If Only the Bundy Ranch Mob Had Been Black and Playing in a Treehouse

Over the weekend, a quick glance at Twitter might have led you to believe that the feds were trying to jack up the Brady Bunch, or that conservatives were fighting hard to defend the Bunny Ranch, but now that everyone has caught up to the story of the Bundy Ranch, the dueling narratives have become “something, something, LIBERTY” and “conservatives defend freeloader.” The buried lede here is that the peaceful end of this standoff would have been very different had the cops been responding to a mob that was smaller, less white, and unarmed.

The right wing media was beside itself with joy this weekend at the news that federal authorities had backed down in the face of armed protesters, ending an operation to remove Cliven Bundy’s cattle from federal lands after Bundy refused to pay 21 years worth of grazing fees. Protesters, armed with guns and a forcefield of women, led the Bureau of Land Management to conclude that it was no longer safe to continue removing the cattle.

Conservative hypocrisy aside, how exactly is it that the Bureau of Land Management managed its way into an unsafe cattle-removal situation that they had twenty years to plan for? Again? In 2012, the BLM scheduled a roundup of Bundy’s trespassing cattle, but canceled that one as well, citing safety concerns. Come to think of it, how did this guy manage to rack up $1 million in grazing fees over twenty years? Who runs the BLM’s collections department, Rip Van Winkle?

What’s really striking about this incident, though, is the likely outcome if those hundreds of armed protesters had, instead, been unarmed black 11 year-olds playing in a treehouse. Then, some shit might just jump off. If the Bundy mob had been one black guy in his own driveway, looking for a cigarette in his own car, things could have gone very badly.

Conversely, can you imagine a situation in which an inner-city resident would be permitted to, say, refuse to pay his rent for twenty years? When the sheriffs came to evict him, is there any scenario in which they just pack up and leave him there?

Cliven Bundy’s grievance reeks of white entitlement, but the law enforcement response reeks even worse of a double standard, and a frightening precedent. It has already been well-established that there is no degree to which a black person can be unarmed and behaving lawfully, and not be met with force. Now, the question is what laws are you allowed to ignore, provided you are surrounded by a mob that is sufficiently armed, sufficiently aggrieved, and sufficiently white?