Saturday, April 26, 2014

Racial Enjoyment

I am in Saipan this weekend for the Flame Tree Festival. I am so excited for this opportunity to travel here and take part in what is the CNMI's largest cultural celebration. I have heard about the Flame Tree Festival for years but never attended it before. It has been intriguing after spending a few hours at the festival this evening, to see the it is similar to a festival like the Guam Micronesian Island Fair, but still different. I'm sure I will be writing more about it later.

But as the day is long over, my mind for irritating reasons is stuck thousands of miles away on the comments of Cliven Bundy. With his comments on blacks and slavery, his anti-government rhetoric and the way conservatives rallied around him and then quickly scattered, there is so much to write about, even if it is such a pathetic little thing to talk about. It is frustrating to the way people celebrate improvements in race relations and in race conversations by making it about policing speech and all eagerly piling on anyone who dares to violate the lexical prohibitions. Anti-racism is reduced to not using certain overly racialized terms, but a variety of terms which carry almost the exact same meanings, but still tinge with the pleasure of racial enjoyment, are all acceptable in terms of politely establishing the ideologies of different political factions. These conversations are so irritating because it becomes a great chorus of noise, voices all pouncing atop the sound that isn't not supposed to be said, to be heard. The eagerness of the voices hides the relief and pleasure that is being voiced as the signifier of racist is stapled crudely atop someone like Cliven Bundy and therefore the pressure and the potential critique is taken off those around, doing the pointing. That is of course the ultimate initial way of deflecting any blame or suspicion from yourself, by being the one who calls upon others to look and to seethe with righteous fury.

When figures like this pop up their purpose is not so much to show how racism still exists, even if they do show that. This will be the surface of the discourse which flows out and forth from this wound in the social binding ideology. The problem is that in the response of nearly everyone else, they attempt to neutralize these comments in an effort to show very quickly that things have changed and that their is no substance to what is being said. In truth, there is a great deal of power in what avowed racists say, but to treat them like artifacts or cavemen running around in GEICO commericals misses the point. If Bundy just used the appropriate racially acceptable codewords that white conservatives and Republicans have developed than he would be a darling of their party. He would keep aflame their pathetic racial fears, which drives so much of their ideological effectiveness with a part of the United States. But by going too far and being too literal and too direct he threatens to reveal so many as the sated, fat ideologically happy racists that they are.


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Cliven Bundy: Are Black People 'Better Off As Slaves' Than 'Under Government Subsidy?'

Posted:  The Huffington Post

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who was involved in a tense standoff with federal rangers in a dispute over grazing rights, didn't hide his racism in an interview with the New York Times published Wednesday.

The Bureau of Land Management claims Bundy has let his cattle graze on federal land without paying since 1993, saying he now owes more than $1 million in grazing fees. When federal agents came to confront Bundy about the fees, they were met by an armed militia, a move that has fired up conservatives.

Bundy is attempting to use his newfound fame to spread more than just his views on grazing rights, telling the Times he planned to hold a daily news conference. During Saturday's conference, Bunday shared his views on "the Negro":
“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.”
Bundy's comments, published Wednesday, led Republican lawmakers who had previously shown their support for his cause to back down. A spokesman for Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who had previously hailed Bundy and his supporters as "patriots," rebuked the rancher's racist remarks, saying the senator “completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who said he supported Bundy in an interview with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren earlier this week, denounced Bundy's racist remarks Thursday, Business Insider reports.
"His remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him," Paul said, according to a spokesman.

For more on Bundy, visit the New York Times.

UPDATE: 12:30 p.m. ET -- On Thursday, Media Matters released video of Bundy's comments.
Watch the video below:

UPDATE: 1 p.m. ET -- According to TPM, Bundy told Alex Jones he would appreciate it if The New York Times retracted their story. Mediaite reports Bundy appeared on The Peter Schiff Show Thursday to further explain his remarks in the Times piece.

Below, a transcription of Bundy's remarks on the Schiff show, from TPM:

I'm wondering if they're better off under a government subsidy and their young women are having the abortions and their young men are in jail and their older women and children are sitting out on the cement porch without nothing to do.

I'm wondering: Are they happier now under this government subsidy system than they were when they were when they were slaves and they was able to their family structure together and the chickens and the garden and the people have something to do.

So in my mind, are they better off being slaves in that sense or better off being slaves to the United States government in the sense of the subsidy. I'm wondering. The statement was right. I am wondering.


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Cliven Bundy Stands By Pro-Slavery Comments In Rambling Press Conference

Posted:  by Amanda Turkel
Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy doubled down on his controversial remarks about slavery Thursday, insisting that perhaps the "Negro people" were better off as the property of white owners because then, at least, they had gardens and chickens to tend to instead of being dependent on the government.

"Cliven Bundy's a-wondering about these people," said Bundy, referring to himself in the third person. "Now I'm talking about the black community. I'm a-wondering. Are they better off with their young women aborting their children? Are they better off with the young men in prison? Are they better off with the older people on their sidewalks in front of their government-issued homes with a few children? Are they better off, are they happier than they was in the South in front of their homes with their chickens and their gardens and their children around them, and their man having something to do? Are they better off?"

In recent weeks, Bundy has become a hero to some conservatives for his anti-government attitude. He and his armed supporters chased away Bureau of Land Management rangers this month who tried to confiscate his cattle that had been illegally grazing on public land since 1993.

This standoff made prominent politicians such as Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) into Bundy fans.

But on Wednesday, The New York Times published comments that Bundy made Saturday at one of his daily news conferences. The rancher seemed to reminisce fondly about the days when blacks were slaves.

"And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" he asked, referring to African-Americans. "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."

His comments set off a firestorm, with those same politicians now distancing themselves from him.
Bundy insisted Thursday that he does understand slavery and isn't glossing over what it was like.
"I might not have a very big word base, or vocabulary, I guess. But let me tell you something: When I say slavery, I mean slavery. I understand what slavery's all about, and there's no question in my mind about that I don't know what slavery's about," he insisted. "Slavery's about when you take away choices for people, and where you have forced labor and you transfer people and sell them and all of those kinds of things. Do you think that's what America's all about? Do you think that's what I'm about, America? If it is, you're sure wrong, because I don't believe in any of that type of stuff."
But there was widespread agreement Thursday that if Bundy is even wondering if blacks were better off being enslaved, he probably doesn't understand what slavery was. From Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic:
Enslaved black people were, with some regularity, beat with cowhide whips, tongs, pokers, chairs, and wooden boards. Nails were driven through their palms, pins through their tongues. Eyes were gouged out for the smallest offense.

When people like Cliven Bundy assert the primacy of the past it is important that we do not recount it selectively. American enslavement is the destruction of the black body for profit. That is the past that Cliven Bundy believes "the Negro" to have been better off in. He is, regrettably, not alone.
"Today, Bundy revealed himself to be a hateful racist," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who last week called Bundy's supporters "domestic terrorists." "But by denigrating people who work hard and play by the rules while he mooches off public land, he also revealed himself to be a hypocrite."

During his press conference, Bundy also talked about how scared he was during the Watts riots of 1965, recounting how relieved he was when a group of "black boys" didn't kill him.

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