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Ammon Bundy(R), leader of a group of armed anti-government protesters speaks to the media as other members look on at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore., on Jan. 4, 2016. (Photo: Rob Kerr/AFP/Getty Images)

Why the Feds Punk Out When Confronting White Rightwing Insurgents

When a criminal justice system born in Native American genocide and Black slave patrolling finds itself in conflict with conservative white Christian landowners, it short-circuits.

Glen Ford

 by Black Agenda Report

The armed right-wing activists that seized control of a federal wildlife sanctuary compound in eastern Oregon have already committed – and conspired to commit – enough serious criminal violations of U.S. law to land each of them in federal prison for the rest of lives. Of course, as Wajahat Ali points out in The Guardian newspaper, if the gunmen were Muslim or Black, they’d already be dead.

This is not a great revelation. Every Black child knows that white lives carry a premium value in the United States, while Blacks are casually killable. In a society where Walking While Black, Driving While Black or simply Breathing While Black is so often treated as a capital crime, the racial double standard is the norm. That’s why it’s insane to think that this society can be made worthy of Black habitation through tinkering with the system, piecemeal reforms, and appeals to the federal government for protection and relief. This is the same federal government that framed poor Black men from Miami and Newburgh, New York, on terrorist conspiracy charges, and that condones conspiracy indictments carrying life in prison for 100 Black youngsters from New York City housing projects based on their postings in Facebook. But the white, rightwing land grabbers who are in armed occupation of federal property can’t seem to buy a confrontation with President Obama’s FBI or any other armed federal agency. How is it, the people of the world must be wondering, that a country that runs by far the world’s biggest prison system, with the most heavily armed cops on the planet, equipped with the most advanced evidence gathering devices known to man – how is it that the Superpower of Policing and Prosecution seems to fear a confrontation with groups with names like the Oregon Bearded Bastards?

“The white, rightwing land grabbers who are in armed occupation of federal property can’t seem to buy a confrontation with President Obama’s FBI.”

The reason is really quite simple: the U.S. criminal justice system was not created to control white militias or greedy ranchers or gun-toting racists and Bible-thumpers. For most of U.S. history, these were prime stakeholders in the American project to build a White Man’s Nation. The gunmen in Oregon have plenty of historical reasons to believe that land-grabbing is their birthright – and that a significant segment of white America empathizes with them. The federal government treads lightly, because white Christian lives do matter.

For almost 50 years, the primary mission of the U.S. criminal justice system has been to control, contain and incarcerate Black Americans. It has spent half a century refining the tools to terrorize Black people on the streets, in their homes and in their schools. It is so efficient at what it does, that one out of every eight prison inmates on the planet is an African American. The Mass Black Incarceration State was designed to pre-empt any insurgency by Black people – not to deal with the Bundy family and the Bearded Bastards of Oregon.

That’s why I think the Lords of Capital are much more afraid of Donald Trump than they are of Bernie Sanders. They think Trump might stir up more of those white bearded bastards, many of whom hate Wall Street almost as much as they do the federal government – which is a real problem for U.S. law enforcement.


Glen Ford

Glen Ford

Glen Ford (1949-2021) was the co-Founder and Executive Editor of the Black Agenda Report. He was a socialist, a Vietnam War-era military veteran and a member of the Black Panther Party. He served in the news media over many years in his professional life. He was the Capitol Hill, State Department and White House correspondent for the Mutual Black Network, an American radio network. He co-launched, produced, and hosted the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television, America’s Black Forum, in 1977.

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