50 years after Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech, the Pew Survey indicated only 26 percent of African-Americans believed the situation for blacks had improved the past five years — while 21 percent said it was actually worse.
Race is still with us. And even on “M.L.K. Day,” there’s this fatuous example from the racial-justice cognoscenti Sarah Palin who after noting today’s remembrance twitters Obama should stop ‘playing the race card.’
There are miles to go before there’s a color-blind society — assuming it ever happens. Yet surprisingly, others have suggested that the evils the civil-rights movement fought against have been “vanquished.” Racism is dead. What remains are simply “lousy schools, a thriving drug trade and a misguided governmental response, the collapse of marriage.”
So no surprise there was such a furor from the racism-is-dead crowd when last November Oprah Winfrey told a BBC interviewer, “There are still generations of people, older people, who were born and bred and marinated in it, in that prejudice and racism, and they just have to die.”
Admittedly, the 60-year old Oprah painted the greatest and not-so-greatest older generations with too broad a brush of aggrievement. And astonishing, too, coming from the one-time architect of touch-feely television therapy whose stock-in-trade is engagement, approachability, and likeability.
But perhaps Oprah was merely affirming — although in a ham-handed way what Denis Leary said a few years ago about the generational legacies we leave our children. “Racism isn’t born,” Leary said. “It’s taught.”
Bigoted attitudes may be fading with the passing of preceding generations. The young do appear generally more enlightened and open-minded on such matters. But that’s not to say they don’t linger. Not long ago, yet another survey revealed that for those 18 to 30-year olds of the Millennial Generation, race continues to matter.
And unfortunately, it also still matters and in a much less benign way to members of the Boomer generation. Of whom one commentator refers to as “the last reminders of our racist, homophobic, sexist past. When you look at those “white only” diners and drinking fountains in those photos from the 1960s you just can’t believe it. Or how women were treated. And gays. But many of our beloved boomers were teenagers back then, living with parents who watched Ozzie and Harriet and raised to believe that people who weren’t white weren’t to be trusted, women were meant to stay at home and gays were sinners.”
And with that, we turn back to another signpost that race continues to matter and to that aptly named former Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for Montana and now retired — 70-year old Dick Cebull. No matter his other achievements, he’s the jurist now best-remembered for passing around racist anti-Obama emails.
Well, there’s an update. As it happens, what was once believed to be aberrational and leading to a belated racist email repentance — has now turned out to be something of a bad habit. It now appears he just happened to get caught forwarding that one particularly nasty email that suggested President Obama’s mother had sex with a dog.
“I didn’t send it as racist, although that’s what it is,” he lamely said afterward. “I sent it out because it’s anti-Obama.”
Last Friday, a Memorandum of Decision in the Proceeding in Review of the Order and Memorandum of the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit divulged that Judge Cebull had actually sent hundreds of other bigoted emails.
The majority of the emails the former Montana federal judge sent via his office email account were political in nature. But as the memorandum additionally disclosed, “A significant number of emails were race related. Whether cast as jokes or serious commentary, the emails showed disdain and disrespect for African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics, especially those who are not in the United States legally. A similarly significant number of emails related to religion and showed disdain for certain faiths. Approximately the same number of emails concerned women and/or sexual topics and were disparaging of women. A few emails contained inappropriate jokes relating to sexual orientation.”
But for the objection of U.S. 3rd Circuit Judge Theodore McKee, the public might never have known the extent of Judge Cebull’s misconduct.
Judge McKee had accused the 9th Circuit investigative panel of hiding Cebull’s misconduct because of their failure to release their findings. Once Cebull conveniently resigned, they’d proclaiming the whole thing “moot” and filed away Cebull’s embarrassing revelations.
Fortunately, the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the Judicial Conference of the United States found the lower panel in error when it withheld its investigative findings. The Committee stated, “The imperative transparency of the complaint process compels publication of orders finding judicial misconduct.”