Truthout

Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling, and the Reality of Racism

Wednesday, 30 April 2014 10:56 By Chris Williams, Truthout | Op-Ed
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2014 0430 bundy mainCliven Bundy, a rancher embroiled in a land dispute with the federal government, speaks to the reporters near Bunkerville, Nev., April 19, 2014. (Ronda Churchill/The New York Times)

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It would be easy to attack the offensive comments made by Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling over the past few days, but their comments reflect a dominant train of thought among those with systemic institutional power within the two branches of our federal government. There, the reality of racism is stronger than ever.

Last Tuesday, the Supreme Court rendered its second troubling verdict on affirmative action at colleges and universities within a year. In June 2013, the justices ruled in the University of Texas court case that affirmative action is permissible in some cases. Their latest ruling in the University of Michigan affirmative action ban case has cemented that affirmative action doesn't have to be implemented in the admission processes of colleges and universities in each state. One of the biggest equalizers in curbing the effects of racism is obtaining a quality education, but when the highest court in our land continues to believe that racism is dead, the obstacles for minorities transform into mountains.

Lately, when it comes to helping minorities gain some semblance of equal access, the court has been failing on numerous fronts. Last March, the justices delivered another disastrous ruling in regards to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They struck down the most important section of the act with reckless abandon. Justice Antonin Scalia famously referred to it as a "racial entitlement." Their colorblind, radical approaches are dissolving the progression of African-Americans aspiring to reach unknown levels of success across various sectors in today's society. It seems that the court is deliberately circumventing fair participation in the educational and political processes for African-Americans, and in the process, its actions have the potential to do irrevocable harm to multiple generations by turning the clock back to a horrific, bygone era.

Meanwhile, Republican members inside the United States Senate and House of Representatives are demonstrating their tenacious resolve against President Obama and his administration. It's been well-documented that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) stated that the Republicans' number one goal should be to make President Obama a one-term president. In the history of the United States, no other president has had to endure a constant barrage of disrespect and public ridicule. After winning his second election by an overwhelming margin, the Republican Party remains steadfast in its devious approach to governance. The Republicans' primal screams for impeachment and declarations that the president is simultaneously weak and tyrannical - are a reflection of an undying thirst to go back to a 200-year status quo.

Numerous Republicans will say that this isn't the cause for the rise in Tea Party extremism and activism but because the nation's debt is out of control, and the Affordable Health Care Act is an abomination. Before a black president was elected, they were comfortable with a president who lied to the country about weapons of mass destruction and taking us to an unjust war. Furthermore, the GOP is hell-bent on creating scandals where they don't exist (Benghazi, IRS, Fast and Furious) in order to maintain the dysfunction running rampant through the halls of Congress. Republicans' lack of desire in wanting to work with Democrats to pass new legislation to increase the national minimum wage and reviving unemployment insurance is another calculated maneuver.

According to a recent NBC News report, from 1999 to 2012 Congress passed at least 70 bills on average per year. In 2013, it underachieved by coming in at 60 percent of previous Congresses. The previous Congress also managed to fall short of expectations by passing three fewer laws than this Congress thus far.

The Do-Nothing Congress during President Harry Truman's term achieved more than the past two Congresses, and that speaks volumes. The past two Congresses are making the 89th Congress look like the 1996 Chicago Bulls at this rate. The 112th Congress passed the fewest laws in history, and most of those laws were considered gimmick legislative measures. Congress currently has a 6% approval rating. Congress has never been popular among American citizens, but its futility is rivaling the 2013 Philadelphia 76ers.

Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) recently said, "We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, 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." This is a prime example of the pervasive thinking that resides in the minds of people in the systemic institutional power structure who believe African-Americans are lazy, un-American, and inferior. They're in denial about the decades of discriminatory policies (redlining, racial covenants, gerrymandering, contract buying, block-busting) put in the faces of African-Americans. This is quite problematic because the people within these two branches of government have the final say that shapes our nation's policymaking.

The reality of racism is the deafening silence from our so-called white allies when racism rears its ugly head. The reality of racism is that African-Americans and Latinos don't have equal access to education, voting rights and housing opportunities. The reality of racism is when a white billionaire profits off black labor and then denigrates those workers. The reality of racism is when a white rancher can discredit African-Americans as "lazy Negroes," while being the epitome of a freeloader. The reality of racism is African-American athletes being afraid to speak their minds about race because it'll hurt their endorsement deal potential.

Over this past weekend, commentators have referred to Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling as outliers, but they're walking around with blinders on. Look at the current political philosophies and strategies of the modern Republican Party. With their views, Bundy and Sterling could be on the Republican 2016 presidential ticket. Why not? The combination of racial prejudice and systemic institutional power has allowed Bundy to not pay 20 years of back taxes owed to the federal government. If his name was Leroy Jackson, Bundy would've been put in jail years ago, and there would've been no militia to come fight alongside him against Bureau of Land Management officials. Let's just be honest and start dealing forthrightly with this four-centuries-old problem of racism in America.

Leaving African-Americans with the singular onus to tackle this overarching issue is wrong. It is imperative that our white brethren begin the process of diligently ending racism among their ranks. African-Americans are told that we're lazy because we can't find employment in a crowded job market. African-Americans are told to fight more to end racism. The fact is African-Americans built this country through their literal blood, sweat and tears. African-Americans put the free in freedom. They weren't paid for their endless monetary contributions. They were met with law after law that subjugated their humanity. After being emancipated from enslavement, they were met with Jim Crow, domestic terrorism, and more government legislation to prevent their financial and political inclusion to this nation that was arguably theirs to begin with.

Racism is firmly entrenched in the American psyche. It is what this nation was founded on and continues to thrive on. It's time for more white people to acknowledge their aegis and join the fight against the reality of racism. If not, it will destroy this nation.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Chris Williams

Chris Williams is an internationally published author who has written feature articles covering  politics, race, culture, entertainment and world events. He is a frequent contributor to The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, MSNBC's The Grio, Colorlines and Ebony. You can follow him on Twitter at @iamchriswms.


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