NBA’s Donald Sterling is no aberration
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling is no aberration. On an audio recording that allegedly captures Sterling telling a girlfriend that he doesn’t want African-Americans at “my games” and it ignited a furor. But it’s part and parcel of an increasingly rotten and ugly saga that has become all too familiar in recent days.
In quick succession, GOP rocker and pitchman Ted Nugent maligned President Obama as a “subhuman mongrel,” GOP House Rep. Paul Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee, virtually called blacks and Hispanics lazy as the cause of their chronic high joblessness, and South Dakota GOP state Rep. Phil Jensen publicly said it was OK for businesses to exclude blacks from service.
Their outbursts could be chalked off to the rants, or ignorance, of a few named GOP luminaries, and some top GOP officials did chastise at least Nugent for his bone-headed cracks.
And then there are the even more outrageous digs by Nevada rancher and grazing rights protestor Clive Bundy who flatly and very unapologetically implied that slavery was not such a bad thing after all for African-Americans. His crackpot remarks did set off a mad dash by his legions of Republican supporters to distance themselves from him. But they distanced themselves only from his screwball cracks, not his conservative, neo-states’ rights philosophy. His remarks were an embarrassment. But what he represents isn’t to them. The core of that is naked bigotry. No amount of rhetorical feigned indignation from the GOP can change that. Ryan was proof of that. He’s the establishment poster boy for the GOP establishment, and a very real 2016 GOP presidential hopeful. The distance between his remarks, Bundy and now Sterling in their putdown of blacks are less than paper-thin.
Ryan, Bundy and Sterling can say what they please with relative impunity knowing that once the momentary outcry passes, there will be no lasting repercussion for their bigotry. That is if they even acknowledge their racism. Clipper officials have gone through gyrations to duck, deny and discredit TMZ for disclosing Sterling’s racist rants.
There are millions of Americans who occasionally in public, and more often in private, see nothing wrong or offensive with spouting racism. In February, a swarm of racist tweets were posted and sent following the near all white Mahopac basketball teams narrow loss to the predominantly black Mount Vernon High School. The Mahopac racist tweeters and their defenders were in good company.
An AP survey on racial attitudes toward minorities in October 2012 found that in the four-year period from a prior AP survey on racial attitudes in 2008 a clear majority of whites (56 percent) expressed animus toward blacks. The jump in anti-black racial sentiment came despite nearly four years in office of an African-American president. The reasons given for the climb ranged from voter polarization to racial denial by policymakers.
President Obama’s victory was more a personal triumph for him than a strong signal that stereotypes are a thing of the past. His win not only did not radically remap racial perceptions, or put an end to racial stereotyping but gave it a launch pad to explode even more virulently as seen in the casual and lax racial caricatures, depiction, ridicule, and typecasting of Obama and Michelle Obama on blogs, websites, and at tea party rallies, often with the most lurid and grotesque race-baiting signs and thinly veiled racial code words.
Now we come back to the much deservedly maligned Sterling. Before his latest racist rant, he had been sued, verbally lambasted, reprimanded, hit with reams of bad press, and threatened with pickets for these racial wrongs. Yet, the Los Angeles NAACP Chapter gave Sterling its highest honor, a lifetime achievement award in 2009. The shame, absurdity, and contradiction of the award to a man who in word, deed, and symbol is the diametric opposite of everything the nation’s premier civil rights group stands for and has fought for is enough to draw a gag.
A Google search with the name Donald Sterling and racial discrimination at the time he was sued and settled for racial discrimination found thousands of results. Not one of them even remotely had Sterling doing anything to further racial goodwill. The checklist of reported Sterling racial escapades include a Justice Department housing discrimination lawsuit and forced settlement, slurs and gaffes against Hispanics and African-Americans, and that includes two high profile Clipper players, the shooing of minorities away from his pricey Beverly Hills condos and rentals, and an overblown and failed promise to build a homeless shelter on L.A.’s skid row.
Then there are the allegations and lawsuit by former Clipper General Manager Elgin Baylor that Sterling runs his operations like a Southern plantation. But Sterling like others who openly express their bigotry is secure in the knowledge that after the brief firestorm of malodorous publicity and anger from civil rights leaders and African-Americans, it will be business as usual. That business is as always in their world and the world of millions of other Americans naked, unvarnished bigotry. Sterling is no aberration.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is an associate editor of New America Media and is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard on the nationally broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.