Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Racist remarks aren't the real problem

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
April 27, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
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
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1326 GMT (2126 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 2209 GMT (0609 HKT)
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1802 GMT (0202 HKT)
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1419 GMT (2219 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 2057 GMT (0457 HKT)
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 2137 GMT (0537 HKT)
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0910 GMT (1710 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1900 GMT (0300 HKT)
John Sutter says the right is often stereotyped on climate change. But with 97% of climate scientists say humans are causing global warming, we all have to get together on this.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
Andrew Liepman and Philip Mudd: When we declare that we will defeat ISIS, what do we exactly mean?
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 2040 GMT (0440 HKT)
Thailand sex trafficking
Human trafficking is a multibillion dollar global industry. To beat it, we need to change mindsets, Cindy McCain says.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
The leaders of the GOP conferences say a Republican-led Senate could help solve America's problems.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1401 GMT (2201 HKT)
Nicholas Syrett says Wesleyan University's decision to make fraternities admit women will help curb rape culture.
September 25, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Mike Downey says New Yorkers may be overdoing it, but baseball will really miss Derek Jeter
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1232 GMT (2032 HKT)
Quick: Which U.S. president has authorized wars of various kinds in seven Muslim countries?
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
Women's issues should be considered front and center when assessing a society's path, says Zainab Salbi
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 1805 GMT (0205 HKT)
A catastrophe not making headlines like Ebola and ISIS: the astounding rate of child poverty in the world's richest country.
ADVERTISEMENT