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While co-hosting the national radio show, Keeping It Real with Rev. Al Sharpton, I listen carefully to the occasional caller who will ask us to ignore racists, take the high road, and move on.

No, I won’t. I can’t ignore racists – who incidentally are on the rise in America, according to The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hates crimes across the country.

Black Americans should be reminded of the elected leaders who side with bigots (or who don’t denounce them) as we approach the mid-term elections in November where all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 of 100 seats in the U.S. Senate will be contested along with 38 governorships and 46 state legislatures.

Take Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the ultra-conservative Republican and potential presidential candidate who refused to denounce Cliven Bundy, the radical Nevada rancher who questioned whether the “Negro” was better off in slavery.

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Bundy said recently. “Because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom. Are they slaves to charities and government subsidized homes?” Bundy asked.

“And are they slaves when their daughters are having abortions and their sons are in the prisons? This thought goes back a long time.”

Bundy, who seems to get more ignorant by the minute, even implied that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would agree with him.

“I thought about what Reverend Martin Luther King said,” Bundy said. “I thought about Rosa Parks taking her seat at the front of the bus. Reverend Martin Luther King did not want her to take her seat in the front of the bus. That wasn’t what he was talking about. He didn’t want this prejudice thing like the media tried to put on me,” he added.

“I’m not going to put up with that because that’s not what he wanted.”

So now Bundy is an authority on civil rights history

CBS This Morning‘s Norah O’Donnell gave Perry the opportunity to respond to Bundy’s remarks but Perry sidestepped the question.

“I don’t know what he said, but the fact is Bundy is a side issue here compared to what we’re looking at in the state of Texas,” Perry said. “He is an individual. Deal with his issues as you may. ”

What does that mean? Does Perry condone Bundy’s racist remarks or does he expect us to believe that he really doesn’t know what Bundy said? Either way it’s problematic because Bundy represents the worst kind of thinking in a nation where people of color are gradually outnumbering whites.

And as the multi-cultural landscape changes, more racists emerge. According to The Southern Poverty Law Center, there are currently 939 known hate groups operating across the country.

“Since 2000, the number of hate groups has increased by 56 percent. This surge has been fueled by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of the nation’s first African-American president,” The Southern Poverty Law Center reported.

I’m not suggesting that Bundy is part of a hate group, but I am saying that his comments about African Americans are hateful, offensive and bigoted. Even though some Republicans have denounced Bundy’s remarks, others remain silent because they have stood by him during his highly-publicized refusal to pay the federal government more than $1 million in grazing fees, which resulted in a recent armed standoff between the federal Bureau of Land Management, Bundy, and his supporters.

Meanwhile, Bundy insists that he’s not a racist. That’s not surprising. What wrong-thinking bigot ever admits to being prejudiced?

What do you think?

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