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Forum Post: Racism and Criminalization in the Media

Posted 7 years ago on April 27, 2014, 4:33 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Racism and Criminalization in the Media

Sunday, 27 April 2014 00:00
By Bethania Palma Markus, Truthout | News Analysis


A recent 'People' magazine cover sparks consideration of the hiding-in-plain-sight but never-discussed racism that characterizes the United States and the ways US media subtly sustain that racism.

The cover of the February 22, 2014, edition of People magazine features a telling representation of the status of race relations in this country.

It features Southern chef Paula Deen promising a story about how she's "rebuilding her world" and "hoping for a rebirth." On the bottom left of the cover, there is the infamous mug shot of George Stinney, the Southern black child who was tried, convicted and executed in South Carolina in a murder trial that has since been called the equivalent of a lynching. At 14, he was the youngest person executed by the state in the 20th century.

Of course, the magazine didn't acknowledge the irony of placing the two in the same edition or the way in which the stories overlap. Longtime journalist and author Thandisizwe Chimurenga said this instance is hardly isolated, and she pointed to long-standing biases and insidious contradictions in the way the media handles whites versus blacks.

"George Stinney's case . . . is a very sad and tragic one," Chimurenga noted. "It is also a story that is overrun with white supremacist complicity." People magazine, in its own complicity, described Deen's words and actions leading to her downfall as a "scandal," as opposed to identifying them as part and parcel to the systemic racism responsible for the horrifying death of Stinney.

Deen, a white Southern woman, had admitted in a deposition to using the N-word and that she fantasized about a plantation-style wedding reception. She was also accused by a black former employee of using racial slurs, paying black employees less than whites, telling black employees to ring dinner bells and wear "Aunt Jemima" clothing. The kind of racism Deen displayed is rooted deep in the Jim Crow South.

After two white girls were murdered in 1944, Stinney was quickly arrested and charged, his family chased out of town by angry white mobs. In custody, he had no access to his parents and - despite the lack of physical evidence - was quickly convicted. He was too little to fit in the electric chair, and in the grisly scene, he was somehow disfigured by flames, as his family reported burying his burned remains.

While Deen enjoys a multimillion-dollar "comeback," Stinney's now-elderly siblings seek only to clear the child's name.

Aside from the gross insensitivity of juxtaposing the two stories and the questionable editorial decision to give Deen precedence over Stinney and his family, the People cover seems emblematic of the brutal dishonesty and contrived ignorance about racism that pervades dominant media discourse in the United States.

Sometimes, as in the Central Park Jogger case of 1989, the modern media can contribute to the same kind of racially charged, feverish frenzy that surrounded Stinney. In that case, five teens - four black and one Latino - were convicted of raping and beating a white woman in Central Park. The media dubbed them the "wolf pack" and coined the term "wilding" to describe their alleged deeds. But in 2002, after serving their full sentences, all of the men were cleared by a court of any wrongdoing, with little media notice.

Other times, it's more subtle but just as damaging.

"Remember that picture of the white couple who 'found' food during the flooding of Hurricane Katrina and the young Black man who had 'looted' a store?" Chimurenga asked, referring to an infamous pair of photos by Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press, respectively, which featured the couple and young man in almost identical circumstances - chest-deep in water dragging food, with captions that described the man as "looting" and the white couple "finding" food.

Chimurenga also pointed out disparities in the media's handling of the recent, tragic shooting death of John Winkler, an aspiring producer who was white, versus the reportage on unarmed men of color who are shot by police. Winkler was killed by Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies who misidentified him as the aggressor in a hostage situation.

"Every media outlet that I've seen report on (the Winkler) story has used the word 'mistake' or 'accident' in the headline and the lede," she said. "The concept of unintentional killing, of a 'mistake' or 'accident' is being reinforced, drummed into people. But I have yet to see numerous headlines and ledes using the words 'mistake' or 'accident' when a young Black man is shot in the back while running away from police; while holding his cellphone or his wallet or with his hands raised in the air."

The effects are devastating, even if they aren't immediately obvious to those impacted.

Multiracial TV programs, newscasts and even the composition of the White House residence and presidential cabinet belie continuing, even worsening, de facto racial inequality in which Americans of color are racially profiled, disproportionately incarcerated and suffer more poverty, unemployment, education inequality and foreclosure.

