Warning: Racism Ahead

Copyright © by Len Holman, 5/3/14


  The woeful owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, a basketball team which, until very recently, has been woeful also, has been recorded (by whom? We don’t know for sure) going on a rant to his girlfriend (a pneumatic brunette, of course) about black people—black men, to be more precise.  There is outrage and anger and a general explosion of disgust and a more-than-slight undertone of revenge, and now the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, Adam Silver, has banned, for life, Mr. Donald Sterling from entering Clippers facilities, including sitting courtside with his honey, and using the bathroom (ok, I made that last one up, but the ban is TIGHT!) plus a 2.5 million dollar fine, but since the owner is a billionaire, this might not be as hurtful as it sounds (not at all like those pesky sanctions on Iran or Russia). 

  This man has a long history of racially-suspect remarks and behavior, and according to all news accounts, it is a well-known feature of Mr. Sterling’s life, both in and out of the NBA.  Yet this latest incident has caused a Bikini Atoll-like explosion in the sport and elsewhere and the surprise is that it is a surprise to anyone now.  The sanctions by the NBA commissioner include going to the other owners of NBA teams and getting their approval to have Sterling sell his team and go away.  He bought the Clippers for twelve million, and the team is reportedly now worth more than 700 million, at a minimum, and that is a pretty fair profit. 

  But the Clippers team is a private enterprise and if the owner decides no one can MAKE him sell it, that this is American for Gawd’s sake, that free enterprise and capitalism are the hallmarks of a great democracy, and he goes to court, a mess of major proportions will ensue, and the Constitution will be waved about and lawyers from as far away as Congo---wait, from as far away as Iceland, will show up.  One can hardly wait to hear what Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh will have to say.  Complicating this further is Mrs. Sterling, the owner’s “estranged” wife, who lives in a state (California) with community property laws and a chance to tuck a tidy sum into her designer handbag if Sterling sells. Not to mention that California has laws about recording folks…the one being recorded has to be aware that he/she is being so memorialized, otherwise it’s not legal: another constitutional mess. 

  And what is the nature of this latest outrage?  The audio is amazing, as Sterling demands that his girlfriend not bring black people to the games or fraternize with them in public. He even tells her she can have sex with them if she wants (he uses a more indelicate term at that point), have meals with them, etc., but he is mortified that all this would become public knowledge.  Did anyone know the man had an aversion to highly-pigmented people?  Well, everyone.  He works in a business where more than 80% of the employees (who earn him, and other owners of basketball teams, a considerable amount of money) are such people.  His girlfriend is ok, because (according to the audio recording) she is “a light-skinned Latina” (presumably the size of her breasts is not an issue to him). 

  Now, telling your girlfriend she can have sex with a black man, but she can’t bring him to a basketball game is a particularly unusual form of racism.  It is not the usual American racism, but one that is ingrained in the perception Sterling has of his own public persona.  It IS racism in that he chooses one race to vent his spleen upon, but it is certainly weird that Sterling seems more concerned with his public image than the defiling of his girlfriend—and the defiling is certainly a mainstay of your ordinary, repulsive, ignorant, and inhumane racism. 

  One thing is bothering: if Sterling, a known skin-o-phobe, and can be banned from his own team and threatened with being forced to sell his business, what about all those other folks out there who discriminate—some subtly, others not so much—and who are caught on tape or camera or cell phone?  Remember the Nevada rancher who was represented by the Right as fighting against the feds for trying to make him obey the law and move his cattle and pay his fines—and winning?  He was then videotaped in a rambling dissertation on how black people were better off picking cotton than taking subsidies (his word) from the federal government.  Is he going to be forced to sell his ranch and turn his cows into burgers?  It seems that everyone on this planet hates someone, but it also seems a burden of monumental proportions to hate a whole class of people.  I mean, how many black people are there in just the U.S.?  That’s a big weight to carry for a racist, to hate all of them simultaneously.  A couple at a time, I can see, but ALL of them at once?  This assumes the racist KNOWS all of them, so he or she can properly direct his or her repugnance and distaste. 

  Nothing is harder and more imagination-stretching than hating someone you don’t even know.  I am not worried about Mr. Sterling.  He has vast real estate holdings, with numerous non-white people inhabiting lots of his buildings, to keep him busy making the world safe from public contamination of the white population for a long time.  But there are lots of Mr. Sterlings out there, and a hospital might be well advised to put up signs in their nurseries for non-white parents:  Warning: Racism Ahead!


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