Racially Insensitive Comments from People Who Should Know Better Because of their Ancestry

The Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling racial comments have created a media reaction about America’s perennial subject racism. Of more significance though is that since Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, the mood of the country with respect to racism has changed to more racial animus. To say that the several comments directed at the president were laced with racial innuendos and disrespect would be an understatement.

In his 2010 State of the Union address, Congressman Joe Wilson, yelled out to the president “You lie.” Those ill-famed words were just the beginning of the unprecedented level of racial innuendos, disrespect, and conspiracy theories that would follow the president throughout his first term and into his second term of office. That the GOP did not condemn these things and instead embarked on an irrational crusade that opposed the president’s policies and agenda seems to have encouraged the racial animus.

What is surprising about the racial comments and lack of understanding of issues affecting black people is not the nature of the comments but the ancestry of the people involved. Most if not all of the comments in the news came from men with ties to a heritage that is familiar with racial/cultural or political oppression – the Irish, Jews, blacks Cuban. Take for example the following people, their ancestry, and the comments they made or attitude against black issues:

Justice Antonio Scalia – Italian-Sicilian ancestry
Last year during oral argument in the Supreme Court hearing of Shelby County v. Holder, Justice Antonin Scalia suggested that the continuation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act represented the “perpetuation of racial entitlement…..Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes,….Even the name of it is wonderful, the Voting Rights Act. Who’s going to vote against that?….the Voting Rights Act had effectively created “black districts by law.”

Justice Scalia seems to have a bias and distorted memory of the history of voting rights for blacks. With his Italian ancestry, he should be more sensitive to the struggles of blacks to gain voting rights. You would also expect him to be a little bit more understanding to blacks considering that Italians who came to the US as immigrants faced blatant discrimination and ridicule (ethnic jokes about Italians were common then).

Justice Clarence Thomas – African American
Justice Thomas is listed here not for what he has said but for what he has not done. He has done very little if anything to support black issues like affirmative action and voting rights. He has made it clear that he is anti-affirmative action despite affirmative action benefitting thousands of blacks and nonwhite people. Although he thinks that his accomplishments are purely on his own merits, the truth is that he has benefited from Affirmative Action, which helped to clear the path for him being nominated and appointed as a Supreme Court justice.

Many of the gains that blacks have made came through the Civil Rights struggles of the 60’s – a struggle that cost Dr. Martin Luther King his life. Through these struggles, Civil Rights Acts were implemented for black suffrage and to eliminate racial discrimination in many areas. Some of these gains like voter’s right and AA have been under attack but Justice Thomas don’t seem to care.

Reinhold Niebuhr, in his book, Moral Man Immoral Society said: “The progress of the Negro race, for instance, is retarded by the inclination of many able and educated Negroes to strive for identification and a simulation with the more privileged white race and to minimize their relation to a subject race as much as possible. This is what Justice Thomas seems to be doing.

Bill O’Reilly – Irish ancestry
Mr. O’Reilly is the Fox TV host of The Factor and has a fondness for discussing racial issues on his show. In his opinions about racial issues, he gives the impression that he is an expert on the subject of racism. What is disturbing about his opinion is that he uses his public platform to diminish racial incidents and to accuse people who bring up racism as using the race card.

In response to the Supreme Court striking down the University of Michigan Affirmative Action (AA) last month, Bill O’Reilly defended the decision arguing that AA is unconstitutional. This is an excerpt of his Talking Points Memo:

The problem is that by giving one person preference based on skin color or ethnicity, you harm another person. The University of Michigan can only admit so many students. If a white student meets the criteria but is denied admission because a black person with lesser credential gets the preference the white person is not receiving equal protection therefore it’s a violation of the 14th Amendment. So it’s kind of simple.

No Mr. O’Reilly, it’s not that simple. You probably got preference in your admission to college over a black person who was much brighter than you. That is what racial discrimination did to blacks and is still doing.

On August 2013, Mr. O’Reilly opined about Oprah Winfrey claim that she experienced racism from a clerk in a Swiss store. Here is an excerpt of what the racism guru said:
Oprah Winfrey is perhaps the best example of a talented person who made it on her own in America. She is now one of the most powerful human beings on the planet. Her color certainly did not hold her back from achieving that.

So, if some idiot shop clerk insults Miss Winfrey, that’s wrong but no big deal. Oprah can get on a private jet and fly anywhere she wants to buy anything she wants. She has made it in America because she worked hard and used the talent God granted her.

Summing up, the victimhood card is useless to Oprah and to everybody else. There is racism in the world. It’s not going away. And if you can change it, try. But most of the time, ignore it. Don’t let it dampen your life.

Bill O’Reilly’s ancestry is Irish and the Irish had a history of oppression from the English and were discriminated against when they came to America as immigrants. Based on his Irish ancestry, you would expect that he would have a little more understanding and empathy for the struggles that blacks have endured and are still engaged in.

Sean Hannity – Irish ancestry
Another Fox TV Talk show host, Sean Hannity also likes to discuss racial issues. He has frequently diminished racial incidents as not having anything to do with racism. Like Bill O’Reilly, he likes to challenge and muzzle people making claims of racism as using the race card.