But while discussion of these issues is gaining steam, People magazine is still far from alone in tripping over the contradictions between reality and a topic they don't want to deal with. The Washington Post conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin said last year that Americans should "not be held prisoner forever in a past that most Americans have never personally experienced. And I think it is time to stop using (race and racism) both as a crutch or as a method of stirring up (Obama's) base."

Perhaps Rubin should read the publication she writes for, The Post, reporting on a Brandeis University study that contradicted her:

A long-term examination of the financial lives of black and white Americans revealed that African Americans typically face a subtle but persistent opportunity gap that has served to widen financial disparities remaining from a long history of overt discrimination, according to a report to be released Wednesday by Brandeis University's Institute on Assets and Social Policy.

Behind the income gap lie inequalities in wealth attained via access to real estate ownership and higher-paying jobs, according to the report. This is due to historical and continuing racism, including factors such as blacks having been disproportionately targeted for subprime mortgage loans.

Thus the idea that racism is used by people of color as a "crutch" in the face of an ongoing institutional racism is as troubling as the phenomenon described by a Tufts University study in which whites in the United States now see themselves as the main victims of racism at the hands of African Americans.

Sometimes the bias is in what the media doesn't report.

After the Boston Marathon bombing last year garnered a constant barrage of 24-hour news coverage, David Dennis wondered in The Guardian why a deadly shooting spree at a Mother's Day parade in New Orleans a couple months later didn't get the same level of coverage and points out that the New Orleans shooting affected mostly "inner city," working-class people of color. He wrote:

Deaths and mayhem anywhere are tragic. That should always be the case. The story here is where American tragedies don't occur. American tragedies don't occur on the southside of Chicago or the New Orleans 9th Ward. They don't occur where inner city high school kids shoot into school buses or someone shoots at a10-year old's birthday partyin New Orleans. Or Gary, Indiana. Or Compton. Or Newport News. These are where the forgotten tragedies happen and the cities are left to persevere on their own.



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[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

Problem Driven by Media

"In my experience and observation, mainstream media treat people of color, especially those of African descent, as criminals, suspects, or as having some kind of character defect when they are victims of crime, and whites tend to receive sympathy and be painted as completely innocent," Chimurenga observed. "Sometimes it's blatant and sometimes it's subtle, but since antiblack bias is so pervasive in this society, subtlety is just as powerful as that which is blatant."

Criminalization by the media creates an environment that permits the killing of blacks in the name of "self-defense," by law enforcement or otherwise, she noted.

There is no government database on the number of people shot by police in the United States, but the activist group Malcolm X Grassroots Movement compiled media reports from 2012 and counted 313 deaths of black men at the hands of police, security guards or vigilantes that year - or one every 28 hours. Its tally included the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teenager who was followed and shot dead by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. Martin's death pushed racism in the United States to the forefront of consciousness, with even President Obama weighing in.

But while the right-wing blog and media juggernaut wasted no time digging through Martin's past for proof of criminality, less obvious forms of bias make their way into mainstream news reporting daily, Chimurenga said.

"Mainstream media gives credence, too much credence, to 'authority' figures - government officials and law enforcement," she said. "In too many ways, media carries their water for them. There is not enough basic skepticism or digging for deeper context and meaning. Many times, media is both cheerleader and megaphone for police terror in how they report on crime."

When police shoot a black man, often the first question reporters will ask is whether the victim had any "gang ties," she pointed out.

The problem is so pronounced and frequent that Los Angeles' Youth Justice Coalition has demanded that law enforcement no longer identify the victim of an officer-involved shooting as a "gang member" until they have found that to be unquestionably the case.

"Not only can that be false, but also re-criminalizes a person after death" when they never had a trial, said Emilio Lacques-Zapien of the Youth Justice Coalition. Lacques-Zapien gave the example of 22-year-old Deangelo Lopez, who was shot and killed by LA County sheriff's deputies last year.

"They said he's a gang member who has a criminal history; he has tattoos - all these things that criminalize him," Lacques-Zapien said. "He's dead, and his family is still trying to figure out what happened."

Hopefully they won't have to wait as long as Stinney's family has had to for a resolution.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

Truthout Interviews Bethania Palma Markus on Racism in the Media

Sunday, 27 April 2014 15:14
By Ted Asregadoo , Truthout | Video Interview



Back in the mid 1990s, Dinesh D'Souza wrote a book with the provocative title, The End of Racism. His assertion was that if racism has a beginning, it can also end. Ending racism is an ideal that certainly crosses political lines, but the process of getting to that end…well, that's where the differences between progressives and conservatives start to show.

