Cliven Bundy, congratulations! You’ve provided the nation with its latest cringe-worthy moment in race.
Since 1993, the feds say the Nevada rancher has been illegally grazing his herd on federal land. So, acting on a court order, the Bureau of Land Management tried to seize some of Bundy’s herd. Next thing you know, he’s a Fox News-enabled hero of the put-upon right wing with a platform to pop off about government overreach and whatever else is rattling around upstairs. And when that happens to some conservative heroes, they always seem compelled to expound on the plight of the Negro.
According to Adam Nagourney at the New York Times, here’s what Bundy had to say.
“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.”
They never learned to pick cotton? Because nothing ingrains a work ethic like being hunched over in the hot sun picking the puffy fiber under the watchful eye of a sadist. Are they better off slaves? Because working for free without liberty and under threat of punishment for things like learning to read, marrying or running away is the ideal. They put their young men in jail? Because structural racism, disparities in sentencing and a deck stacked against them played no role whatsoever in life choices that landed them there. “Are they better off under government subsidy?” asks the man who got the ultimate government subsidy by letting his cattle roam illegally over federal land.
What’s as sad as it is outrageous is that Bundy is not alone in harboring the belief that subjugation of plantation life was so much better for African Americans than the hard-scrabble life of freedom many lead today. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Arkansas state Rep. Jon Hubbard (R) and others come to mind.
As Nagourney reported, this flurry of offensiveness had Republican elected officials who had praised Bundy running for cover. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who had called Bundy’s supporters “patriots,” at least had the guts to say through his spokesperson that he “completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way.”
If more Republicans would move as quickly to stomp the racism in their midst, their party and our nation might start to get past this foolishness.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj