Saturday, May 03, 2014


RAG on Newsmax: Talking Race

Friday afternoon, I appeared on "The Steve Malzberg Show," part of Newsmax TV (currently Web-only, but word is that it plans on expanding to become a competitor to Fox).  Steve invited me after reading my column earlier this week analyzing the Cliven Bundy/Donald Sterling episodes.

Here's the 10-minute segment:

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014


The Week in Racism

Originally published in the New York Post, April 30, 2014.

Race in America is like everyone’s favorite Facebook relationship status: “It’s complicated.” Last week’s news, from Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, proves the point.

Blame conservatives (mostly) for helping make Bundy — locked in a conflict with the federal Bureau of Land Management — a national story in the first place, by “adopting” him as one more victim of federal overreach in the Obama era. How dare the feds send armed agents to threaten Bundy with eviction? How dare the feds hold onto nearly 90 percent of the land in Nevada?

In reality, the fact that Bundy was still on the land was a symbol of absurd federal restraint. He’s refused to pay fees, fines, etc. for more than two decades. But the “victim” coverage actually emboldened him, leading to daily press conferences — one of which provided The New York Times with the quote that “Negroes” might have been better off under slavery than being on welfare.

After first claiming he was misquoted, Bundy doubled down: “Are they happier now under this government-subsidy system than they were when they were slaves and they [were] able to [keep] their family structure together and … people [had] something to do?”

 It’s easy to conclude that Bundy is a flat-out racist (who never learned that slavery actually tore black families apart), but then there’s some of his other comments: “Now let me talk about the Spanish people. You know, I understand that they come over here against our Constitution and cross our borders. But they’re here and they’re people … Don’t tell me they don’t work, and don’t tell me they don’t pay taxes. Don’t tell me they don’t have better family structures than most of us white people … We need to have those people join us and be with us.”

That makes the “racist” formulation more, yes, complicated. Bundy’s a bigot? But his views on immigration sound like what most Democrats have been saying for some time. And his welfare comments clumsily echo not just conservatives, but Democrats like the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

So do his welfare remarks make Bundy a full-fledged racist — any more than his Hispanic comments make him a spokesman for immigration reform? Ahem, no.

Together, they make him a confused clown who shouldn’t have been given a national platform in the first place.

Some on the right tried to change the subject to Bundy’s own “neighbor” — Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader.

Bundy wasn’t the only old, crusty Nevadan who had used the other N-word — “Negro” — in discussing black people, these conservatives noted. The history of the 2008 campaign, “Game Change,” quoted Reid as saying — privately — that then-Sen. Barack Obama was a strong presidential candidate because he was “a light-skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” Hey, isn’t that racist?

Hardly. Reid was stating in rather non-PC terms what just about anyone steeped in political history would’ve said about the prospects of a black man winning the presidency. Recognizing this nation’s awkwardness with race, it’s hardly rocket science to divine that a light-skinned African-American with oratorical skills might gain an edge with white voters.

OK, but Donald Sterling’s surreptitiously recorded comments reveal old-school racism, right?

Yes, there’s no N-word or other slurs on this tape. And he’s revealed as happy to have black players on his teams, have a black coach — but he doesn’t want his Mexican/black girlfriend (with whom he’s been in a long adulterous relationship) coming to the arena or being pictured with high-profile blacks like Magic Johnson.

That’s reminiscent of slave-era and Jim Crow plantation managers who saw blacks as inferior, yet had no problem cavorting with black women sexually (see: Strom Thurmond).

But then there’s this: Sterling was about to be honored by the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP for a second time.

This, despite a history of racial animus that included referring to his players as n - - - - - s during an interview with a prospective head coach and being sued twice in federal court for discriminatory housing practices. In fact, both the NAACP’s national office and many of its local chapters have a recent history of choosing monetary support over the obvious best interests of their African-American constituency (in New York, see charter schools). Monday, the LA chapter declined to reveal how much “sterling” it’s received over the years from the Clippers owner.

 America has taken great strides in dealing with its “original sin” — slavery — and its legacy. But just about anything touching on race is still more “complicated” than our pundits or our press care to admit.

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RAG on WSJ: De Blasio & Charters

Talked to the Wall Street Journal's Mary Kissel on Opinion Journal today concerning New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's seeming surrender on the charter school issue; he announced a few days ago that Success Academy Schools that the city had blocked from co-locating in other public school buildings would now be allowed to move into closed Catholic school buildings. I argue that he was largely forced into this position by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature. However, the pressure on charters isn't over yet: Several other city pols want to undermine them in any way they can -- including City Council so-called "oversight" hearings.

Here's the clip:

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