The Salem News
---- — Last month I wanted to become a cowboy to help save rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle from the cattle-rustlin’ federal government.
As my column ran, media interest was picking up on federal western land grabs. Breitbart had reported that Texans are concerned about the Bureau of Land Management’s focus on 90,000 acres along the Texas/Oklahoma border, a possible federal takeover/ownership of privately held lands that have been deeded property for generations of Texas landowners. But then, major distraction:
Nevada’s Bundy, apparently having found that the media would listen to anything he had to say, decided to give his opinion on welfare, stating that “the Negro”… living in nearby public housing… “didn’t have nothing to do…
“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? 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.”
Well. Instead of being seen as a man of a certain generation using the word “Negro” instead of “African-American,” awkwardly and ungrammatically asking a rhetorical question, while clearly having a romanticized, “Old Kentucky home” notion of slavery, Cliven Bundy was immediately pronounced a racist, not only by the usual race-obsessed Democrats but by Republicans who had just been supporting his stand-up to the feds.
Adjectives flew from all-partisan politician and pundit pie-holes: “appalling, disgusting, despicable, repugnant.” Apologetic but unrepentant, Bundy released a statement that brought other-race welfare recipients into his argument: “The government dole which many people in America are on, and have been for much of their lives, is dehumanizing and degrading. It takes away incentive to work and self-respect. Eventually a person on the dole becomes a ward of the government, because his only source of income is a dole from the government. Once the government has you in that position, you are its slave.”
A discussion worth having, again, but moving on, the media found a better example of “appalling and disgusting” in the more visible sports arena, and we were off to the “race”s again. Curious, I heard the allegedly private phone conservation between Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling, an 82-year-old rich guy and his 31-year-old girlfriend (try not to stereotype), in which he asked her not to post a photo of herself walking with Magic Johnson on the media and somehow made it sound as if he didn’t want her associating with blacks. It seemed obvious that the old fool is jealous of Magic, doesn’t want to admit it, so mentioned race instead of admitting his (probably valid) insecurity. So here it comes again: “despicable,” “sickening,” etc., followed by sponsors going nuts, players turning their uniforms inside out, the NAACP giving back his donations, and then the NBA banishing him from its hallowed court.
What the…? His alleged mistress, on whom he publicly showered attention and lots of money, is black; how can he be racist?
I never gave much thought to race, never saw racial conflict until I moved to Boston in the ’70s. Soon realized that it’s one of those things that make no sense and that I might never understand.
Seemed odd to me when I was first called a racist, because of supporting Proposition 2½: I knew that, because of City Hall assessment practices at the time, Roxbury homeowners paid the highest property taxes in the country. I eventually came to realize that calling someone a racist is a political weapon, that for some reason benefits Big Government types, so I became impervious to the intended insult. I even considered getting business cards that said, “Barbara Anderson, Racist” to pass out and get the discussion over with up front. But eventually things seemed to settle down, people of different races were starting to get along, even marry, and the country was growing up.
Then Obama became president and I’ve considered the business cards again, because anyone who disagrees with anything he does has to be a racist. I’m tired of it, bored even. Tuning it out as much as possible.
Here is my reality. All human beings are African-American, having evolved in east Africa, then some moved out around the world. Skin color changed to adapt to various climates. The only reason it’s worth mentioning is during medical analysis, where there might be genetic inclinations to some diseases, or when you have to pick someone up at the airport (“I’m tall, black, will be wearing a plaid jacket”), or when you describe a criminal assault when every detail of appearance is important. Other than that, who cares?
Long before I read Zane Grey and wanted to become a cowboy, I wanted to be an Indian. My cousins and I played “cowboys and Indians,” with cap guns and toy bows and arrows. One spring, before we all tanned, I convinced them to let me be the Indian by staining my skin with dandelions.
Unfortunately, from my parents’ perspective, this happened the week before my First Holy Communion. I walked with other second-graders down the church aisle in my beautiful white communion dress and wreath, my bare arms and face streaked with unnatural color. I was a dandelion-American; what’s wrong with that?
Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is president of Citizens for Limited Taxation and a Salem News columnist.