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“Far More Sinister”: Donald Sterling Is Not Cliven Bundy, He’s Much Worse

It is tempting to compare racists. That’s especially true when you look at what’s happened in the last week, when two white men—Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling—have drawn massive and warranted scrutiny over abhorrently racist remarks. Those lines are already being drawn.

Cliven Bundy’s story is well-known by now. The Nevada rancher, who had become a cause celebre among some conservatives for fighting the federal government over overdue grazing fees, went on a rant last week about “the Negro,” suggesting that life for black Americans may’ve been better under slavery.

Donald Sterling’s case is more complicated. An audiotape released to TMZ late Friday night purports to reveal the Los Angeles Clippers owner berating his mixed-race girlfriend for bringing Magic Johnson, a black former NBA all-star, to Clippers games and for posting a picture of him on her Instagram account due to his skin color. On Sunday, Deadspin released the full, unedited recording, which gets much, much worse.

More than just the comments, what’s really astonishing here is what pulls these two men apart: While Cliven Bundy is just a rancher, Donald Sterling is a massively powerful, wealthy, and influential man. What’s hard about Sterling’s case, and what makes it completely different from Bundy’s, is that it reveals that even at the top of one of America’s proudest, most diverse institutions, an abject racist can still pull the strings.

Cliven Bundy owes the federal government slightly more than $1 million in fees. Donald Sterling owns a basketball franchise that’s valued at well over $500 million. Bundy may’ve had his moment in the media spotlight, but Donald Sterling has been firmly ensconced in wealth and power for decades.

Of course, the actual comments allegedly from Sterling aren’t really a surprise. Sterling has a notorious history here, whether it’s settling for nearly $3 million in a case over racial discrimination at apartment buildings he owns, or heckling his players from his courtside seat. Or the detailed racial-discrimination lawsuit brought against him by Hall of Famer and former Clippers general manager Elgin Baylor. Or Sterling celebrating Black History Month (which is February) with a March Clippers game featuring limited free tickets for “underprivileged children”—because, you know, black = underprivileged.

The problems with Sterling’s power aren’t lost on NBA players. The NBA, as Charles Barkley said Saturday on TNT, is a black league. African-American players made up 76.3 percent of the league as of last June. For all players in the NBA, Sterling’s ownership sends a message. “The thing is, [Sterling] is probably not the only [owner] that feels that way,” Portland Trailblazers all-star Damian Lillard said Saturday. It’s very hard to imagine what it’s like for black players on the Clippers to pull on their jerseys and play for a man who appears to detest them. It’s very hard to imagine what it’s like for black Americans anywhere to work under the same circumstances. Undoubtedly, there are plenty who do daily.

“The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race, slavery, and segregation,” President Obama said Sunday in response to Sterling’s alleged remarks. “And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it.” So far, it seems like that’s coming. While Sterling’s past actions have largely been swept under the rug by the NBA, there’s some reason to be optimistic about the league’s new management, although it’s still not quite clear how much Commissioner Adam Silver can do. And by calling on the help of former player and current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the NBA Players Association has a proven ally on its side (and all you political watchers out there: file away that name).

It’s been an unbelievable week for the NBA. The first week of the playoffs saw seven consecutive games within one possession of victory in the last 10 seconds. It’s been a showcase for new stars (looking at you, John Wall), and for old dudes who just won’t give up (hi, Tim Duncan). But for all of those amazing things, everything that should’ve added up to the best week for the league in recent memory has been overshadowed by an 80-year-old, seemingly repugnant man. Unlike Cliven Bundy, and barring extreme NBA intervention, Donald Sterling will only go away when he’s well and ready, and he’ll likely do so with a big check in hand.

The defining image of this last week in the NBA should have been Vince Carter’s buzzer-beating game winner for the Dallas Mavericks, or Kevin Durant’s absurd four-point play for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Instead, it’s of the Los Angeles Clippers players taking the court in Oakland on Sunday, black and white, their warm-up jerseys turned inside-out, black armbands on their wrists, trying to figure out how to keep themselves together in the face of a power that belittles them, that oversees them, that owns them.

