Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Racist remarks aren't the real problem

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 6:33 PM EDT, Sun April 27, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Granderson: Bashing Cliven Bundy's remarks is easy, but he's not face of today's racism
  • He says politicians denounce remarks even as they push or abide de facto racist policies
  • He says gerrymandering, stand-your-ground laws, voter ID laws all are Racism 2.0
  • Granderson: Look for real racism in spending on jails, not schools

Editor's note: LZ Granderson is a CNN contributor, a senior writer for ESPN and lecturer at Northwestern University. Commentary by the former Hechinger Institute fellow has been recognized by the Online News Association, the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. Follow him on Twitter @locs_n_laughs. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Bashing Cliven Bundy for his remarks regarding race is like LeBron James dunking on a 5-foot rim: Pointless.

And the same is true for Los Angeles Clippers owner Don Sterling, if you believe that he made the remarks attributed to him by TMZ and Deadspin.

As President Barack Obama said, "when ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance, you don't really have to do anything, you just let them talk." Still talking about the talk of the ignorant is fun. After all, few things are more entertaining than well-executed memes and a hashtag in front of stupidity.

The problem is that while men such as Bundy and Sterling may be racist, they are not the face of racism.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

Not today's version.

But we'll place that yoke on their shoulders anyway because it's easy, like James dunking on a kiddie rim.

Some conservatives will quickly pedal away from the Bundys and the Ted Nugents of the world, insisting that they are not like those rodeo clowns. They don't have a racist bone in their body because they would never make such outlandish statements. But then they turn around and marvel at how "well-spoken" or "articulate" a black person is and think nothing of it.

Politicians of all stripes will publicly denounce the offensive things that Bundy says but continue to construct policies that cater to his sensibilities. Today, racism isn't a crazy old white man with a dead calf on his shoulders proclaiming he's "unracist." No, it's elected officials such as U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin saying inner-city men are "not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work" and then feigning shock that people saw a racist element to his statements.

Bundy and Sterling are just the lightning rods of the moment. Not too long ago, Paula Deen was the social pariah.

Obama on NBA owner's alleged comments
'Magic' Johnson responds to racist rant
Cliven Bundy defends comments on race
Bundy: I want what MLK wants

Meanwhile, Racism 2.0 is busily working in the shadows, gerrymandering away voting rights and creating legislation that makes pre-emptively shooting dead a young black man who makes you nervous synonymous with standing one's ground.

The longer the media allow ignorant relics like Bundy to continue to hog the spotlight -- and the public points at him as the face of conservative racism -- the longer the current incarnation can go unchecked.

That doesn't mean Bundy's fight with the government should be ignored. That doesn't mean Sterling's alleged remarks -- and well-documented past of discrimination -- should be overlooked. Only that their views -- and thus, importance -- should be kept in perspective.

For mispronouncing Rosa Parks' name pales in comparison to the politics of courting a racist electorate. It pales in comparison to the lack of compassion for the five children who were shot Easter Sunday at a park on the south side of Chicago or the characterization of poor people as takers.

During the height of the recession, according to an analysis in The American Prospect, 33 states increased spending on prisons while decreasing spending on education, and we're to believe the disproportionate number of minorities in jail is a coincidence?

So, yeah, yuk it up at Bundy's expense.

Keep tweeting #boycottClippers if it makes you feel better (though I'd be more prone to use my 140 characters to ask why the NAACP thought Sterling was a good candidate for a lifetime achievement award).

But don't make such people out to be anything more than what they are -- the few remaining voices of oppression from years past. Today racism has a different look. A different sound. A different voice -- though the song is still the same.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:31 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
James Dawes says calling ISIS evil over and over again could very well make it harder to stop them.
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says he learned that the territory ISIS wants to control is amazingly complex.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
David Weinberger says Twitter and other social networks have been vested with a responsibility, and a trust, they did not ask for.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
John Inazu says the slogan "We are Ferguson" is meant to express empathy and solidarity. It's not true: Not all of us live in those circumstances. But we all made them.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Cerue Garlo says Liberia is desperate for help amid a Ebola outbreak that has touched every aspect of life.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Eric Liu says Republicans who want to restrict voting may win now, but the party will suffer in the long term.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Jay Parini: Jesus, Pope and now researchers agree: Wealth decreases our ability to sympathize with the poor.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Judy Melinek offers a medical examiner's perspective on what happens when police kill people like Michael Brown.
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
updated 1:38 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT