Two days ago, Donald Sterling was the longest standing owner in the NBA, was scheduled to receive his second Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP, and looked forward to cheering his LA Clippers in the playoffs. Today, everyone from President Barack Obama to NBA players—past and present, seek to make sense of recorded statements of Sterling that paint him as…honest.
The recorded conversation allegedly between the married 79-year old Sterling and his 21 year old girlfriend, V. Stiviano—who is African-American and Mexican, by the way—has Sterling reprimanding Stiviano for taking and posting to Instagram, a picture with NBA legend, Earvin “Magic” Johnson. His concern is that Stiviano is “broadcasting” her association with African-Americans, whom Sterling clearly has issues with…publicly. Listen to the extended conversation here: http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2014/4/27/5658286/donald-sterling-second-recording-racist-holocaust
It has justifiably created conversation and concern that a league owner—who undeniably makes his money from the talents of African-American players (76% of whom in the NBA are African-American), coaches and fans—embraces “plantation politics.” For Sterling personally, he has had his run in for racially discriminatory issues before, resulting in a $2.7 million dollar Department of Justice payout for unfair housing practices towards African-Americans and Latinos. He was also sued by Elgin Baylor for racial discrimination, as well as had earlier issues with a woman he admitted to paying for sex.
How he feels about minorities is clearly no secret; at least it isn’t now. But, if this is how he feels, who should be mad? Some have come out to denounce his comments, while others do the politically correct dance as not to damage their relationship with him or those who support or even think like him. Clippers’ players turned their jerseys inside out (to hide the logo) as they prepared for their playoff game. Yet, they still played.
Unlike decades ago, racial discrimination is not public or legal, and is instead confined to the privacy of homes and conversations (until they are taped and leaked) and the comment sections of web posts. Even as the KKK seeks to re-brand itself, if this is how a person really feels, shouldn’t or wouldn’t we want to know?
We as a nation don’t talk about race candidly or enough, choosing instead to pretend we are in a post-racial society where we all get along as a result of unconditional acceptance. Or, that economic control continues right where it left off post-slavery. When African-Americans speak of discriminatory encounters, they are accused of playing the race card. To avoid such, many stay quiet and pretend those acts don’t exist. Whites (publicly, and some sincerely) take themselves out of the equation of intentionally or even inadvertently contributing to any preferential practices. Yet, they happen.
But, while discrimination and hate are hurtful to those on the receiving end, so are lies, social cloaks and pre-packaged images that are cover ups for reality. Many have known or suspected Sterling’s discriminatory feelings about minorities for longer than this tape has been public. He joins the ranks of many others and an ever growing list of public figures whose true feelings are outted by technology.
I don’t support or condone discrimination against anyone or anything on any level; And, I cringe when I think about unknowingly contributing to the economic success of those who are prejudice. But, while we will talk, criticize and lambaste those who have been exposed, we should more seriously wonder about those who haven’t been.