 

By: Matt Berman, The National Journal, April 28, 2014

April 29, 2014 Posted by | Discrimination, Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Racists Among Us”: No, Racism Isn’t Back. It Never Went Away

Let’s not pretend that deadbeat rancher Cliven Bundy and basketball team owner Donald Sterling are the last two racists in the United States. They have company.

I hear regularly from proud racists who send me — anonymously — some of the vilest and most hateful correspondence you could imagine. You’ll have to trust me about the content; this stuff, mostly vulgar racial insults directed at President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, is too disgusting to repeat.

My sensibilities are not delicate. I grew up in South Carolina as the civil rights movement reached its climax, a place and time where racism was open, unambiguous and often violent. I would be the last person to deny that we’ve made tremendous progress against discrimination. But it is obvious that we have miles to go.

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. was harshly criticized five years ago when he said we are “essentially a nation of cowards” in our reluctance to confront the racial issues that remain. In retrospect, Holder was merely telling a truth that many still will not acknowledge.

Bundy’s hideous assessment of “the Negro” — he wondered whether African Americans were better off as slaves, picking cotton, than they are today — should have come as no shock.

A Nevada rancher who refuses to pay for grazing his cattle on federal land, Bundy belongs to the far-right, anti-government fringe. I’m talking about the kind of people who deny the federal government has any legitimacy and expect black helicopters to land any minute. This worldview has found a home in the tea party movement, which harbors — let’s be honest — a racist strain.

This is not to say that all or most tea party adherents share Bundy’s ugly prejudices. But it has been obvious since the movement emerged that some tea partyers do. Media-savvy leaders eventually convinced those attending rallies to leave the racist placards at home, but such discretion says nothing about what remains in those people’s hearts and minds.

Racist words from Donald Sterling, a real estate mogul who owns the Los Angeles Clippers, also should have been less than surprising. In 2009, Sterling agreed to pay $2.73 million to settle a Justice Department lawsuit alleging discrimination against African American and Latino tenants in his apartment buildings. In an earlier discrimination suit, settled for an undisclosed sum, one of his property managers quoted Sterling as saying of black tenants in general that “they smell, they’re not clean.”

Still, the recording of the alleged conversation between the 80-year-old Sterling — there has been no denial that it’s his voice — and his young girlfriend dominated the weekend’s news, perhaps because it was not only racist but truly weird.

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people,” the voice believed to be Sterling’s says to the girlfriend, V. Stiviano — who is of mixed African American and Mexican heritage.

Sterling apparently believes that since Stiviano is light-skinned and has straight hair, no one has to know that she is part black — if only she would stop posting photos of herself with African Americans, such as basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, on Instagram. He instructs her not to bring Johnson to Clippers games.

Throughout the recorded conversation, which was obtained by TMZ.com, Sterling is unable to grasp why a black woman might resist his demand that she not be photographed with other black people. He apparently views racial segregation, at least in public, as the way things still ought to be.

Sterling’s racism has the National Basketball Association in an uproar — understandably, given that nearly 80 percent of the league’s players are black. Even Obama, midway through a trip to Asia, felt the need to comment on what he called Sterling’s “incredibly offensive racist statements.” He said Sterling was advertising his “ignorance.”

But something more sinister than cluelessness was involved. Sterling made clear in the conversation with Stiviano that African Americans were unwelcome in his “culture.” This is old-fashioned “separate-but-equal” racism, pure and simple.

The Republican Party, Fox News and a majority of the Supreme Court would like to believe such naked prejudice is history. Yet some big-city school systems are as segregated as they were in the 1960s. Leading public universities are admitting fewer black students than a decade ago. The black-white wealth gap has grown in recent years. Blacks are no more likely than whites to use illegal drugs, yet about four times more likely to be arrested and jailed for it.

No, racism isn’t back. It never went away.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 28, 2014

April 29, 2014 Posted by | Discrimination, Racism | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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