COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., April 27, 2014 — The New York Times last week ignited a furor when it reported supposedly racist comments made by Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy at a rambling news conference. The left couldn’t attack fast enough and conservatives backed away even faster. Talk show host Sean Hannity said Bundy’s views were “repugnant” and give ammunition to those who try to label all Republicans racists.
But is that really what happened?
In an interview last week, Bundy wondered out loud whether American blacks were better off now under government subsidy than previously, as slaves. The New York Times ran with the story from a deceptively-edited video produced by George Soros-funded Media Matters. Both the full video and the edited version can be seen on the Tea Party News Network.
The New York Times story reported Bundy’s comments as transcribed from the Media Matters video:
“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.
“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “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.”
Those words from the 1-minute excerpt seem inflammatory. However, a reasonable person trying to understand what Bundy is saying rather than looking for insult can see that he’s describing the plight of those trapped in government welfare as he sees it from the outside.
The longer, unedited version gives these comments some context. Referring to the Watts riots, which he said he witnessed, Bundy says, “People are not happy, they’re thinking they didn’t have their freedom, they didn’t have these things — and they didn’t have them. We’ve made progress from that day until now and we sure don’t want to go back. We sure don’t want these Colored people to go back; we sure don’t want these Mexican people to go back to that point. And we can make a difference right now by taking care of some of these bureaucracies. And do it in a peaceful way.”
Even in the Media Matters version, his conclusion is, “That’s all government; that’s not freedom.”
Niger Innis, spokesman for the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and running for Congress in Nevada’s 4th District, spoke with Bundy about the statements. According to Innis, it took some time for Bundy to understand that what he said might have offended people.
“We talked for about an hour, and it was a good give and take,” Innis said. “At first, Cliven kind of stood his ground and said, ‘I said what I said, and I stand by it.’ I communicated to him, and this is when he really got it.”
According to Newsmax reporting, Innis said he does not believe Bundy to be inherently racist, but said that he “clumsily” used a bad metaphor to try and make an important point.
Bundy is not a polished public speaker.
“What would’ve been better is if Cliven had said, ‘Look, there are a number of blacks and Latinos and poor whites now that are involved in a real slavery, which is the slavery of government dependence,'” Innis said.
“They may not even know that they are slaves, but there is in fact a neoslavery that exists,” he continued. “When you take out individual initiative, individual responsibility, and the hope that every individual is born with, to better their lives, to climb the economic ladder, to pursue happiness, that is in fact a neoslavery.”
What Bundy described from outside the black community looking in, the Rev. C.L. Bryant described from the inside. Bryant called attention to the same plight in his 2012 movie, Runaway Slave. In that film, Bryant expresses his belief that the African-American community has traded one form of tyranny for another by buying into the entitlement mindset of progressives. Bryant was rewarded for his views by being kicked out of his NAACP position.
Alan Keyes also agreed, saying that leftists, whose policies have ruined the black family, are the real racists.
“He [Bundy] wasn’t talking so much about black folks, but about the harm and damage that the leftist socialism has done to blacks,” Keyes told WND following the release of the Bundy video.
“I find it appalling that we basically have a history of the leftist liberalism that wants to extinguish black people by abortion [and] destroying the family structure,” Keyes told WND. “All of these things if you just look at the effects, you would say this was planned by some racist madman to destroy the black community.”
Let’s not be too quick to demonize Cliven Bundy: The left must do that, and quickly. He’s on the right track when he talks about the soul-killing effects of tyrannical government. His statements, taken in context, are not racist. What he’s really asking, however inelegantly, is whether people dependent on government aren’t pretty much slaves in all but name.
It’s a question we all need to consider. The founders of this country considered the question back in 1775 and we know how they answered it.