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“Donald Sterling’s Interview Disaster”: Rich Old Racist Self-Destructs To Anderson Cooper

Donald Sterling, in all his reprehensible anti-glory, is officially representative of only one person, Donald Sterling. But it was hard not to think about the insularity and cossetting the super-wealthy enjoy, once they get super-wealthy, watching the maligned Los Angeles Clippers owner self-destruct with Anderson Cooper Monday night.

Sterling is a man who is obviously used to holding forth on his mind-blowingly prejudiced views without challenge. He wants us to think V. Stiviano entrapped him with her magic lady parts — “I don’t know why the girl had me say those things,” he told Cooper — and got him to launch a paranoid racist rant out of lust. But clearly that is not true, unless he’s lusting after Anderson Cooper.

“I’m not a racist,” Sterling told Cooper. “I made a terrible, terrible mistake. And I’m here with you today to apologize and to ask for forgiveness for all the people that I’ve hurt. When I listen to that tape, I don’t even know how I can say words like that…. I mean, that’s not the way I talk.” Actually, it seems to be exactly the way Sterling talks.

It’s hard to know where to start with the NBA franchise owner’s outrageous remarks. He called Stiviano “a street person” and said Magic Johnson “ought to be ashamed of himself.” No, that doesn’t do Sterling justice. This is what he said about Johnson:

Here is a man, he acts so holy. He made love to every girl in America in every city and he had AIDS. When he had those AIDS, I went to my synagogue and I prayed for him.

“Those AIDS”? (For the record, Johnson has HIV, not AIDS). But it got worse:

What has Magic Johnson done? He’s got AIDS. Did he do any business? Did he help anybody in south L.A.? I think he should be ashamed of himself. What does he do for the black people? I’m telling you he does nothing. It’s all talk.

I spent millions on giving away and helping minorities. Does he do that? That’s one problem I have. Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people.

And some of the African-Americans, maybe I’ll get in trouble again. They don’t want to help anybody. What has Magic Johnson really done for Children’s Hospital which kids are lying in the hallways. They are sick. They need a bed. What has he done for any hospital? What has he done for any group?

For the record, Magic Johnson has a foundation that gives away almost $2 million a year and got a four-star rating by Charity Navigator last year. A recent Los Angeles Times investigation found little evidence of the Donald Sterling Foundation’s good work. He does reportedly give a lot of money to women he’s trying to bed.

For his part, Johnson replied an hour after the interview aired: (on Twitter)

I’d rather be talking about these great NBA Playoffs than Donald Sterling’s interview.

Maybe Sterling thought his sit-down with Cooper would help him rehabilitate himself, but at one point he even turned on Cooper. When the CNN anchor suggested that Sterling’s paternalistic comments about his players, that “I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses,” had been criticized as reflecting a plantation mentality, Sterling turned on his host: “I think you have more of a plantation mentality than I do. And I think you’re more of a racist than I am. Because I’m not a racist, and I’ve never been a racist.”

“I know you are but what am I” rarely turns out well on national television.

It’s said that Sterling’s sit-down with Cooper was a message to other NBA owners, some of whom he claimed support his crusade to keep his team. (Oh, and he said his players “love” him too.) If Sterling was sending the owners a message in the interview, it had to be: “I want to sell my team right now. Help me.”

NBA commissioner Adam Silver was unimpressed. He apologized to Magic Johnson “that he continues to be dragged into this situation and be degraded by such a malicious and personal attack.” The NBA Board of Governors — Sterling’s fellow owners — “is continuing with its process to remove Mr. Sterling as expeditiously as possible.” It can’t happen soon enough.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, May 13, 2014

 

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Donald Trump, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Words, Ideas, Actions, And The Tangle Of Race”: Sometimes Language Isn’t Really The Problem

We seem to be having one of those moments when a series of controversies come in rapid succession and make everyone newly aware of the relationship between language, ideas, and actions. And naturally, it revolves around our eternal national wound of race.

