So, I recently graduated with a Master’s in Written Communication and I am trying to figure out a path for my career to take. In that effort, I am going to write a series of blog posts on various current/local/important news items to see if I find that I have a stronger passion/voice in any one of them than in the others. These are not necessarily intended to reflect rhetorical skill or balance of ideological viewpoints. Mainly the idea is to see where my “common knowledge” is the greatest. To begin, we take the recent story about Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA team the LA Clippers, and his overtly racist remarks to his girlfriend caught on audio and leaked to the press. Here is the link if you want to watch for yourself:
Now, you’ll need a few minutes to let the rage settle down inside your brain.
Okay, you probably aren’t feeling a whole lot better. Perhaps you broke something. At any rate, it is not my intention to address all of the asshattery in the audio clip, but we’ll take a look at a couple things.
First, we have the clearly passive-aggressive nature of Sterling’s tone towards his girlfriend. By the way, he does have a wife as well. Tricky, eh? Anyhow, his insistence on attacking his girlfriend for “wanting to fight” and “just being a fighter” are ridiculous in the context of this conversation. She never raises her voice nor does she even use a mildly inflammatory word. This will not be true of this blog post. But I digress. His pathetic attempts to construct a straw-man would be laughable if they weren’t so insidious.
What I see as deeply problematic are his attitudes towards the whole situation. He’s of the “old guard,” where we all preserve the status quo no matter how shitty or morally reprehensible it is. Sterling’s ideal world is one where his girlfriend is never photographed with another person of color but is free to hang out with them or have sex. Did we cover that the girlfriend in question is half Black and half Mexican in heritage? And his girlfriend? No? Right… So anyway, I briefly considered if he was using racist culture to deflect his jealousy. But his comments negated that conclusion. Sterling may be jealous…of Magic Johnson (dafuq…?)…but he is definitely a racist, through and through.
Not only is he racist, he’s the owner of a team in an organization that consists of 90% African-American athletes. What’s that saying? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you? Here’s what his team thought of his remarks:
So. Attitudes like Sterling’s, in which the racists try to defend their attitudes because: “culture,” are the very worst sort. Brush it under the rug, forget about it, and put on your rose-colored glasses folks, this is just the way it is. Ummm, no. See, as your girlfriend pointed out, Sterling, the POINT is to create a world where we DON’T just ignore oppression, but face it head on and attempt to ameliorate how ugly it becomes for all affected by it.
In no big way am I going to defend this woman, she obviously either has poor self-esteem or she is just that shallow that it’s his money she’s after and to hell with ethics. However, she does politely try to get Sterling to see how his comments and attitudes are a product of his generation and have no place in our culture of today. Kudos for trying to make the man see the error of his ways. There’s something important about this. His attitude comes from sharing it with his pals and reinforcing its power through continued consideration of this point of view. This is a “free country” where we are free to say what we want (disclaimer: that is not entirely true but we can address that another time)…but not without recourse.
It’s the recourse that matters. We have to work really hard as a society to remove this attitude from the upper echelons of power in this country. The problem is that we have this Venn Diagram in which top positions in government, the top tier of the social class, and the tip of the financial hierarchy all come together and the circles mostly overlap in the middle. The entrenched racism at the top of these structures trickles down much more effectively than resources do. Hate is not a legacy we should be looking to pass on. And in no way is Bill Kristol making an appropriate response:
Yeah, it’s so silly to pay attention to a series of remarks from a business professional that’s part of an organization holding its members to a code of conduct that are indicative of blatantly disgusting racist oppression. Whyever would we worry about something like that?
Okay I stopped here and tried to create a Venn diagram of the Weberian Stratification I am trying to talk about in reference to the sociology of wealth, status, and power in the U.S. but it reinforced how very not visual my brain is. Oh well. (Searching Google Images didn’t help, either.)
Where were we? Ahh, hate, right. In conclusion, I point to this article:
Mind you, this isn’t the original post about Anthony Karen’s photojournalism project, but it is the one that strikes the most apologetic tone. In the wake of our favorite “newsworthy” teabagger twitweasel, the also overtly racist Cliven Bundy, stories like Sterling’s and projects like Karen’s are pivotal for the cultural angle. According to Rancher Bundy (think of Al from Married With Children, with a hideously awful personality–seriously he makes Al sound like a saint), we would be doing Black people a solid if we re-initiated slavery. Apparently since Bundy can’t make a remark that doesn’t offend any number of reasonable folks, Martin Luther King Jr. “hasn’t got his job done yet.”
Actually, it’s us that haven’t got the job done yet. MLK Jr. is off the hook, we assassinated him. I’d like to think, and teach my children, that we have come a long way from “those days.” The reality that has been portrayed in the media of late puts that idea to bed. The election of the first person of color to the office of the POTUS has caused a resurgence in the public exposure of racist folks. Obviously, they’ve been here all along, feeding the hate deep down in their soul. The kind of hate that only comes from being brainwashed from birth. The kind of hate that works into a frenzy at the idea that any person of color could so much as entertain the notion of holding the top position of power in the government of the U.S. You know, the same government Bundy rejects as sovereign, the same government the tea party would like to rearrange, the same government that allows for money to equal power. I could go off on a tangent about hypocrisy here but it would entail another digression so I shall refrain…this time.
So yeah, Sterling, you’re right about one thing: it is the culture. The culture of crotchety old nasty white men and their legions of fans. Culture has this funny way of shifting its shape and texture over time and across distance though, and I fervently wish for that attitude of superiority based on trivial biological differences to die. Yesterday. In that effort, we have to confront these backwards attitudes directly and with all the power of reason. In short, the NBA has a responsibility to can this guy. Hell, they should have done it years ago.
P.S. The solution is simple, and yet so complex and controversial: stop teaching children to hate. Full stop.