Racist Racists and the Racists who Racist: Donald Sterling and the Clippers

Where to begin? As you all probably know by now, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling [1] was allegedly recorded making a bunch of prejudicial remarks about Black people. He discouraged his girlfriend from bringing Black people to games, taking pictures with them, and overall letting it be known that she has a great relationship with the Blacks.

This, surprisingly, upset people. This, also surprisingly, did not upset people.

Maybe I should talk about the media and how they temporarily gave up journalism for post-Lent instead of covering this incident from the moment the tape was released to the moment the NBA Commissioner finally held a press conference. Eh. That can be covered in less than 140 characters:

Or maybe I should talk about the people. The general public. How we reacted.[2] Or should I talk about just who the hell is responsible for making sure racist people can’t keep racisming all over the place?

Yes. Those last two sound like fun. Made up words are always more fun.

So when this whole shebang initially went down, people were of course upset with Donald Sterling himself. [3] But twitter quickly shifted from the NBA having the responsibility to kick Sterling out to the players themselves being responsible for putting an end to Sterling’s racism, punishing him, and taking a stand for moral injustice everywhere.

Now, I’m no expert on activism. At best, I uphold my civic duties, give back a little to my community, and try to positively influence the people around me.  At worst, I do the bare minimum my sorority expects of me. Yikes. That being said, I’m concerned about the lack of thought that goes into people’s ideas of what activism should look like. As if cause and effect don’t exist. Here’s what I mean.

Let’s use the WNBA as an example. Because almost everyone has the same view on it, unfortunately. It’s boring. I didn’t say it. I just typed it. You thought it. Anyway, a lot of the same people who find it boring and therefore are not WNBA fans, still think the incredibly talented women who make it to the league, deserve a better salary. They are, after all, the best in their field.  But then, these people will not tune into a game, attend a game, purchase a jersey, hat, bumper sticker or pair of socks. I don’t bring this up to say that non-fans of the WNBA need to start buying things to pay their salaries. I bring this up to say, that’s not our responsibility. It is, however, simple cause and effect. We tune into games, the WNBA can charge more for advertisers. We attend games, that’s an influx in revenue. Same for merchandise. That is how they are able to pay their athletes more. So what’s the relevance to Sterling, the Clippers, and who is responsible for ending racism?

Cause and effect. And logic. Some people felt Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and the rest of the team[4] should not suit up for today’s game. These people have obviously never heard the term “breach of contract”. Not only that, these people are not being realistic. We live in America. A. MERICA.  If 100 people read this, there’s a good chance 60 of y’all have racist bosses. I know. That number has no scientific backing but let’s be real. Athletes are under contracts that have extremely harsh consequences for not being upheld. It’s not the same as if we  one day have had enough, quit collating TPS reports at Corporate Incorporated, and just walk out. What would actually make a difference? The WNBA effect. Stop going to games, tuning in, or buying merchandise.

There’s no need to hate the players. They didn’t do anything wrong in this incident. There’s really no need to burn your jerseys either. Donald Sterling does not have to represent the Clippers to you or to anyone. These guys worked hard to transform a truly awful team, to the adorable little brothers of the 16-time NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers. They don’t deserve the vitriol.  They also shouldn’t have to put their own livelihood at stake. Yes, they suited up and played today. They also participated in some civil disobedience. They turned their warmup gear inside out to hide the Clippers logo and wore black accessories to show their disapproval. That’s all we can and should ask for from them.

Clippers Protest

Then there are people who made the comment, “We’ve all known Donald Sterling was racist for a long time”. Okay. So? We’re late to the He’s A Racist party but we got here, okay? Now that we’ve arrived can we express our outrage?

Remember a couple hundred years ago when we ended racism once and for all by granting basic inalienable rights to previously alienated people and freed them from slavery? And then later on gave them more basic inalienable rights? And then more? And more? And more? My point is, in our beautiful history that is often being rewritten, the source has never been the solution. A flawed institution does not fix itself. An outspoken minority moves to a solution. Young kids held sit-ins. Pastors organized bus trips. Communities boycotted.  I know we all like to think we’d be Malcolm X off jump, throwing bricks through windows, and walking out of multi-million dollar contracts while rapping “Hit Em Up” but realistically? Nah.

And it doesn’t take all that. For now. A vocal people who understand their economic power, with a logical, targeted aim. That’s all it takes. Don’t just tweet about it, be about it. Magic Johnson understood the value of his dollar and we should too.

 

 

Footnotes    (↑ returns to text)
  1. So hard not to type David Stern
  2. Or should I say twe-acted? You know, like twitter? No? Okay.
  3. Who, by the way, carries the unfortunate likeness of Aaron McGruder’s Boondocks character Ed Wuncler.  Ed Wuncler is a rich, fat, racist white man who invests in real estate. No relation.
  4. Shoutout to the fact that nobody actually knows who plays for the Clippers. #BandwagonLife.

Michelle Huxtable

4 Comments

  1. Great post!

    In addition to all your logic about the inability for the members of the team to just stop playing for him, it’s also another case where Black people are the ones who need to fix racist people. Like you said, where was the media coverage? White people get super quiet when something like this comes around. The only people I knew who were talking about it were Black people. If a player did something half as egregious, it would be all the news talked about.

    I will continue to do my part boycotting. (Do I get extra points if I’ve never contributed to their revenue?)

  2. Love the post, Hux!

    I’m glad you brought to the forefront the gaze that is being placed on the basketball players and the lack thereof being placed on ourselves, the consumers. Yes, the players have an effect on the money going into Sterling’s pocket, but they also have a contract and families to provide for. Sterling didn’t just start thinking this way yesterday. His “new slaves” perception of Blacks seems to be pretty engrained, and he’s gotten pretty far in his lifetime without having to check his self. Civil Rights leaders and change-makers didn’t fight, alone. They had communities to support and help, AND one person wasn’t more responsible to ‘teach someone a lesson’, than another.

    I’m wondering where the media coverage was too! Yet again, this is an example of how America never loved us. Our dollars, attention, and a targeted aim might help him with some introspection for Sterling, but it takes more than a bus full of folk to do that.

    Thanks for getting my day off to a great start with your post. Time to bring this to my Contemporary Race Theory class discussion.

  3. This needs to be on the NBA. I promise you that today if the CEO of my company said what homeboy said I wouldn’t quit. I would do whatever I could to hurt HIS pockets before I hurt my own. The other owners have power to enact sanctions against this man. Like you said, it’s not on the players (the oppressed ones) to change the bigot (the oppressor). You are my hero.

  4. “Don’t just tweet about it, be about it.” That. Right there.

    Amazing & insightful as usual. I was actually pretty confused when people were like “did the players do enough by tossing their warmup jerseys in a pile and warming up in generic red?” Um, what? What else were they gonna do? Collectively tell their employer to go fuck himself? Would’ve been satisfying, but…

    I don’t understand why the NBA “hasn’t figured out proper sanctions yet.” Doesn’t the league have the jurisdiction to like… Take the Clippers away from Sterling? (That’s a serious question- you know I have no knowledge of the workings of the NBA lolz).

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