Posts Tagged ‘Ta-Nehisi Coates’

For days, conservatives have been outraged that the Bureau Of Land Management actually attempted to to round up Clevin Bundy’s trespassing cattle from public land, exactly as the federal court had ordered be done. (The court has found numerous times that Clevin Bundy is a deadbeat rancher who is illegally using the public’s land to enrich his own private enterprise.)

This morning, Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic took note of conservative hypocrisy by highlighting a 2001 Associated Press study that described the systematic theft of land and property owned by black Americans.

In an 18-month investigation, The Associated Press documented a pattern in which black Americans were cheated out of their land or driven from it through intimidation, violence and even murder.

In some cases, government officials approved the land takings; in others, they took part in them. The earliest occurred before the Civil War; others are being litigated today. Some of the land taken from black families has become a country club in Virginia, oil fields in Mississippi, a major-league baseball spring training facility in Florida …

The AP—in an investigation that included interviews with more than 1,000 people and the examination of tens of thousands of public records in county courthouses and state and federal archives—documented 107 land takings in 13 Southern and border states.

In those cases alone, 406 black landowners lost more than 24,000 acres of farm and timber land plus 85 smaller properties, including stores and city lots. Today, virtually all of this property, valued at tens of millions of dollars, is owned by whites or by corporations.

As Coates says, “I’ve been laughing my way through the Cliven Bundy fiasco because, as Jamelle Bouie suggests, there may be no better example of racist privilege than the right to flout the government’s authority and then back its agents down at gunpoint. Bouie asks, hypothetically, how we’d respond if Bundy were black. Inasmuch as this is even a question, American history has already answered it.”

And yet, conservatives continue to portray themselves as the aggrieved party, not only in the Bundy case, but in American society as a whole.


The thing to do here, as Chris Hayes points out, is not to argue that Bundy should be subject to the kind of violence that black people who find themselves in dispute with the government’s agents often are. (There’s nothing for liberals to cheer about in a running gunfight over grazing fees.) The thing to do is to recognize the limits of our sympathies and try to extend them. “How about widening the aperture,” Hayes asks, “for the tyranny you see all around you?”