I’m not mad at Donald Sterling. I’m mad at us.
THE RACIST REMARKS of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, allegedly caught on tape by girlfriend V. Stiviano, have stirred criticism both within and outside the basketball world. My response? So what.
No one should be surprised that the 81-year-old real estate mogul told his 38-year-old girlfriend, a woman of African American and Mexican heritage, that she should not be seen walking with black people. Nor should we be outraged that Sterling went further.
[blocktext align=”right”]Nothing Sterling says or does as the owner of an NBA basketball team will directly affect the lives of me, or any other black person, including his players. They will still make millions to play basketball. He will still make billions for as long as he is allowed to own the team … But while we sit around bashing Donald Sterling, the real racism is setting up African Americans to become a permanent underclass.[/blocktext]
“I’m just saying, in your lousy f—ing Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people,” Sterling allegedly told Stiviano, in reference to an Instagram photo she posted with NBA legend Magic Johnson. He later added, “… Admire him, bring him here, feed him, f–k him, I don’t care. You can do anything. But don’t put him on Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games. Ok?”
Shocking, right? Not really. Sterling was previously sued for race and age discrimination by former Los Angeles Clippers GM and NBA Hall of Fame inductee Elgin Baylor. Sterling also paid a $2.75 million settlement in a federal lawsuit for discriminating against blacks and Hispanics in his real estate business. And this is not the first time Sterling has been caught making racist statements. In court documents, federal prosecutors presented evidence that Sterling and his wife made statements “indicating that African Americans and Hispanics were not desirable tenants and that they preferred Korean tenants.”
Here is the unvarnished truth regarding Donald Sterling. Nothing he says or does as the owner of an NBA basketball team will directly affect the lives of me, or any other black person, including his players. They will still make millions to play basketball. He will still make billions for as long as he is allowed to own the team. The rest of us will still have to eek out a living in a world where racism is a reality. But while we sit around bashing Donald Sterling, the real racism is setting up African Americans to become a permanent underclass.
The Supreme Court last week made a decision that will allow states to ban Affirmative Action. That will systematically exclude black students from top colleges, and set up our children to lose out on higher education—the one sure path to prosperity.
I didn’t see anything about that on TMZ, where Sterling’s racist rant was originally reported. I didn’t hear commentators screaming about it on television. I didn’t see anyone calling for boycotts, or firings, or immediate civil disobedience, but I’ve seen all of that in reference to the meaningless comments of a single bigot.
While we rant about Donald Sterling, states across the country adopt Voter ID laws in an attempt to suppress black and Latino votes. While Sterling dominates the news cycle, the corporately funded Tea Party has made racial division a political goal. While Sterling remains at the center of our discussion, Fox News gives right wing extremists a national forum.
It’s time for African Americans to wake up.
It’s fine for us to be outraged by racist comments. But we should not allow ourselves to be whipped up into a frenzy by a media that is all too willing to point fingers in order to conceal its own lack of diversity. We should not take personally the ravings of a racist so hypocritical that he’s cheating on his wife with a black Latino woman. We should not be manipulated by what amounts to a distraction. We should not take our eye off the proverbial ball.
If the NBA wants to take care of Donald Sterling for his alleged racist remarks, it should follow the lead of Major League Baseball, which forced racist owner Marge Schott to sell the Cincinnati Reds.
As for black people, if we want to be angry about something, we should be angry with ourselves for ignoring the racism that truly matters. And after we’re through giving ourselves the tongue-lashing we deserve, we should get out of our seats, stop yelling about Sterling, and get to work to fight the bigotry the Supreme Court has just endorsed.
If we don’t, we’ll leave our children at the mercy of the Donald Sterlings of this world, and I’m quite sure none of us wants to do that.
Click here for Solomon’s take on Donald Sterling’s NBA ban, $2.5 million fine and more.
Click here for a written transcript of the Sterling remarks allegedly taped by V. Stiviano.
Photo: Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, center, and V. Stiviano, left, watch the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles on Monday, Dec. 19, 2010. The NBA is investigating a report of an audio recording in which a man purported to be Sterling makes racist remarks while speaking to Stiviano. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Solomon Jones is an Essence bestselling author and award-winning columnist. He is the creator and editor of Solomonjones.com. Click here to learn more about Solomon