Business as usual
Donald Sterling’s recent racist behavior is no aberration
By Kevin Uhrich 04/30/2014
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling is no aberration. His beyond-reprehensible slur that he doesn’t want African Americans at “my games” is part and parcel of an increasingly rotten and ugly saga that has become all too familiar in recent days. In quick succession, GOP rocker and pitchman Ted Nugent maligned President Obama as a “subhuman mongrel,” GOP US Rep. Paul Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee, virtually called blacks and Hispanics lazy as the cause of their chronic high joblessness, and South Dakota GOP state representative Phil Jensen publicly said it was OK for businesses to exclude blacks from service. Their outbursts could be written off as rants, or ignorance of a few named GOP luminaries. Some top GOP officials did chastise at least Nugent for his boneheaded cracks.
And then there are the even more outrageous digs by Nevada rancher and grazing rights protester Clive Bundy who flatly and very unapologetically implied that slavery was not such a bad thing after all for African Americans. His crackpot remarks set off a mad dash by his legions of Republican supporters to distance themselves from him. Only they tried to get away from his screwball remarks, not his conservative, neo-states’ rights philosophy. His remarks were an embarrassment. But what he represents isn’t to them. The core of that is naked bigotry. No amount of rhetorical feigned indignation from the GOP can change that. Ryan was proof of that. He’s the poster boy for the GOP establishment, and a very real 2016 GOP presidential hopeful. The distance between his remarks, Bundy and now Sterling in their putdown of blacks are less than paper thin.
Ryan, Bundy and Sterling can say what they please with relative impunity, knowing that once the momentary outcry passes there will be no lasting repercussion for their bigotry. That is if they even acknowledge their racism. Clippers officials have gone through gyrations to duck, deny and discredit TMZ for disclosing Sterling’s racist rants.
There are millions of Americans who in public, and more often in private, see nothing wrong or offensive with spouting racism. In February, a swarm of racist tweets were posted and sent following the near all-white Mahopac basketball teams narrow loss to the predominantly black Mount Vernon High School. The Mahopac racist tweeters and their defenders were in good company. A survey by The Associated Press on racial attitudes toward minorities in October, 2012 found that in the four-year period from a prior AP survey on racial attitudes 56 percent of whites expressed animus toward blacks. The jump in anti-black sentiment came despite nearly four years in office of an African-American president. The reasons given for the climb ranged from voter polarization to racial denial by policymakers.
President Obama’s victory was more of a personal triumph for him than a strong signal that stereotypes are a thing of the past. His win not only did not radically remap racial perceptions, or put an end to racial stereotyping but gave it a launching pad from which to explode even more virulently, as seen in the casual racial caricatures, depictions, ridicule, and typecasting of the president and first lady on blogs, Web sites, and at tea party rallies, often with the most lurid and grotesque race-baiting signs and thinly veiled racial code words.
Now we come back to the much deservedly maligned Sterling. Before his latest racist rant, he had been sued, verbally lambasted, reprimanded, hit with reams of bad press, and threatened with pickets for these racial wrongs. Yet, the Los Angeles NAACP Chapter gave Sterling its highest honor, a lifetime achievement award in 2009. The shame, absurdity, and contradiction of the award to a man who in word, deed and symbol is the diametric opposite of everything the nation’s premier civil rights group stands for and has fought for is enough to draw a gag. On Saturday, after TMZ broke the story on Sterling, the LA NAACP withdrew the lifetime achievement award it was due to bestow upon Sterling at its May 15 banquet.
A Google search with the name Donald Sterling and racial discrimination at the time he was sued and settled for racial discrimination found thousands of results. Not one of them even remotely had Sterling doing anything to further racial goodwill. The checklist of reported Sterling racial escapades include a Justice Department housing discrimination lawsuit and forced settlement, slurs and gaffes against Hispanics and African Americans, and that includes two high profile Clipper players, the shooing of minorities away from his pricey Beverly Hills condos and rentals, and an overblown and failed promise to build a homeless shelter on LA’s skid row. Then there was the lawsuit by former Clipper General Manager Elgin Baylor, who said Sterling runs his operations like a Southern plantation. But Sterling, like others who openly express their bigotry, is secure in the knowledge that after the brief firestorm of malodorous publicity and anger from civil rights leaders and African Americans, it will be business as usual. That business is as always in their world and the world of millions of other Americans naked, unvarnished bigotry. Sterling is no aberration.
Author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a frequent MSNBC contributor and an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of “The Al Sharpton Show” on American Urban Radio Network and hosts of the weekly “Hutchinson Report” on KTYM AM 1460 radio in Los Angeles and KPFK-FM 90.7 radio and the Pacifica Network. Follow Earl on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson.