Racist eruptions reveal that prejudice lives still
This country has come a long way on race. The law no longer tolerates discrimination and most institutions, public and private, have accepted diversity as the new normal.
But all too often somebody stuns the nation by saying something so appallingly racist that it reveals just how far we still have to go.
Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball team, is the latest example. Recordings of racist ravings from a man believed to be him in a conversation with his girlfriend were recently revealed. He was upset that she posted a benign picture of herself with basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson and another woman on her Instagram account.
"Don't put him on Instagram for all the world to see," Sterling is reported to have said. "It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people." He told her not to bring black people to his games.
Then there's Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher whose anti-government diatribes over grazing rights on federal land garnered 15 minutes of fame that became infamy when he said of black people, "I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton?"
Before that, it was celebrity chef Paula Deen. A former employee alleged Deen said she wanted a "true Southern plantation-style wedding" for her brother. Using a pejorative for blacks, she said she wanted a bunch of little ones in long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties. "You know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around," Deen said, according to a lawsuit dismissed last year after she had admitted having used racial slurs.
Those bigoted comments, and the mindset they expose, are raw proof of just how stubborn prejudice can be. The nation is becoming more multiracial by the day. And with so many people embracing that reality, there's hope that eruptions of such bigotry soon will fade away.
Cliven Bundy is a rogue on the range
You may have heard that Cliven Bundy, a Nevada cattle rancher and melon grower, is a folk hero. He's been standing against the big bad federal government out on the range. Gun-toting patriots have gathered to stand by him and to keep the Bureau of Land Management from hauling off his cattle as you'd expect from some rampaging, jack-booted security force out of "Animal Farm."
What right do the feds have to come down on a liberty-lover like Bundy?
Well, had Bundy decided about 20 years ago to pay government grazing fees - as many other American ranchers do - then perhaps we wouldn't be in this ugly mess. Bundy objected when, in 1993, some of the land on which he fed his cattle was designated a conservation area to protect the habitat of a threatened desert tortoise.
Bundy now owes $1.1 million in fees and trespassing fines. His long-running fight went viral in early April when the federal bureau officials arrived and then backed off to avoid armed conflict. His fight went even more viral late last week in light of some offensive remarks Bundy made about blacks, slavery and government subsidies.
Let's be clear about this: Cliven Bundy is no folk hero. He's an irrational law breaker and a moocher.
"I abide by all of Nevada state laws," he has said. "But I don't recognize the United States government as even existing."
This doesn't seem as if it can end well. Government patience is welcome, but it's been stretched very far.