The main takeaway from this LA Clippers controversy is that Clippers owner Donald Sterling is obviously a pretty massive racist.
As we’ve learned in recent days, “racist” has so many meanings which expose themselves through ways of talking about non-whites, negative attitudes toward certain racial groups, antiquated or well … just racist attitudes about work habits or the role of public assistance programs, a sense of political authority and threat. But when you’re telling your girlfriend, I don’t want you bringing black people to our games or “broadcast[ing] that you’re associating with black people”, you just have to say, wow, man, you’re really racist. Like you don’t even want to be near black people or you experience some form of shame that your girlfriend “associates” with black people.
But while that’s the biggest and most obvious takeaway, there are so many layers to this. Race and racism are complex. White families who were the linchpins of white supremacy in the Jim Crow South and in the days of slavery could still have deep and intimate relationships with African-Americans. And I’m not just talking about the well-known and often brutally exploitative sexual relationships. (After all, remember that Strom Thurmond had a mixed race daughter.) Obviously, in this day and age you can work with, have civil relationships with black people, even employ African-Americans and still be totally racist. But in this day and age it’s a little hard to figure how you can have such visceral racism (as opposed to just having a low opinion of black people) and manage to operate in the pretty black world of the NBA.
But again, there’s more.
Obviously, the quotes are from an angry argument. So it may be more of an attack than a concession but Sterling tells his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, that: “You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.”
So you can sleep with black men, hang out with them, but just don’t bring them to my games where, of course, my team is coached by an African-American man and mainly made up of African-American players.
The kicker is that the girlfriend herself is biracial.
Whether Stiviano “looks” black or not is obviously a pretty crude way of thinking about these things. But, look, we’re talking about Donald Sterling who is obviously a huge racist. So I’m not sure we should assume a particularly nuanced take on race and racial ambiguity. As you can see in the picture above, she’s clearly not white. But in the conversation, Stiviano seems to allude to Sterling being in denial or unwilling to discuss that she is in fact part African-American herself.
This guy is obviously quite a piece of work. And for the owner of a major NBA team, I just don’t see how you come back from something like this.