THE FACES OF RACISM
This has been a busy few weeks for racist comments dominating the news. First came Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who refused to pay grazing fees, racking up a debt of a million dollars, and who then called in heavily armed militia men to stand up to government officials. Sean Hannity loved him, the conservative press kept giving him microphones and air time, until this:
“One more thing I know about the Negro…They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail because they never learned 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.”
Well, there went the welcome mat at Fox News. No more air time for Mr. Bundy at that network. It does seem a bit disingenuous of Sean Hannity, not to mention fickle. I mean, was he really that surprised that Cliven Bundy is a racist? This is a man who said he doesn’t recognize the Federal Government as even existing. So then why call out your militia friends to defend you? If the government doesn’t exist, then those uniformed men on your property must have been merely a hallucination. Did Hannity really think this flag-waving rancher was a reasonable individual? But I digress.
Then came the nauseating remarks of Donald Sterling to his mixed-race girlfriend. “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” He went so far as to tell her not to bring any African-Americans to his games.
One man is a rancher with a poor command of the English language; one is a well-known billionaire. But in the the realm of what matters, they are identical. Where their hearts should be, there is only darkness and emptiness. Where a conscience should be there is only arrogance and ignorance. On the leaked tapes of Sterling’s conversation he at one point said that this is just the way the world is. Sadly it is the way too much of the world still is. But look at the outcry, look at the swift actions that were taken against Donald Sterling — a very big portion of the world is not like that.
I once met a polite and gracious Southern woman with white hair and twinkly blue eyes. She was from Birmingham, Alabama. Within five minutes she was was telling me that the media had lied about what went on in Birmingham during the Civil Rights protests in the 60’s. “Those Negroes,” she said, “were paid five dollars each to go out there and demonstrate.” Suddenly she no longer seem polite and gracious. “Were they paid extra to get their heads bashed in with nightsticks?” I asked her. She didn’t want to talk to me anymore after that, which was fine with me.
It would be easier if racists wore signs around their necks or dressed the same. Perhaps in white headgear. But obviously they are not all going to do that. Sooner or later, everyone reveals what is beneath his or her carefully composed exterior. Racism is a sinister, venomous club that still has too many members in it. But each time the rest of us rise up against the cruelty that is the currency of that club, it gets smaller and less powerful. Donald Sterling’s words will eventually matter less than the uprising that silenced him.