In response to President Obama’s comment about Trayvon Martin could have been his son, Sean Hannity saw it fit to disparage the murdered youth and the president by saying:

Now the president’s saying Trayvon could’ve been me 35 years ago. This is a particularly helpful comment. Is that the president admitting that I guess because what, he was part of the Choom Gang and he smoked pot and he did a little blow — I’m not sure how to interpret because we know that Trayvon had been smoking pot that night.

Soon after George Zimmerman was arrested for the murder of Trayvon Martin, Sean Hannity brought him on his show and all but dismissed any claim that the murder of Trayvon was racially motivated. He also defended Zimmerman by suggesting that he was standing his ground – the Florida statute that allows a person to use deadly force if they feel their life is in danger.

John Sununu – Cuban/Palestinian ancestry
A former senator and governor, John Sununu made comments that were laced with racial innuendos and stereotypes about President Obama. During the 2012 presidential election and following the second debate between the President and Mitt Romney, Mr. Sununu in an interview with Andrea Mitchell said,

What people saw last night was a president that reveals his incompetence, how lazy and detached he is and how he has absolutely no idea how serious the economic problems of the country are.

John Sununu comments about President Obama was not only disrespectful and contemptuous, they smacked of racial stereotypes that blacks are well familiar with. This was not the first time he made such despicable comments. In July 2012 he said, “He doesn’t understand how America works” referring to the president’s defense of public infrastructure. Later on, he followed up with, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.”

Mr. Sununu who was born in Cuba and his paternal ancestry is Palestinian. Considering the history of the Palestinian and Cuban people with conflict and political repression, John Sununu should be more sensitive in how he talks about people.

Ted Nugent- Irish ancestry
Ted Nugent is well known for his anti-Obama comments. At one time, he said that if Obama won the election he would leave the country. Apparently, he is not a man who honors his own words because he still lives in the US. Mr. Nugent made headline news a month ago when he escalated his anti-Obama rant by referring to the president as “a sub-human mongrel” – a phrase that was commonly used by KKK members during the Jim Crow era.

Ted Nugent ancestry is Irish (as reported on internet sources). Based on this it seems that he does not remember that the Irish had a history of oppression from the English and that they faced discrimination when they came here as immigrants. A man like Ted Nugent should not be inclined to insult others who have faced and currently facing racial oppression.

Donald Sterling – Jewish ancestry
The 80-year-old owners of the Clippers basketball team got himself some unneeded national attention when he made some outrages comments to his girlfriend V. Stiviano about blacks. Mr. Sterling was complaing about a picture that Ms. V. Stiviano posted on Instagram with basketball hall of famer Magic Johnson. This is an excerpt of what he said to his girlfriend:

Don’t broadcast your association with black people or bring black people to games. The man specifically mentions Johnson, the former Los Angeles Lakers star and NBA Hall of Famer, saying, “Don’t bring him to my games, OK?

You can sleep with (black people). You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is … not to bring them to my games.

Donald Sterling is Jewish and changed his name from Tokowitz to Sterling in 1959. The Jews have a history of racial oppression going back from bible days when the Egyptians enslaved them. During World War 2, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party also oppressed the Jews and killed over six million of them during what became known as the Holocaust. With this history, you would think that Donald Sterling would not have made the shocking comments to his girlfriend about associating with blacks and bringing them to the Clippers game.

Phil Robertson – ancestry unknown
Phil Robertson the bearded star of Duck Dynasty was quoted in GQ magazine as follows:

I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.

Cliven Bundy – ancestry unknown
Cliven Bundy the Nevada cattle rancher who came to national attention in the news a month ago for grazing his cattle on federally protected lands when he caused a showdown with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). However, following that Mr. Bundy made the following racial comments that got him into more trouble:

I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro, I recall 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? 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.

Whatever their ancestry is, Robertson and Bundy should be well familiar with the history of black people in the US. At their age, they should be more objective about black people and refrain from speculating about their lives.

Rush Limbaugh – German ancestry
The conservative talk show host is well known for making derogatory comments on his radio show about people who are liberals. He has relentlessly criticized President Obama and said that he wanted this president to fail. In a recent response to CNN Don Lemon who made a comment about Limbaugh defending Donald Sterling, Limbaugh made the following insensitive and derogatory comments:

Well, over at CNN, they interpreted that to mean that I was defending Sterling! How did they get there? I don’t know how they get there. Erin Burnett played the sound bite and then went to Mr. Black Hole himself, Don Lemon—who sleeps with men, proudly—for comment.

How does Rush Limbaugh get away with such vile and insensitive comments? He is lucky he does not work for MSNBC because he would have been gone long ago. What is disturbing is that his radio show has remained popular over the years.

If wealthy and well-connected men make vile racial comments or comments that lack an understanding of the history of racism, then it makes you wonder if America will ever overcome the scourge of racism. Since these men also have ties to an ancestry that has experienced racial/cultural or political oppression, you wonder if there is a serious deficiency in the lack of understanding of US history and the history of their ancestors.

As alluded to previously, the tone for the rise in racial slurs or insensitive comments was set by the GOP crusade (with Fox TV providing media support) to delegitimize the President Obama. This tone created a mob mentality, which makes people believe they can make comments like Ted Nugent, John Sununu, and the others make without suffering any serious repercussions.

Instead of adding to the psychological and economic burden of people of color, these wealthy men should use their wealth to help fight racism. This would be a more noble and spiritual thing to do. Black people and people of color should not have their opportunities and gains diminished by people who have privilege and who think that racism is a simple matter like Bill O’Reilly thinks.