The power of the White Citizens' Council, the Klan, the Dixiecrats and, most importantly, laws that legalized racism in the United States has been diminished since the mid-'60s. Does this signal the "end" of racism? Hardly. To understand modern day racism and the way in which it reinforces social hierarchies based on skin color, language, religion and culture, I spoke to Truthout writer, Bethania Palma Markus. Markus wrote a piece entitled, "Racism and Criminalization in the Media" where she takes on the subtle and not-so-subtle depictions of race in the media. Paula Deen's idealization of southern plantation life, the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing and the people profiling in news stories serve to reinforce social hierarchies through a softer (but no less effective) kind of racial coding of African-Americans, Latinos, Arab-Americans and Asian-Americans and their "place" in society.

Race is an artificial construct. Yet, the power of racism lies in a time-tested media tactic that's used to sell us everything from soap to war to the belief that whites currently suffer the same kind of racial discrimination as African-Americans. What is that tactic? Simply put, a message needs time and frequency to penetrate the consciousness of a target audience. Or to put it another way: people will start to believe a message repeated over a long period of time.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

The Bleaching of San Francisco: Extreme Gentrification and Suburbanized Poverty in the Bay Area

Sunday, 27 April 2014 00:00
By Adam Hudson, Truthout | News Analysis

On January 21, dozens of protesters, decrying displacement and inequality, gathered near City Hall in San Francisco on a chilly Tuesday morning. At around 9:15 a.m., they marched down Market Street and blockaded two tech shuttles, one that was parked at a MUNI (San Francisco Municipal Railway) bus stop, the other in the middle of the street. Tech shuttles - also infamously known as "Google buses" - are private corporate buses that take tech industry workers from their homes in San Francisco down the peninsula to work in Silicon Valley.

Protesters surrounded the buses and placed signs near them that read: "Stop Displacement Now" and "Warning: Rents and evictions up near private shuttle stops." A UC-Berkeley study and maps show that evictions and rent increases often follow the locations of tech bus stops. One sign bluntly read: "Fuck off Google."

Present at the protest was Martina Ayala, a teacher, artist and consultant for San Francisco nonprofits working with low-income families. She is currently facing a no-fault eviction from her residence in San Francisco's Outer Richmond neighborhood that sits next to the Pacific Ocean beach. Ayala told Truthout, "The landlord would like us to self-evict" - but not by way of a buy-out, in which landlords evict tenants by paying them to leave. Instead, Ayala said, "They're trying to get us out without having to pay the eviction costs. And so they're doing that by harassing us and calling us every day, sending us three-day notice to pay rent or quit without following through with service." Why would the landlord go to such lengths to push the family out? Ayala says, "Even though we are paying $1,750, that is still not enough for the landlord, because the average rent is now $3,000."

The Google bus blockade lasted for a half-hour. Afterward, the crowd marched down Grove Street to the San Francisco Association of Realtors, then ended at City Hall. Much of the media coverage of the protest focused on the Google bus blockade. However, the protesters emphasized that the tech industry was not the only culprit. Developers, real estate brokers, and City Hall all play a role in economically displacing many San Francisco residents.

Not all protesters were mad at the tech workers riding the buses. Some encouraged tech workers to support the protesters' cause. One sign read, "Get off the bus, join us!"

"Those buses, for us, is just a symbol of what rich folks can get away with."

A few hours after the protest, swarms of residents, tech industry workers and reporters packed themselves inside City Hall to attend a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) hearing about starting a pilot program to have tech shuttles pay $1 each time they use a MUNI bus stop. It is against city law for others to block MUNI bus stops. Violators have to pay a $271 fine. MUNI bus riders pay $2 per ride. People who ride the bus and don't pay bus fare face a $100 fine. Poor people and people of color are often targeted by transit agents and police for not paying fare. Tech bus riders, on the other hand, do not face such penalties.

