court to force the state to continue to receive permission to make changes to its voting laws. The Justice Department has requested that a federal court impose an additional 10 years of preclearance.

Governor Rick Perry said in a statement:

This end run around the supreme court undermines the will of the people of Texas, and casts unfair aspersions on our state’s common-sense efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections process.

Greg Abbott, the Texas state attorney general, accused Holder of “sowing racial divide” and tweeted “I’ll fight #Obama’s effort to control our elections & I’ll fight against cheating at ballot box.” Conservative proponents of voter ID measures invoke the specter of voter fraud and the need to protect the integrity of elections as justifications for the legislation. However, voter fraud is exceedingly rare, and about as infrequent as death by lightning strikes, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Rather, white southern Republicans enact voter ID laws because they do not want Democratic constituencies to vote, particularly people of color. Rather than embrace the changing demographics in the US and adopt platforms to address the needs and concerns of voters of color, Republicans have chosen to eschew these voters and wage an assault on civil rights, immigration and policies of diversity and inclusion. This is the endgame for the Republican Southern Strategy of race card politics. The GOP was able to win elections on the margins by appealing to the racial insecurities of disaffected working class whites. In the process, southern whites fled the Democratic party, and the GOP became the party of the white South. Now, this marginalized base of angry white voters is all that is left of the Republican strategy and of the GOP as well, so Republicans must remove the segments of the electorate that will not vote for them.

Last year, President Bill Clinton said:

Do you really want to live in a country where one party is so desperate to win the White House that they go around trying to make it harder for people to vote if they’re people of color, poor people or first generation immigrants? … This is not complicated – America is becoming more diverse and younger and more vibrant. We’re younger than Europe, we’re younger than Japan and in 20 years, we’ll be younger than China.

In the South, dramatic Latino population growth has the potential to realign politics. The Obama administration’s decision to attack the war on voting rights, starting with Texas, is a wise move that will energize his diverse coalition of supporters. The Lone Star state – a red state, yet a majority-minority state – represents the future of the US. More than 55% of Texans are minorities, and only 30% of children under 5 in Texas are non-Hispanic whites. Demographic realities will one day betray GOP racial gerrymandering tactics, inevitably making way for a blue state.

Meanwhile, July marked the 150th anniversary of the Second Battle of Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The Union army – led by black troops from the 54th Massachusetts regiment – failed to retake the fort, and the Confederate army won the battle.

But ultimately, two years later, the Union army won the war.


By: David A. Love, The Guardian, August 2, 2013

August 4, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights, GOP | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Pre-Meditated Drive-By”: Geraldo Rivera’s Self-Inflicted Wound

Geraldo, Geraldo, Geraldo. What were you thinking?

A black teenager is dead, through no apparent fault of his own, and you blame his wardrobe choice?

It was all the fault of the hoodie.

Most pundits say dumb things from time to time. But in weighing in on the killing of Trayvon Martin, Geraldo Rivera conducted a premeditated drive-by.

In a Friday morning appearance on Fox & Friends, the veteran journalist deflected some of the blame for the fatal shooting from George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who, like Rivera, is Hispanic.

While saying Zimmerman should be prosecuted if guilty, Rivera opined: “But I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.”

Yes, he went there. Rivera is blaming the victim. The 17-year-old was armed only with a bag of Skittles, but he shouldn’t have worn that damn hoodie.

Geraldo didn’t stop digging the hole. While allowing that Trayvon was a nice kid who “didn’t deserve to die,” he sure must have looked like a crook.

“When you see a black or Latino youngster, particularly on the street, you walk to the other side of the street. You try to avoid that confrontation.” And: “I’ll bet you money, if he didn’t have that hoodie on, that — that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn’t have responded in that violent and aggressive way.” 

I guess minorities in this country are to blame if they stir fears by wearing a jacket with a hood. White folks, of course, don’t have to worry about this.

Maybe there’s a time and place for a discussion of hoodies. But Geraldo, with much of the country disgusted by this killing for which no one has been charged, this sure wasn’t it.


By: Howard Kurtz, The Daily Beast, March 23, 2012

March 24, 2012 Posted by | Civil Rights, Racism | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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