Donald Sterling and Racism: Its only OK when Black conservatives are the...

Donald Sterling and Racism: Its only OK when Black conservatives are the target

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Donald Sterling and the NAACP 2014
Donald Sterling and the NAACP 2014

WASHINGTON, July 10, 2014 — The news is full of media and public outrage about the expression of racist sentiments. Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s comments about black welfare set off a firestorm, and Los Angeles basketball team owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments held the media’s attention for weeks on end. They also got him banned from NBA basketball for life.

The condemnation of racist sentiments is entirely justified. The goal of men and women of good will has always been to judge each individual, as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared, “on the content of his character, not the color of his skin.”

But for all the moral outrage, racism aimed at black conservatives — those who depart from the liberal agenda of affirmative action, race-based quotas and a host of other welfare-state programs — seems to be OK.

In April, Illinois Democratic Governor Pat Quinn’s campaign tweeted several messages urging backers to read an article comparing black Republicans to Jews who collaborated with Nazis. The article by Chicago Sun Times columnist Neil Steinberg compared black supporters of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner to Jews who worked with Nazis against their brethren.

“As a general rule, individuals will sell out the interests of their groups in return for personal benefit,” Steinberg wrote, adding that Mr. Reutner is buying off the black community and its leaders. “It isn’t just a black thing. Jews collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, helping them to round up their own people in the hopes they’d be the last to go.”

In the case of Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who is black, the media completely ignored his declaration that Republican criticism of President Obama amounted to racism and his reference to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a black conservative, as “an Uncle Tom.” Asked during a CNN interview if the “Uncle Tom” comment was a racial remark, Thompson replied, “For some it is, for others it’s the truth.”

Jonathan S. Tobin, a columnist for Commentary magazine, asked, “Which is more dangerous: a racist NBA owner or a bigoted member of Congress?”

Recently, Republican National Committee staff member Raffi Williams was mocked by an Ebony magazine editor who called him a “white dude,” although he is black. His father, the respected journalist Juan Williams said that, “There is among liberals this idea that if you are a black person and you don’t fit into the liberal Orthodoxy, liberal way of thinking, as they have pre-determined, then it’s free to call you a roach, or an Uncle Tom, or a traitor.”

The NAACP seems more willing to associate itself with Los Angeles Clipper owner Donald Sterling than with black conservatives. Deneen Borelli declares that, “The NAACP will deny me, a black conservative, an opportunity to speak at its national convention but will provide cover for Donald Sterling’s racist past.”

When Sterling’s racist words became public, attention was drawn to the NAACP’s Los Angeles branch which had been planning to honor him with a lifetime achievement award. The NAACP gave Sterling a similar award in 2009, despite his long history of discrimination against blacks and Hispanics.

The idea that there is no such thing as “black racism” has a long history. In 1990, Rep. Gus Savage, D-Ill., criticized his opponent, Mel Reynolds, who was also black, for having white support and said that campaign contributions to him were, aside from one labor PAC, all from blacks. When he was criticized for this statement, he said that he could not possibly be a racist, because only whites could be guilty of this offense.

The record shows that for many years, Savage was a bitter and irresponsible member of Congress. He brought to the Democratic National Convention as his guest, a black activist best known for claiming that AIDS was part of a Jewish genocidal plot against blacks. The New York Post declared that, “Savage is a professional hater … and a master at exploiting hatred to gain political power. A key factor in Savage’s success is the support he receives from mainstream black politicians.”

“Racism,” Savage declared, “constitutes actions or thoughts or expressions by white Americans against African-Americans.” He said racism is an attempt by “powerful people to oppress less powerful people” and argued that “blacks don’t have the power to oppress white people. Racism is white. There is no black racism.”

The idea that “racism” is confined to any one racial group stands the meaning of the word on its head. We have traditionally understood the term “racism” to involve the hatred of individuals because of their race. The history of the world shows us all too clearly that the victims of racism come in all colors, as do the perpetrators.

Sadly, men and women throughout the world have persecuted others on the basis of race, religion and ethnic origin. The partition of British India into India and Pakistan in 1947 was accomplished by the slaughter of more than one million Hindus and Moslems and by the flight of perhaps ten million others.

In Malaysia, the political and economic power of ethnic Chinese has been curbed by law and practice. “We sort of have to laugh at our Prime Minister going to Commonwealth meetings to attack South Africa for apartheid,” said an ethnic Chinese mining official several years ago in Kuala Lumpur. “Here my identity tells everyone I am Chinese.”

In Thailand, second generation and even third generation ethnic Vietnamese are denied citizenship rights and certain educational rights.

In Japan, there is discrimination against ethnic Koreans, many of them born in Japan. Ethnic Chinese in Japan also complain of discrimination, as do the people of the Ryuku Islands (Okinawa).

And what of racism in Africa? Idi Amin expelled Uganda’s entire Indian minority. More than 600,000 Lango and Acholi tribesmen perished at the hands of Idi Amin, Milton Obote and Tito Okello. In Burundi, in 1972, more than 200,000 Hutus, the majority tribe, were slaughtered in barely two months, with their homes and schools destroyed by the government run by the Tutsi minority tribe. In 1988, there was a repeat massacre with 20,000 Hutus slain.

Unfortunately, we can fill page after page with the record of man’s inhumanity to man, on racial and ethnic grounds. Yet despite this sorry record, there are still those who tell us that only whites can be guilty of racism.

Those who condemn white racism must also condemn black racism. And, increasingly, the victims of such black racism are those within the black community who insist on thinking for themselves. There has long been an effort to eliminate racial stereotypes and to judge each individual on his or her own personal merit. One stereotype black organizations and leaders like to perpetuate, however, is that all blacks think alike on political and economic questions.

When individuals challenge that stereotype, and their number is growing, from well known men and women such as Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice to respected academics such as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams and Shelby Steele, they are subjected to brutal racial attack.

It seems that race-based attacks upon black conservatives is the only kind of racism which remains acceptable in our society. It is time that this racism is recognized for what it is and is viewed in precisely the same way as the hateful words of Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling.

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Allan C. Brownfeld
Received B.A. from the College of William and Mary, J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary, and M.A. from the University of Maryland. Served as a member of the faculties of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia and the University College of the University of Maryland. The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, he has written for such newspapers as The Houston Press, The Washington Evening Star, The Richmond Times Dispatch, and The Cincinnati Enquirer. His column appeared for many years in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in The Yale Review, The Texas Quarterly, Orbis, Modern Age, The Michigan Quarterly, The Commonweal and The Christian Century. His essays have been reprinted in a number of text books for university courses in Government and Politics. For many years, his column appeared several times a week in papers such as The Washington Times, The Phoenix Gazette and the Orange County Register. He served as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, as Assistant to the research director of the House Republican Conference and as a consultant to members of the U.S. Congress and to the Vice President. He is the author of five books and currently serves as Contributing Editor of The St. Croix Review, Associate Editor of The Lincoln Review and editor of Issues.