The hearing was divided by tech industry workers, who largely supported the plan, and residents who felt it wasn't enough to curb the deeper problem of displacement. At the hearing, Roberto Hernandez of Our Mission No Eviction, a San Francisco resident born and raised in the Mission District, said, "Children are getting to school late because of these tech buses that roll through the Mission. They're late, and they don't eat breakfast. So they're there with an empty stomach. They start in school late because they're getting to school late." Rodriguez told Truthout he had no problem with tech workers, but felt the $1 fee plan was an "insult" and "had no involvement of the community at all. We're concerned about the impact that these buses are having." He added, "If you ride a MUNI bus, it's slow; it's late; it stinks. Now you ride one of those [tech] buses, you get Wi-Fi; you get luxury on that bus; you get everything. But those buses, for us, is just a symbol of what rich folks can get away with." After about three to four hours of discussion, the city approved the pilot program. The next month, after pressure from community activists and organizations like People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), Google agreed to donate $6.8 million over the next two years to fund free MUNI passes for low- and middle-income youth.

Two weeks after the tech shuttle hearing was the San Francisco Tenants' Convention, where hundreds of city residents and leaders gathered in an elementary school cafeteria to propose solutions to fix the city's housing problem. San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission District, attended the convention to show support for the growing movement. "Right now, the middle class in San Francisco is being pushed out. It's becoming a city that only millionaires can afford, and you see here that there is a groundswell across the city that people are saying, 'We're not gonna let that happen anymore. We want a city that is affordable for all of us.'"

Also at the convention was Tyler Macmillan, the executive director of the Eviction Defense Collaborative (EDC), a nonprofit legal services clinic that assists residents facing eviction lawsuits from landlords. He told Truthout how the city's judicial system works against eviction victims. "The vast majority of laws are written by and for folks who own property," said Macmillan. "So when you fight to defend evictions, you face a code of civil procedure, the civil code, even elements of our local law that really favor folks who are wealthy and who have access to good attorneys. And so for most tenants in San Francisco, both of those things are missing. They don't have money to get to an attorney, and then they're dealing with a set of laws that are really, especially at the state level, against them in terms of the rights of property."

To evict a tenant, landlords give them a three-day notice to pay rent or leave. If neither happens, then the landlord can file a lawsuit to evict. Tenants are given a five-day summons to appear in court, which is barely enough time to get a lawyer and prepare oneself to fight an arduous legal battle. Moreover, most judges are property owners and landlords. As a result, "they come in with the assumption that the tenant is wrong," says Macmillan.

A New Wave of Gentrification


[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

Cliven Bundy, Donald Sterling, and the Reality of Racism

Wednesday, 30 April 2014 10:56
By Chris Williams, Truthout | Op-Ed


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.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

William Rivers Pitt | Cliven Bundy: Clown Car or Trojan Horse?

Friday, 02 May 2014 10:17
By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed


The ongoing saga of freeloading Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy is, on the surface, a perfect masterpiece of right-wing clown car stupidity. I'm sure you're already familiar with the story: Bundy, who refuses to acknowledge the existence of the federal government, has been grazing his cattle on federal lands for the last twenty years while refusing to pay grazing fees, said fees amounting to about the cost of a can of Campbell's tomato soup per cow. The feds ordered Bundy to pay the fees he owed, ordered him to get his cattle off publicly-owned property, and let him know when they would be coming to enforce these orders in person.

And that's when the clown car burst open. Between the end of March and April 10th, Bundy supporters whipped each other into a frenzy on social media, grabbed their AR-15s and AK-47s, and swooped down on the Bundy ranch to defend their newest freeloading patriot hero from the federal usurpers of the Bureau of Land Management. Once they arrived at the ranch, they were asked to sign in under a large banner that read "MILITA SIGHN IN," because of course that happened.

Fox News, and especially Sean Hannity, immediately began hyping the story all day and night, elevating Bundy to the status of instant Founding Father. How could they resist? Here was a guy who denies the existence of the US government while riding his horse on federal lands with an American flag strapped to his saddle. Cognitive dissonance is the meat and mead of Fox News, and the dissonance in that one image was weighty enough to bend the very light.

It took about two weeks for everything to go sideways.

First, Mr. Bundy delivered his now-infamous rant about Black people being happier picking cotton as slaves, a statement he doubled down on later by comparing himself to Rosa Parks before saying that if Black people didn't like his opinions, it's because "Martin Luther King hasn't gotten his job done yet."

Skreeeeeeech went the needle off the record. Every right-wing media personality and politician who had rushed to publicly embrace Cliven Bundy immediately fled his presence as if he were covered in Goliath tarantulas. I think there still may be a Hannity-shaped hole in the studio wall at Fox News.

