Cliven Bundy blamed Martin Luther King for racism (video)

I’ll give the man this much: Cliven Bundy is understandably bothered and bewildered by the fact there are a lot of people who don’t like him very much and who’ve concluded he’s a subsidy-mooching resource-stealing scofflaw racist.

Although it seems it’s only the very last term — racist — that bothers him more than the others.

Well, as of Friday, he went on CNN to try to explain and apologize and let’s just say it didn’t go well.

The background

There’s this Nevada rancher who’s been grazing his cattle illegally on federal lands for going on two decades now, refusing to pay both the grazing fees and the fines he’s accumulated for failing to pay those fees, as well as grazing far more cattle than he would’ve been allowed anyway.

Fox News' version of Cliven Bundy.

Fox News’ version of Cliven Bundy.

In court, Mr. Bundy has tried to assert a bizarre sovereign citizen theory, that the U.S. federal government cannot own land, and thus has no authority to assess fees of any kind nor to regulate land usage — and was shot down repeatedly. This is no amateur opinion or theory, no question of constitutional law up for debate; state and federal courts have ruled against him, every single time.

Bundy now owes the government more than $1m in back-fees, fines, and penalties, and still refuses to remove his trespassing cattle from protected federal lands.

When the BLM and local law enforcement tried to seize said cattle to remove them and to sell them off to pay back some of the fines in arrears, Mr. Bundy called in his family, friends, and a bunch of heavily armed militia members with ties to insurrectionist groups (the Bircher-allied Oath Keepers) to intimidate and threaten the Feds.

Happy to be getting all kinds of attention and national exposure, especially from right-wing media outlets such as Fox News and Sean Hannity, Mr. Bundy subsequently decided to expound on a whole host of issues…and it turns out he’s an ignorant racist with no sense of irony. Or self-awareness that he himself has been the recipient of ‘government subsidies’ all his life. Surprise! (Not…)

Oh, and Mr. Bundy — even though he loves to surround himself with the American flag — has been on record as saying he doesn’t believe the United States of America even exists.

cliven-bundy-3Well, in recent days, most of Bundy’s supporters on the far right — including figures as famous as Sean Hannity, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Dean Heller (R-NV) have disavowed him and called his remarks repugnant. (None, however, has said Mr. Bundy should relent pay his fines and land licensing fees, which have been upheld repeatedly in courts of law.)

Anyway, there’s a long backgrounder post here and another in which we first learned of (but weren’t surprised by) Mr. Bundy’s rather blatant racism here.

Meanwhile, John’s also posted about the war between Jon Stewart and Sean Hannity over the Bundy matter, as well as a rather clever satirical piece on a (fictional) move by Mozilla to appoint Bundy as a CEO who probably won’t enslave Mozilla’s ‘Negro’ employees.)

Mr. Bundy digs his hole ever deeper

Friday morning (4/25), Cliven Bundy went on CNN to try to salvage his reputation. He started off with a somewhat self-effacing joke about taking off his boot to make the experience of putting his foot in his mouth less awful. (For those who don’t want the commented version, feel free to skip on down to the full quote in context.)

Bundy: “I took this boot off so I wouldn’t put my foot in my mouth with the boot on. Let me see if I can say something. Maybe I sinned and maybe I need to ask forgiveness and maybe I don’t know what I actually said.”

That’s nice, actually, almost endearing. Although I think he could’ve done without all those ‘maybes’.

“But you know, when you talk about prejudice, we’re talking about not being able to exercise what we think and our feelings.  We don’t have the freedom to say what we want.”


This, my friends, is the lonely twilight call of the unreconstructed racist in his natural habitat.

Confused and bewildered because he thinks free speech consists of being able to yawp highly objectionable ‘thoughts’ and ‘feelings’ — like suggesting that slavery wasn’t so bad and ‘negroes’ should be taught to pick cotton again — without anybody complaining. Or telling him, “That’s abominable and morally repugnant, and shame on you for even suggesting it.”

Sadly, it gets worse.

“If I call — if I say negro or black boy or slave…”

Oh gawd. Dude, stop talking. What follows words like those will never, ever help.

