We had a Supreme Court led by a Justice in Roberts - who openly operates on the idea that the way "to end discrimination is to stop discriminating", as though not focusing on the problem will make it go away - issuing a recent ruling in favor of states that vote to end affirmative action policies for colleges.
The big news story of the week started off with a Nevada rancher, who spent years (decades) refusing to pay grazing fees for his cattle on public lands, stirring up an armed showdown against the feds that quickly turned Cliven Bundy into a Far Right, Tea Party, anti-government hero... who just as quickly got caught on tape making disparaging remarks about "the Negro" and claiming Blacks were better off being "happier" as slaves, to where most of the big-name Republicans who were cheering him on found themselves denouncing Bundy as fast as they could (with a few hardliners doing their best to defend the rancher or at least publicly tell him to keep his mouth shut before he digs a deeper hole).
And just this weekend, the sports world is aflame with reports and captured audio of a prominent basketball team owner - Donald Sterling of the Clippers - telling his mistress (oh by the by Sterling's still married, the adulterous lout) to stop bringing Black people to his Clippers' games (the argument apparently started over the girlfriend posting pics of her posing with Magic Johnson). (P.S.: the mistress is part-Black, which adds a whole different layer of loathing to Sterling's issues) The shocking element to this story is how Sterling's had the reputation of being a jerkass on racial issues for decades, ranging from unflattering dealings with basketball coaches and players to his mistreatment and disregard for the people who rent from his property holdings. There'd been talk about doing something to slap some sense into Sterling... going back to 2006. And only now almost 8 years later there are enough people honestly talking about it.
It just all piled up this one week, didn't it? I mean, all this ignorance and hate.
Except it's been floating out there (I almost typed "flouted", but in some respects that word fits too) for years now...
Roberts' and the conservative SCOTUS Justices have just last year struck down the enforcement methods that kept the needed Voting Rights Act of 1965 functioning. Roberts' reasoning seems to keep going back to his insistence on being literally color-blind - that pro-active efforts to fight discrimination were actually perpetuating that same discrimination - and therefore striking down enforcement provisions wherever possible.
Except that fellow Justice Sotomayor isn't having any of it, and has called Roberts out on his willful blindness:
...Sotomayor is not content to belittle Roberts’ formulation that racism will end when we stop helping minorities. She tells him that the act of ignoring pervasive structural racism is an abdication of judicial responsibility: “As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society. It is this view that works harm, by perpetuating the facile notion that what makes race matter is acknowledging the simple truth that race does matter...”
...Roberts makes a substantive point in his rebuke of Sotomayor: Racial preferences may lead minority students to suffer shame and self doubt from racial preferences and that it is not “out of touch” to suggest that affirmative action doesn’t remedy race problems. But his deeper, sharper, point is that it is bad for the national dialogue about race for jurists to accuse one another of bad faith and lack of candor. His defensiveness at having someone explaining the limits of his own understanding of racism is palpable. He feels that he has been called out, shamed, and silenced. It is not clear whether or not he understands that his horror at being condescended to, his opinion disregarded, is among the very experiences of racial injustice that Sotomayor is describing...
Justice Antonin Scalia goes even further in his concurrence, describing Sotomayor’s logic in analogizing the Michigan anti-affirmative initiative to Jim Crow as “shameful.” In his view, she has crossed the line of poor taste by suggesting that racism in America today is as pervasive and toxic as it was in the 1950s...
With all due respect to Justices Roberts and Scalia... it IS still as pervasive and toxic as it was in the 1950s. It's as though Roberts and Scalia haven't noticed the high number of black youth getting shot at with Stand Your Ground laws in effect, or the indefensible policy of "Stop and Frisk" that overwhelmingly targeted Blacks and Hispanics over Whites. These Justices seem to think racism ended open discrimination Jim Crow laws were struck down in the Sixties and Seventies... little realizing that while those laws are gone the sentiment behind them is still out there wreaking havoc on our society.
And then you've got Rancher Bundy, Far Right Hero of April 22 2014. The link here is to Ta-Nehisi Coates, who opens his essay with this point: "I've been laughing my way through the Cliven Bundy fiasco because, as Jamelle Bouie suggests, there may be no better example of racist privilege than the right to flout the government's authority and then back its agents down at gunpoint. Bouie asks, hypothetically, how we'd respond if Bundy were black..."
On the moment when Bundy's video got out to the media, Coates had more to say:
A couple days ago Jonathan Chait asserted that modern conservatism is "doomed" because it is "rooted in white supremacy." The first claim may or may not be true, but there's little doubt about the second. Whether it's the Senate minority leader claiming that America should have remained legally segregated, a beloved cultural figure fondly recalling how happy black people were living under lynch law, a presidential candidate calling Barack Obama a "food-stamp president," or a campaign surrogate calling Barack Obama "a subhuman mongrel," the preponderance of evidence shows that modern conservatism just can't quit white supremacy...
This is unsurprising. White supremacy is one of the most dominant forces in the history of American politics. In a democracy, it would be silly to expect it to go unexpressed. Thus anyone with a sense of American history should be equally unsurprised to discover that rugged individualist Cliven Bundy is the bearer of some very interesting theories...It wasn't too surprising to others - like New Republic's Beutler - not just that Bundy was saying this stuff but that there's been an environment among conservatives for this ignorance for years:
...And now there's the lawless, mooching Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who takes things further than Robertson and argues that slavery, not segregation, was truly the golden age for "the negroes." Better to be enslaved than subsidized—unless your subsidy comes in the form of the public land upon which your cattle graze for free.
