In yesterday’s post about the occupation by “militiamen” (aka domestic terrorists) of a wildlife refuge in Oregon, I hit the “angry white man” theme pretty hard. In thinking about their motives, I wondered, “What’s it like to be terrified to find yourself part of a society that is no longer dominated by straight, white, Christian men?” And I connected their belief system to the kind of extreme pro-gun, anti-government rhetoric we hear all too often from ideologues who preach American exceptionalism and a kind of nostalgia for a white America that never was.
It occurs to me that some might question that. I mean, why make this about race, right? Why do liberals have to keep blaming everything on white privilege? Sure, armed men occupying federal property over a land dispute might be really messed up, but what does that have to do with white privilege? You can’t just assume these guys are racists, can you?
That’s debatable. I mean, think about the extraordinary sense of privilege required to actually believe that, while non-white people all over the country are peacefully protesting economic and racial injustice, your cattle-grazing and land-burning rights are worth starting a shootin’ war over. But luckily, we don’t have to extrapolate white privilege. These yahoos come right out and address race head-on, given half a chance -- and it’s not pretty.
Cliven Bundy, whose own run-in with the feds over land use put these guys on the media map, and whose son is one of the lead yahoos in the Oregon debacle -- and who, by the way, still has not paid the more than $1 million in fees and fines he owes, and whose cattle continue to graze on federal lands -- has spoken about driving by a public housing project in North Las Vegas and seeing "at least a half-dozen (black) people sitting on the porch, they didn't have nothing to do....Because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? 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." (source)
Yep. People like Bundy pine for the good ol’ days, when slavery gave black people a clear idea of their place in this world.
But surely, that kind of thinking doesn’t fly on the more liberal East Coast, home of New Jersey state Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, whom I quoted urging Americans to arm themselves against potential government tyranny and to stand willing to shoot at soldiers should the (ill-defined) need arise. Well, apparently it does fly if you live in affluent Republican enclaves like Morris County, where, I suspect, the majority of voters don’t much care what a local politician says, as long as he promises not to raise taxes. The only national attention Carroll’s ever gotten was when he said this:
"If slavery was the price that a modern American's ancestors had to pay in order to make one an American, one should get down on one's knees every single day and thank the Lord that such price was paid." (source)
Once again, when it comes to black people, slavery is better than the alternative. Spot a pattern? Hint: The belief that slavery was a favor to black people, who otherwise would be lazy leeches in America or savages back in Africa.
Of course, neither Bundy nor Carroll would ever admit that their views on race, guns, and land are connected by their longing for an America where rugged (white) individualists live free (manly) lives, bearing arms to protect the land (that they took by force from the Native people who were there first).
Oh yeah -- I forgot to mention -- the occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was once a Native American reservation. President Ulysses S. Grant established the Malheur Indian Reservation for the Northern Paiute in 1872; the Bannock War in 1878 ended with surrendered Paiutes and Bannocks on the reservation being removed and forced to move to Washington Territory. (source)
I feel fairly certain that the irony of this is completely lost on the angry white morons involved.