His ardent gun-toting supporters at the ranch stood their ground...until a few days ago, when there was a sudden falling-out between Bundy's own ranch security - commanded by a man actually named Booda Bear - and a contingent of Oath Keepers who had come to the ranch because Jesus, or something. Their leader, one Stewart Rhodes, informed Booda Bear (God, I could type his name all day) that he had "intel" from a "source of intelligence of high value" that Eric Holder and the Justice Department were going to deploy a "hot drone strike" against the Bundy Ranch within the next 24 hours. Because of this, the fearless leader was forced to re-deploy his stalwart troops off the ranch and into hotels with room service back in town.

This did not sit well with Booda Bear, who told Radio Free Redoubt's John Jacob Schmidt, "This is a battle front in some sense of the word and to remove them is kind of, ah, that's some yellow curd, ya know, spineless backbone piece of shit maneuvering right there. He had pretty much said, 'Well, I need to pull my guys back so they can allocate resources to the exterior of the area,' meaning go into the next town and get hotel rooms, get showers, gamble, eat steak dinners, while we're out here on the battle front...and just so everybody knows, as Booda, head of security for the Bundy family, I can swear on the white skin that covers my ass there will not be an Oath Keeper - there WILL NOT BE AN OATH KEEPER allowed to set foot on the internal ranch property."

And so not with a bang, but with a Derp, solidarity at the Bundy ranch "battle front" fell to dust that swirled and eddied around the white skin of Booda Bear's ass.

It is all too easy to lay waste to this whole barge of absurdity with an avalanche of mockery, to blow it off, laugh it off, and enjoy the sight of Bundy's right-wing supporters heading for the hills after he went all jump-down-turn-around-pick-a-bale-of-cotton in a video that went viral in less time than it takes to misspell a banner.

But there's some very serious and troubling stuff here, and it cannot be ignored or buried beneath the eruption of stupid we've witnessed to date. First of all, these armed yahoos actually managed to successfully fend off federal agents who were attempting to uphold and execute the law. That sets a terrible precedent, one that will almost certainly inspire more armed yahoos to point rifles at people somewhere down the line. They're still on the Bundy ranch, they've started setting up "checkpoints" along the roads around the ranch, and the feds still have to execute those orders, so this thing is not over yet...

...and note you well: here in America, you can point a high-powered rifle at federal officers and get off scot-free with your gun still in your hand. Sit down at a peaceful Occupy protest on the campus of UC Davis in California, however, and you get a gushing face full of Mace for your trouble...while the cop who sprayed you gets $38,000 in compensation for "anxiety and depression."

Far more insidious is the fact that, until he pulled his little "What, Me Racist?" number for all the world to see, Mr. Bundy's most dedicated supporters were a couple of billionaire brothers named Charles and David Koch. The Koch Brothers, if truth be told, could not give less of a damn about Cliven Bundy and his band of merry men, but until Bundy blew out like an old, racist tire, they were intensely interested in using him as the avatar for a fight they've been waging for twenty years: placing control of publicly-owned federal lands back into the hands of the states, so the states can lease or sell those lands to companies like Koch Industries for cattle grazing, mining, drilling, fracking, and lumbering.

Right now, those lands are protected from such activities, but the Koch Brothers were hoping to ride Cliven Bundy's cause to a massive land grab. The fact that Cliven Bundy upended the intentions of the Koch Brothers by being a racist idiot on television does not change their intentions one whit. They want to drill, to mine, to frack, and to profit off those lands that belong to us, for now.

So, as matters currently stand, Cliven Bundy can certainly be quantified as a human clown car. Do not, however, lose sight of the real story here: Mr. Bundy was also a Trojan Horse filled with Koch Industries drilling equipment until he blew it. Bundy may be gone from the news soon, but the Koch Brothers still want that land, because the world is not enough for guys like that, which is why, to no small degree, the rest of us can't have nice things like clean air and water that doesn't catch on fire coming out of the tap.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 7 years ago

The Racists Among Us

Tuesday, 29 April 2014 09:14
By Eugene Robinson, Truthout | Op-Ed


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.

This is not to say that all or most tea party adherents share Bundy's ugly prejudices. But it has been obvious since the movement emerged that some tea partyers do. Media-savvy leaders eventually convinced those attending rallies to leave the racist placards at home, but such discretion says nothing about what remains in those people's hearts and minds.

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.

This article is a Truthout original.