The right's special pleading for Robertson outstripped its special pleading for Bundy. Some conservatives have been willing to admit that Bundy's just an opportunist, not a tribune for individual liberty. But he nevertheless became a folk hero to high-profile conservatives like Sean Hannity and even some national GOP figures.
Today, most of them are either in full retreat from him, or pretending he never existed. Conservative radio host Dana Loesch is one exception. She isn't willing to throw him under the bus just yet, arguing that Bundy's problem may be a lack of polish rather than a rotten core: "I hope no one is surprised that an old man rancher isn’t media trained to express himself perfectly."
Bundy's either a hideous aberration, or another misunderstood soul. But he can't be representative of a subculture, because that would entail acknowledging that safety-net opposition and voting-rights opposition and other conservative policies draw political sustenance from sources other than heady libertarianism....
Same goes for (Duck Dynasty's) Robertson. And the Southern Avenger. And Chris McDaniel's surprisingly robust Senate candidacy in Mississippi. It's all just a weird coincidence...The Daily Beast's Tomasky is clear on the whole coincidence point as well:
Come on, fellow liberals. Calm down. I guess maybe it’s fair to call Cliven Bundy a racist. That “picking cotton” business put it over the top, and wondering whether they were better off under slavery...
OK, so Bundy’s a racist. It’s fine to point that out. But point up the fact that he’s a registered Republican? That’s where I draw the line, friends. I mean, come on. That’s just a coincidence. Total cosmic coincidence. Just like it’s a coincidence that that one black comic, a Barack Obama impersonator, was yanked offstage at an official Republican Party meeting in 2011 for telling a series of racially themed jokes. I mean, that could easily have happened at a Democratic—well, maybe not. But still. A coincidence.
Just like it’s a coincidence that one federal judge who sent an email around to friends saying that Obama’s father was a dog happened to be a Republican. Complete and utter accident of fate, the puny matter of his voter enrollment.
Those rancidly racist T-shirts and posters one sometimes sees at Tea Party rallies? They’re just a coincidence, too. I mean, Tea Party people might not be Republican, strictly speaking, and it’s totally unfair to assume that! OK, Tea Party candidates run in Republican primaries, not Democratic ones, and the Tea Party caucus in the House doesn’t include one Democrat. But still. Guilt by association!
Bundy has a broad libertarian streak, too. But please, let’s not suggest that libertarian-leaning Republicans might be a little racist, too. I mean, again, what’s the evidence for such a statement? What—the fact that Ron Paul’s ghostwriter(s) of his newsletters in the 1990s had very clear Confederate sympathies? If I were you, I would be careful about drawing any inferences from that. It was a long time ago. And a sentence like this one: “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began” ...well, admit it. It’s open to ambiguity. Can be interpreted in any number of ways. What’s that? You counter by telling me that all that was two decades ago? OK. You’re right. And you’re right that it’s also a coincidence that his son Rand’s ghostwriter—that’s Rand Paul, the current Republican front-runner to be the party’s presidential nominee in 2016—on his book also has expressed sympathetic views about the Confederacy? Remember this guy—called himself the Southern Avenger, was photographed wearing a stars and bars superhero kind of mask? It’s just a coincidence that he ended up in Rand Paul’s orbit...And it's just a coincidence that it's been Republican-nominated Justices like Roberts and Scalia talking about how racism isn't the problem like it used to be in the 1950s...
Topping this all off has been the cherry of a sports owner who's been known for years to be a total dick: not just a racist but also a sexist and a penny-pinching miser of a team owner who kept his Clippers franchise a joke for years just out of sheer spite half the time.
This is a guy in Donald Sterling whose outside means of income of being a team owner is property rentals. And has a bad history of that to boot: he's been sued multiple times for discriminatory practices, either banning certain ethnic types from renting or using dirty tactics to force those ethnic types out.
With regards to Sterling's behavior towards his rental tenants, that problem has been a major racial issue for decades itself: Coates' biggest discussions lately have revolved around poverty, race, and a policy of neighborhood segregation that kept minorities - Blacks above all - trapped in impoverished conditions regardless of their income. Sterling's pretty much a poster boy for how those racial policies work in today's America.
So here we are, in Roberts' color-blind America: where Black kids get frisked for the crime of WWB or worse shot at by gun-toting angry guys; where the voting rights of minorities can get legislated out by the states where Republicans fear they'd lose in fair elections; where college admission guidelines can ignore maintaining any semblance of ethnic diversity without requirement to create alternative means of keeping minority enrollment up; where rental costs and neighborhoods suffer at the whims of landlords who express the worst about the very people trying to live under their roofs; where white guys get all the public support they need to break the law but whenever blacks rise up they get arrested or worse...
I'm with Sotomayor. Racism isn't going to end by turning a blind eye to it. Racism ends when you get in its' collective goddamn face and tell it you "dare to care." You fight racism by calling it when you see it, and pointing out the flaws of logic that fear and hate bring to the issue. You work to end it, you work to find solutions to the segregation we inflict on our communities, you work to get the kids to break the cycle of fear and keep them engaged with each other as friends, as allies against corruption and hate...
Meanwhile, the clock ticks and with it another day of stupid to defeat... sigh.