“I’m not — if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be offended…

‘Those people’? Yeah right, what African-American gentleman could possibly be offended by being called a ‘negro’ or a ‘black boy’ by a white guy, one who doesn’t seem to be totally clear on the core concept of ‘slavery’?

And who among us hasn’t thought we should have a free and open debate on the merits of re-instituting slavery and involuntary servitude? (I know: Anyone with even a smidge of human decency knows better…)

Okay, let’s finish this off by putting Mr. Bundy’s remarks into their full context, including the last part.

Bundy: “I took this boot off so I wouldn’t put my foot in my mouth with the boot on. Let me see if I can say something. Maybe I sinned and maybe I need to ask forgiveness and maybe I don’t know what I actually said. But you know, when you talk about prejudice, we’re talking about not being able to exercise what we think and our feelings.

“We don’t have freedom to say what we want. If I call — if I say negro or black boy or slave, I’m not — if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be offended, then Martin Luther King hasn’t got his job done then yet. They should be able to — I should be able to say those things and they shouldn’t offend anybody. I didn’t mean to offend them.”

Sadly, Mr. Bundy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr cannot pursue ‘his job’ any further because he was shot dead by another unreconstructed racist some 46 years ago.

And the fight for civil rights for the poor and for minorities wasn’t to make it so that racists could throw around racial epithets and prejudicial stereotypes with impunity. Dr. King’s cause was for men and women to be judged by the content of their character. Not to create an equivalence between those who believe all of us are equal and deserving of respect and dignity, and the unrepentant racists who want to suggest we should literally re-enslave African-Americans, as if both those positions are legitimate and reasonable.

There is a bit more:

Bundy: “I didn’t say it to offend them. I was trying to ask a question. And maybe I said it wrong. I’m sorry if I said it wrong. The question was a good question and it comes from my heart, not done as prejudice. And you guys try to make everyone in the world think I’m prejudiced. No, I’m not prejudiced.”

Sorry, Mr. Bundy, but there is no right way to ask whether African-Americans — who you refer to as The Negro — would be better off as slaves on plantations, picking cotton. Sure, there are probably better solutions and outcomes than public housing without any educational or economic opportunities. But at least those folks — who actually include more poor whites than poor people of color — have a roof over their heads and a little help to put food on the table.

But there is no decent human being, nobody with any degree of humanity in their hearts who believes that this–


Or this:

Slavery 2Or this:

Slavery 3

Or this:

Slavery 4

Or this:

Slavery 5

…is even in the same universe as being in public housing. Nor is slavery merely an innocent proposal to be debated as a possible answer for the poverty and lack of opportunity for minority American citizens.

Slavery in the United States of America — real, actual human bondage and forced servitude, as opposed to the dubiously metaphorical ‘slavery’ of being the recipient of government help — was an abomination, a stain on the history of this country which will never be wiped clean.

The appalling inhumanity of even suggesting equivalence, much less saying actual, plantation-style slavery would be better than being on the government dole, is not excused in the least by phrasing the proposal as a Jeopardy-style question and sticking “I wonder…” on the front.

So, sorry Mr. Bundy. It really is too bad you’re upset by people exercising their free speech rights in response to yours. It’s 100% true: You have every right in the world to say the problem with ‘The Negro’ is they weren’t taught to pick cotton and that you “wonder” if it’d be better for them if they were slaves again.

But we have the same free speech right to say in reply, “You’re a monster for even suggesting that, sir.”

And the fact we say such in reply is no failure of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr to ‘get his job done.’ I’d say it’s evidence his legacy lives on and has gone much further than he would have dared to hope. However, men like yourself, Mr. Bundy, men who cling to ignorance and racism, do show indeed that the ‘job’ isn’t done, so the rest of us will have to take up the burden and carry on.

I feel certain you want to be liked and well-regarded, and not to be thought a terrible human being. Unfortunately, your racism, ignorance, and hypocrisy gets in the way of all that.

Anyway, to see Bundy’s CNN interview, it’s here:

Published professional writer and poet, Becca had a three decade career in technical writing and consulting before selling off most of her possessions in 2006 to go live at an ashram in India for 3 years. She loves literature (especially science fiction), technology and science, progressive politics, cool electronic gadgets, and perfecting Hatch green chile recipes. Fortunately for this last, Becca and her wife currently live in New Mexico. @BeccaMorn

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