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The Biological Remedy for Racism

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Posted on Apr 29, 2014

By T.L. Caswell

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and V. Stiviano, the woman now involved with Sterling in an ongoing scandal, watch the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers during a 2010 NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles. AP/Danny Moloshok

Unless you were on a religious retreat since Saturday, penitently shutting out the brays and bleats of the world at large, you know that a scandal has exploded in professional basketball and, indeed, across a considerable swath of American culture. Of course I’m talking about the disclosure of racist remarks attributed to Donald Sterling, the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. In moments of mental frailty, I suppose, we could call it Sterling-gate.

The electronic and print media in Southern California and many other parts of the planet are awash in reports about the controversy, which is elbowing aside that little flap in Ukraine. On Monday, Page 1 of the Los Angeles Times had in the lead position two articles about the Sterling matter, along with a photograph, and on Tuesday the newspaper again had two front-page stories on the brouhaha, plus two related multicolumn pictures. In addition, Tuesday’s lead editorial was about Sterling.

Some skeptics will ask whether, amid wars and plagues, storms and droughts, loss of life at sea and tragedy in the sky, this is legitimate news. The answer, in a single word, is yes. When someone as prominent (infamous?) as Donald Sterling is tied to something so outrageous, it’s news. As Willy Loman said in a vastly different context, “Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.”

The public reaction alone—wide and deep—would make the development newsworthy. Barack Obama himself held forth, calling the recorded comments “racist” and “incredibly offensive.” The president went on to say: “The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that’s still there, the vestiges of discrimination. We’ve made enormous strides, but you’re going to continue to see this percolate up every so often. ...”

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Obama aired the American dirty linen at a news conference Sunday in Malaysia, a stop on his four-country swing through Asia, when he was asked about it. I suspect he would have preferred not to be speaking about U.S. racism during a trip designed in part to promote the image of our nation, aka the land of the free.

Here’s a short list taken from the long, long list of other well-known people who have weighed in: National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Matt Kemp, James Worthy, Clippers Coach Doc Rivers, Jesse Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Arsenio Hall, Russell Simmons, Donald Trump, Al Sharpton, Pulitzer winner Eugene Robinson and Rush Limbaugh, along with masses of other media folk. (Limbaugh plumbed the political depths of the story, claiming that Sterling, a registered Republican, is “a big Democrat” who is in trouble only because “he did not give enough money to Obama.”)

The exchange in question is purported to be part of a conversation between Sterling and a woman whom some have characterized as his mistress. In case you haven’t memorized the poisonous diatribe, I’ve plucked out some lines for your consideration.

Man: Well then, if you don’t feel—don’t come to my games. Don’t bring black people, and don’t come.

Woman: Do you know that you have a whole team that’s black, that plays for you?

Man: You just, do I know? I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? I know that I have—who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?

Man: 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 [social media] ... and not to bring them to my games.

Man: I’m just saying, in your lousy fucking Instagrams [photos], you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.

Man: Don’t put him [Magic Johnson] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don’t bring him to my games.

When the woman calls on the man to change, he says: “I don’t want to change. If my girl can’t do what I want, I don’t want the girl. I’ll find a girl that will do what I want! Believe me. I thought you were that girl—because I tried to do what you want. But you’re not that girl.”

There is no secret sauce that can make this mess anything but revolting.

So, what does it all mean for Sterling?

On Tuesday Commissioner Silver banned him from the NBA and imposed a $2.5 million fine against the lawyer and real estate developer. In another breaking development, Silver also said Sterling had acknowledged that it was his voice on the recording.


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