Nevertheless, it’s nice to see that in a few of these controversies, we aren’t actually arguing about what words mean. This is often a focus of disagreement when somebody says something that other people take offense at; for instance, when Paul Ryan said a few weeks ago that “[w]e have got this tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular, of men not working, and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value of the culture of work,” conservatives believed he was being unfairly tagged as racist for using a common phrase, while liberals objected to the connection between the word and the idea that followed. There’s nothing racist about the term “inner city” in and of itself, but when people say it they are usually referring to urban areas where black people are concentrated, and when you then describe a pathological laziness that is supposedly prevalent there, then you’ve said something problematic.

But when Cliven Bundy offered his fascinating thoughts on the state of black America, people weren’t appalled because of his use of the outdated term “Negro” in “Let me tell you another thing about the Negro.” It was what came afterward. He could have said “Let me tell you another thing about the African-American,” and it would have been just as bad, and not only because he was about to paint all members of a race with the same ugly brush. (Cliven, it’s safe to surmise, would never say “Let me tell you another thing about the white,” because the idea that all white people are the same in some fundamental way would be ridiculous to him.) To conservatives’ credit, they got this immediately and ran away from Bundy as fast as they could, even if there was still plenty to criticize about the fact that they embraced him in the first place.

And then there’s Donald Sterling, the Los Angeles Clippers owner who has apparently been caught on tape telling his “girlfriend” (I put that in quotes because there’s just no way to even think of a relationship between an 81-year-old billionaire and a 31-year-old model type without being seriously repulsed) that he doesn’t want her publicly associating with black people, putting pictures of her with black people, or bringing black people to his games, despite the fact that we’re talking about an NBA team here. Even weirder is that the black person in question is Magic Johnson, one of the most revered and beloved sports heroes of the last half-century or so.

A statement released by the Clippers said: “Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording is not consistent with, nor does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings. It is the antithesis of who he is, what he believes and how he has lived his life.” Which is the kind of thing you say when there’s a dispute over the interpretation of a word or phrase. We all say things we don’t exactly mean sometimes, or say something in a way that can be misinterpreted. But when you go on and on about how you don’t want people to know that your “girlfriend” hangs out with black people, that’s hard to misinterpret. And so, no one is defending Sterling. Some ridiculous conservatives have tried to make the case that since he donated money to a couple of Democrats a couple of decades ago that this is yet more evidence that Democrats are The Real Racists (Michael Tomasky vivisects that here), but not even many of their compatriots are going to bother with that.

As Jay Smooth points out, it’s interesting that Sterling’s longstanding and widely known record of racist actions, like trying to keep blacks and Hispanics out of rental buildings he owns, weren’t enough to generate calls for him to get booted from the NBA, but some racists words were. Despite all our arguments about the ambiguities of language, it’s his language—or, more properly, his ideas expressed through language—that everyone can agree on. And there wasn’t a racial slur in his conversation, as though he knows which words are OK to use and which ones aren’t, but he still thinks it’s OK to express racism toward black people, so long as you just call them “black people.”

Which brings us back to Paul Ryan. McKay Coppins of Buzzfeed has a piece out today about Ryan that features this exchange:

At one point, as he tells me about his efforts during the presidential race to get the Romney campaign to spend more time in urban areas, he says, “I wanted to do these inner-city tours—” then he stops abruptly and corrects himself. “I guess we’re not supposed to use that.”

His eyes dart back and forth for a moment as he searches for words that won’t rain down more charges of racism. “These…these…”

I suggest that the term is appropriate in this context, since it is obviously intended as an innocuous description of place. He’s unconvinced, and eventually settles on a retreat to imprecision: “I mean, I wanted to take our ideas and principles everywhere, and try for everybody’s vote. I just thought, morally speaking, it was important to ask everyone for their support.”

Ryan is laboring under the misimpression that all he did wrong before was use the term “inner city,” and if he banishes that term and any other dangerous ones from his vocabulary, then everything will be cool. Sorry, Congressman—it’s not so easy.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April 28, 2014

April 29, 2014 Posted by | Race and Ethnicity, Racism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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