Conservatives often complain about the word racist being overused, that it is a cudgel used on the left to beat the right with. That would seem to be a fairly reasonable critique of any political label – that opportunists as well as the sincere will use a damaging label where it is not appropriate. But in Cliven Bundy’s case the word racist fits precisely. In fact, one struggles to find another word for his stated beliefs.
Unlike those that use code words or dog whistles, Bundy openly admits that he not only does not respect African-Americans but thinks they might be better off as slaves.
“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.”
I know America is polarized, but come on. Can we all at least agree that’s racist?
National Review magazine, which has an unfortunate history with civil rights, has worked hard to make Cliven Bundy a hero. One of their staff writers, Kevin Williamson, has even compared Bundy to Gandhi.
Now Williamson is trying to play down Bundy’s obvious racism by saying “I very strongly suspect that most of the men who died at the Alamo held a great many views that I would find repugnant; we remember them for other reasons.”
But that dodge misses a key point about slavery and the historical background of Bundy’s statement. Bundy’s view on absolutist property rights jives quite well with what people who believed in American racially-based slavery believed. Not only that blacks should be treated as property, but that it was better for them. That slaves were benefiting from being in bondage and looked after by their private masters.
The attempt to disentangle the ideas of absolute property ownership and white supremacy is a relatively new project in America, one which Williamson seems sincerely committed to – accepting the former and rejecting the latter. But to claim Bundy’s views on property rights and his views on slavery are contradictory or completely unrelated obfuscates the historical reality and substitutes Williamson’s ideology for Bundy’s.
Bundy’s views on property and race are integral not separate. Pretending otherwise in the attempt to make him a hero is just misleading. He’s fighting for his property and believes times would be better for African-Americans if they were once again property.