Eugene Robinson: Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling have plenty of company

By Eugene Robinson

Syndicated columnist

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WASHINGTON — Let’s not pretend that deadbeat rancher Cliven Bundy and basketball team owner Donald Sterling are the last two racists in America. They have company.

I hear regularly from proud racists who send me — anonymously — some of the vilest and most hateful correspondence you could imagine. You’ll have to trust me about the content; this stuff, mostly vulgar racial insults directed at President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, is too disgusting to repeat.

My sensibilities are not delicate. I grew up in South Carolina as the civil rights movement reached its climax, a place and time where racism was open, unambiguous and often violent. I would be the last person to deny that we’ve made tremendous progress against discrimination. But it is obvious that we have miles to go.

Attorney General Eric Holder was harshly criticized five years ago when he said we are “essentially a nation of cowards” in our reluctance to confront the racial issues that remain. In retrospect, Holder was merely telling a truth that many still will not acknowledge.

Bundy’s hideous assessment of “the Negro” — he wondered whether African-Americans were better off as slaves, picking cotton, than today — should have come as no shock.

A Nevada rancher who refuses to pay for grazing his cattle on federal land, Bundy belongs to the far-right, anti-government fringe. I’m talking about the kind of people who deny the federal government has any legitimacy and expect black helicopters to land any minute. This worldview has found a home in the tea party movement, which harbors — let’s be honest — a racist strain.

Racist words from Donald Sterling, a real estate mogul who owns the Los Angeles Clippers, also should have been less than surprising. In 2009, Sterling agreed to pay $2.73 million to settle a Justice Department lawsuit alleging discrimination against African-American and Latino tenants in his apartment buildings. In an earlier discrimination suit, settled for an undisclosed sum, one of his property managers quoted Sterling as saying of black tenants in general that “they smell, they’re not clean.”

Still, the recording of the alleged conversation between the 80-year-old Sterling — there has been no denial that it’s his voice — and his young girlfriend dominated the weekend’s news, perhaps because it was not only racist but truly weird.

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people,” the voice believed to be Sterling’s says to the girlfriend, V. Stiviano — who is of mixed African-American and Mexican heritage.

Sterling apparently believes that since Stiviano is light-skinned and has straight hair, no one has to know that she is part black — if only she would stop posting photos of herself with African-Americans, such as basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, on Instagram. He instructs her not to bring Johnson to Clippers games.

Throughout the recorded conversation, which was obtained by TMZ.com, Sterling is unable to grasp why a black woman might resist his demand that she not be photographed with other black people. He apparently views racial segregation, at least in public, as the way things still ought to be.

Sterling’s racism has the National Basketball Association in an uproar — understandably, given that nearly 80 percent of the league’s players are black. Even Obama, midway through a trip to Asia, felt the need to comment on what he called Sterling’s “incredibly offensive racist statements.” He said Sterling was advertising his “ignorance.”

But something more sinister than cluelessness was involved. Sterling made clear in the conversation with Stiviano that African-Americans were unwelcome in his “culture.” This is old-fashioned “separate-but-equal” racism, pure and simple.

The Republican Party, Fox News and a majority of the Supreme Court would like to believe such naked prejudice is history. Yet some big-city school systems are as segregated as they were in the 1960s. Leading public universities are admitting fewer black students than a decade ago. The black-white wealth gap has grown in recent years. Blacks are no more likely than whites to use illegal drugs, yet four times more likely to be arrested and jailed for it.

No, racism isn’t back. It never went away.

Washington Post Writers Group

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An article from the Liberal

An article from the Liberal Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/earl-ofari-hutchinson/why-so-many-believe-black_b_3557793.html " A recent Rasmussen poll found that more Americans by a wide margin think blacks are more racist than whites. This also included a significant percent of blacks who according to Rasmussen said that they consider more blacks racist than whites or Hispanics. The poll was sloughed off, mocked, and skewered by some. But many can and should quibble with the methodology. It was done through a telephone survey and the sample was 1,000 respondents. But the question is how did pollsters define and determine what is "racist"? Still, its conclusion may have some validity. For three decades, the steady drumbeat has been that the avalanche of civil rights and voting rights laws, state and local bars against discrimination, and affirmative action programs has permanently crumbled the nation's historic racial barriers. The parade of top black appointed and elected officials, including one president, the legions of black mega millionaire CEOs, athletes, entertainers, and the household names of blacks from Oprah to Bob Johnson is repeatedly waved as convincing proof of that. The ferocious assault by high profile black conservatives, with a certain Supreme Court justice leading the way, have sold millions of Americans that everything from historic voting rights protections to affirmative action are relics of a long by-gone racist past and should be summarily dumped in the historic dust bin. They haven't stopped at that. They've even sold a wide body of the public that to continue to fight for these supposedly unnecessary relics is just a self-serving, greedy grab by the much rivaled "civil rights establishment" to protect its racial turf, and feather its own nest. Those hurt most by this are blacks who they supposedly mire in a semi-permanent state of dependency and entitlement trap. It matters little that every objective study and survey for the past two decades has consistently shown the gaping racial disparities in health care, education spending, the criminal justice system, employment, the wealth gap, and poverty between blacks and whites has either stagnated or widened. Or that blacks are still largely the invisible men and women in executive management spots at the Fortune 500 corporations. It matters even less that the textbook definition of racism explicitly means not just an individual's thinking or expressing racially skewed bias and animus toward another group, but having the actual power to exert control and dominance through the mechanisms of law, public policy, and economic dominance over that group. This is the defining point between an individual's personal prejudices, and there are few individuals who don't harbor some personal prejudice toward another group, and having the actual power to exercise that prejudice against another group that is deliberately missed or distorted in the futile exercise of trying to say who is a racist and what makes them a racist. The entrenched notion, however, is that if you're black, poor, uneducated, or locked in a prison cell, don't blame social, political or economic iniquities, in short, don't scream race -- blame yourself. This does two things: it provides social and psychic comfort to those individuals who think that they're bigotry-free, and can finger point blacks as eternal racial crybabies who love to scream racism at every slight or failure. They also pound civil rights leaders for eternally playing the race card on every supposedly imagined or trumped up racial malfeasance. But the far more insidious thing than accusing blacks of being America's top bigots is that it makes it much easier to ignore or outright assail laws, statutes, policies and initiatives that were hard fought over to put on the books to protect rights and eliminate discrimination. This ploy was on full display in the Supreme Court debate over the key provisions of the Voting Rights Act that for decades mandated Justice Department approval to prevent registrars in targeted Southern and Southwestern states from using every tact to damp down black and Hispanic votes. It was on display and in the ancient court and public debate over affirmative action which has long been encased in public thinking, as "reverse discrimination." The real victims of this supposed discrimination are not blacks, Hispanics or women, but white males. This was amply borne out in a Rasmussen poll in May that found only 25 percent of Americans favored affirmative action as part of college admission policies. The Supreme Court almost certainly will hear yet another affirmative action related case at a future date. And there is talk among some Democrats that Congress should pass some measures to restore the protections that the Court gutted in its decision on the Voting Rights Act. Unfortunately, these polls give those who oppose any more rights initiatives be it court, congressional or from the private sector further ammunition to argue that America has reached a racial nirvana and nothing more need be done to protect or further safeguard racial gains. And the only ones screaming for that to happen are blacks. But then again that's only to be expected since so many blacks are "racist" anyway." Then you have the professional race baiters Rev. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson. You have President Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright. So...... Racism is not a one way street. I just wish Mr. Robinson had acknowledged the fact that there are a large number of high profile black racists. We have a lot of work to do.

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