Cliven Bundy – the freeloading rancher who hates America – always seemed to be a fairly despicable, self-interested person. Despite this, Fox News and right-leaning conservatives desperately celebrated him as a brave insurgent fighting government overreach. Because that’s what propaganda machines do: claw at hot-button issues and warp them for messaging purposes until they are disfigured beyond recognition.
However, once Bundy revealed his racist side, saying (among other things) that black Americans were “better off as slaves,” conservative supporters such as Sean Hannity ran for the hills as the outrage and scorn for Bundy reached viral proportions.
Now, Bundy deserves to be shunned and his message repudiated.
However, here’s the rub: Bundy is the least repugnant, least dangerous kind of racist in America today. Yes, Bundy’s words are wildly offensive and utterly disgusting, but the man is an ignorant fool who doesn’t have the sense to hide, much less understand, his hate.
Nor does he have the power to channel that hate into damaging policies or public opinions which could actually harm those minority groups who find themselves as targets of racism or bigotry, be they blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, gays, Native Americans …
As we heap viral scorn upon Bundy, as we recommend and upvote and share and like and Tweet articles about what that guy Bundy said!, we should pause and consider those who truly need the spotlight shined brightly upon their racism, their bigotry: those who hide in plain sight.
These are the real Clive Bundys: those who push for voter I.D. laws, limited voting hours, restricted access to polls in urban areas, gerrymandered districts meant to limit minority electoral reaches.
These are the real Clive Bundys: those who champion illegal spying programs on Muslim communities in the name of national security, those who cheer Stop & Frisk techniques or racial profiling in the name crime reduction, those who oppose immigration reform in the name of economic security.
These are the real Clive Bundys: those who cut taxes for Wall Street millionaires while cutting school lunch subsidies for kindergarten students in the Bronx; those who grant corporate welfare to multi-billion-dollar companies while cutting food stamps; those who claim that corporations (meaning white, male CEOs) are human while ignoring the humanity of millions of under-served Americans.
These are the real Clive Bundys: those who celebrate racial slurs masquerading as sports mascots, those who call black athletes “thugs” for showing strength, those who support the NCAA keeping student-athletes enslaved in a work-for-no-pay scheme.
These are the real Clive Bundys: those who salivate when we drone innocent Yemeni citizens, those whose eyes widen at the prospect of bombing Iran, those who don’t consider Palestinians a people victimized in an asymmetrical conflict.
We all know the big players here. The Scott Walkers and Ray Kellys and Mitt Romneys and Dan Snyders and Michelle Bachmanns of the world.
Who we don’t know as well as Cliven Bundy are the city council commissioners, the state senators, the lobbyists, the think-tank wonks, and the corporate CEOs who do what Bundy cannot: perpetuate an uneven playing field based where white Americans receive preferential treatment.
Hank Aaron got it right recently when he said that the only difference between racists 40 years ago and racists today is that “back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”
Back then they had hoods. Today they hide behind biblical morality, political policies, free-market principles, and libertarian values. Today they hide behind their desks and clipboards and microphones, shaking your hand and feigning to care.
When deep within, they are nothing more than well-educated, well-dressed, well-funded Cliven Bundys.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.