“Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on,” goes the refrain of a famous song from the civil rights movement. We marched for freedom—for new laws that would end segregation, guarantee equal rights, enforce voting rights, and provide affirmative actions to help correct decades of being locked out or left out. We couldn’t let lunatic sheriffs or Klan rallies or jail distract us. We had to keep our eyes on the prize and hold on.
That advice applies today where public expression of racial animus can distract from the far more serious legal reverses equal rights has suffered.
First we had the rancher and conservative folk hero Cliven Bundy embarrassing himself and his right-wing allies with his foolishness about “the Negro,” suggesting that African Americans might have been “better off as slaves.”
Bundy dismissed Blacks as “on government subsidy.” This from a man who had fed his cows off federal land without paying grazing fees for decades, a “government subsidy” he has no intention of repaying. Then we had the tape of the loathsome and unprintable rant of L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling telling his girlfriend, who had posted a photo on Instagram of herself with Magic Johnson, “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with Black people,” he said. When she says she admires Magic, Sterling tells her to admire him privately, “but don’t put him on an Instagram for the world to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.” Sterling, who has a bad reputation for racism, didn’t deny making the statement, only stating that the remarks aren’t “consistent with” his views.