Thanks to a video clip shown on liberal media (e.g., New York Times, “Media Matters”), a lot of people are up in arms (so to speak) about Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s latest public statements. In short, he has been accused of being racist and of claiming that Blacks were better off as slaves. It was enough to send conservative pundits and politicians scrambling to disavow Bundy’s remarks and distance themselves (e.g., Rand Paul, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity), even after calling him a hero for standing up to BLM bullies on his ranch. But, what exactly did Bundy really say? As usual, hearing the remarks within a bit more context makes a little more sense and, I believe, reveals a different picture.
First, I’ll say up front that Cliven Bundy is a poor communicator. I give him props for being willing to stand up and say his piece, but he’s no great orator. I don’t know about prepared speeches, but when he speaks extemporaneously, Bundy is less than clear on what he’s trying to say and he seems prone to “bunny trails” (i.e., he rambles). His command of certain historical facts is also in question. Unfortunately, I think these factors contributed to the comments in question.
Let me address Bundy’s use of the terms “colored people” and “Negro(es)” in reference to African-Americans. I confess, this sounds odd (incorrect?) to my 21-century, white suburban ears. These terms are outdated and some might assume racist. I certainly wouldn’t use them. But, while commonly used by previous generations, they do not necessarily reflect racist attitudes by the speakers. In those previous generations, Black people referred to themselves with those terms. Some of them even use them today. I suspect it is more prevalent among older people (i.e., Cliven’s age), both black and white, and in certain areas of the country. So, while regrettable and hardly PC, I think Bundy’s use of those terms is more generational than anything. Now, if you tell me that Black people are allowed to use terms amongst themselves which are considered derogatory when coming from anyone else (which I think is bogus), then you also need to get on the case of Cliven’s nemesis, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), who is on record having used similar language.
Bundy is not a sociologist, and his “arguments” aren’t perfect. He speaks from the heart and from his experience — including the Watts Riots and a more recent visit to public housing in Las Vegas — and his own impressions. Here is probably the most controversial excerpt from his speech:
“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? 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 got less family alive. And their happiness — you can see in their faces they weren’t happy, sitting on that concrete sidewalk.”
His words are questionable, but this is how I read it. Bundy is speaking generally (i.e., not comparing life under harsh taskmasters), selectively, and hypothetically. He actually expresses concern that the American welfare system has served to erode the Black family structure, leading to smaller families (due to abortion), more crime (due to less work opportunities), less freedom, and perhaps even less happiness than when most Black American families were living as plantation slaves. If it was me, I probably wouldn’t have worded it the way he did. But, then, maybe I’m more attuned to the MSM’s tendency to jump on things like this and assume the worst of those politically anywhere right of center.
As I said, though, many on the Right are also assuming the worst. But, unlike some, there are others who see through the BS and are willing to give Bundy the benefit of the doubt. For example, there is a letter by a Black marine (“Charlie Delta”) making the rounds in which he defends Bundy, saying:
“[I]f you take the time to do your own research, you’ll find that his statements about some black Americans actually hold weight. He posed a hypothetical question…. Hell, I’m black and I often wonder about the same about the decline of the black family.
Bottom line is that we are all slaves in this waning republic, no matter our skin color. Mr. Bundy could have used any racial demographic as an example: Native Americans on reservations, whites in trailer parks, etc. He noticed the crippling effects of receiving government ‘assistance’ and the long term result of accepting handouts.”
Furthermore, one of Bundy’s bodyguards, Jason Bullock, is Black. He says,
“This is still the same old Mr. Bundy I met from the first day of all this happening…. Mr. Bundy is not a racist. Ever since I’ve been here he’s treated me with nothing but hospitality. He’s pretty much treated me like his own family…. I would take a bullet for that man, if need be…. I look up to him just like I do my grandfather.
I believe in his cause and after having met Mr. Bundy a few times, I have a really good feel about him and I’m a pretty good judge of character.”
If Cliven Bundy was any kind of racist, I suppose Bullock might still rationalize working for him and keeping his mouth shut. But, I doubt they could pay Bullock enough to fake such a respectful and supportive attitude and make up these kinds of statements.
Bundy also spoke of “Mexicans” and “the Spanish people” in the clip. Not once did he insult them or use pejorative terms. In fact, he complimented their strong family structure and the fact that even the illegal aliens he knows are hard workers who pay their taxes. (Really?) “In my way of thinking, they’re awful nice people, and we need to have those people join us and be with us.” He sounds like he may even be pro-amnesty! If Cliven Bundy is a flaming racist, he sure has an odd way of showing it.
I think a fair assessment of Cliven Bundy’s comments must conclude that, while some of his terms may be dated and certain wording ill-advised, it does not betray truly racist beliefs. He may be guilty of holding to some stereotypes, but those stereotypes are based on realities in some places. (“Charlie Delta” agrees.) Rather than being racist, Bundy appears to be PRO-Blacks and PRO-Latinos. He notes some positive things about them and progress that has been made in recent decades, and he worries that the policies and bureaucracy of our federal government have, are, and will have negative impacts on the lives of minorities in this country.
Bundy’s knowledge and logic may be flawed, but his sentiments are of compassion and concern, not hatred or supremecist condescension.
Now, if you don’t agree with my reasoning — maybe think I’m either ignorant, naive, or racist myself –, that’s your prerogative. But, to be clear, Bundy’s opinions about non-whites are totally irrelevant to the main issue that brought Bundy and his family to national attention. (Even stupid and/or bigoted people have the right to think & say what they want in a free society without governmental retribution.) In fact, whether or not you think Bundy has a solid legal case for grazing rights, etc., the bigger issue, which we must not lose sight of, is the apparent way that the federal government continues to usurp control of state & private lands and the ridiculously ham-handed (even vindictive) manner in which federal authorities acted in the “showdown” with the Bundys.
I don’t agree with Cliven Bundy’s purported refusal to recognize the U.S. federal government, of course, but I do agree that said government — especially the current administration — continues to make increasingly bold, unconstitutional power-moves, and that is highly, highly disturbing.
Check out this video-blog from Kira Davis for her humorous and insightful take on it all!