Separating one group from another


When a Donald Sterling, LA Clippers’ owner, utters an ugly slap against a whole race of people who have enriched him, I have to ask whether we should look at the underlying affectation of racial superiority evident here. He plainly claims to be superior to blacks even though he belongs to the race that felt justified for centuries enslaving millions of Africans. I could understand it if Africans tried to justify enslaving Caucasians, but that never happened. Come to think of it, we whites were as arrogant in maltreating “yellow peril” Chinese as we underpaid them to lay thousands of miles of railroad track in our burgeoning west, or when we Americans slaughtered 400,000 Filipinos at the end of the 19th century in our bid for world colonialism. Even today we affect a “right” to legally enslave Latinos by excluding farm workers from minimum-wage laws as they harvest the produce we enjoy at their expense. Where do we get off with this pretense?
Slavery was the snake that slept beneath the table on which we drafted the Bill of Rights. We knew the southern states would not ratify them if the new government granted kidnapped Africans human rights. So we stiffed them. Laughable if not pathetic reasons were given for perpetuating the “peculiar institution” of slavery. It’s in the Bible. The Israelites claimed the right to enslave conquered peoples around them, like the Edomites. So it must be allowable to enslave the different-colored people from across the Atlantic. Logical, isn’t it? Also in the Bible are the murders of Abel and Uriah the Hittite, the suicides of Saul and Judas, and adulteries too many to list, but racists did not press that argument. Another, more capitalist reason was that without slavery the cotton industry would founder. It was nothing personal against blacks.
Cliven Bundy was the darling of the government-hating rabid right until he said blacks were happier under slavery, so let’s return to it so we can cut off their welfare. Conservatives could not bolt away from him fast enough. He was the rancher who refused to pay the same grazing fees assessed of anyone pasturing livestock on government land. Big Government was the horrid enemy thousands of miles away in Washington – until it is needed to rescue people buried under a landslide or extinguish a forest fire or assemble an excessively expensive military.
This is just a guess, but I suspect that the same clientele wants to crush health insurance for those too poor (i.e., blacks kept poor by racist barriers to employment) to afford the identical health insurance most other industrialized nations have long provided. Then too, newly insured poor people will vote for the party responsible for their rescue and against the obstructionists who had no convincing reason to obstruct. The figure before the Obamacare battle was 48 million uninsured Americans. If I were the opposite party, I too would worry, as did the party that opposed Social Security for decades afterward. They’ve called both socialism.
Here is another guess. When I get letters of complaint about my social gospel essays, the title with the writer’s name or the return address are sometimes tip-offs suggesting that wealthy people are in nagging fear that fairness and equality in America are fine-sounding rhetoric for July Fourth but dangerous rabble-rousing for the poor and minorities. If the poor get a break, it will come out of the complainer’s pocket. Taxes will go up. Privilege will fade. Justice will cost more than charity. But the clinch is that such writers claim to be church-attending good people. Strange how they never address the cited Gospel basis for fairness, the papal or council or pastoral sources demanding justice of any Catholic. They cannot say it, but they seem to think that Jesus was either an idealist at best or a Marxist at worst. As Brazilian social-activist Archbishop Dom Helder Camara once said, “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why people are hungry, they call me a communist.”
People are poor largely because of the superiority attitudes of fearful rich struggling to maintain a privilege system that keeps them rich and the poor outside the system. Yet all pray the Our Father that forces all to admit that we are sisters and brothers of one family. Therefore we have no business hurting anyone because of our unfounded pretenses.