"Racism!" They Cry, Selectively

But only selectively.


Gossip site TMZ has NBA franchise (Los Angeles Clippers) owner Donald Sterling on audio tape apparently admonishing his girlfriend for cavorting with “black people”.    From CNN/SI:

It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” l

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.”

Don’t put him [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.”

Pretty damning, certainly racist.  Except Sterling’s attorney is asserting that the audio was altered, and that the (presumably ex-) girlfriend leaked such audio out of revenge.   Sterling, for his part, has a history of being an odd duck.  He used to bring women into the locker room while players were showering, for some reason, and has a history of otherwise behaving, well, oddly.

Of course, NBA players are all up in arms, as are black coaches, and there are cries for Sterling’s head.  New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is already under enormous pressure to punish Sterling.  Players’ Association President Chris Paul has called for “aggressive” addressing of this “serious issue”.  Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, a former NBA player still affiliated with the league, has called the remarks “reprehensible” and calls for “strong and swift action” if allegations are true.   Black NBA commentators are also piling on.  I am sure we will hear from Barack Obama and Eric Holder on the issue before too long.

The collective and individual outrage is pretty understandable.  Well, it would be.  If it weren’t for THIS:

racist necklace

Earlier this month, former NBA owner and current sports agent Jay-Z, whose grown-up name is Shawn Carter, attended a Brooklyn Nets game prominently displaying a pendant featuring the symbol for the “Five Percent Nation of Gods and Earths”,  an offshoot of radical Black Islam founded by a disciple of Malcolm X in the mid-1960s.  Among the “Five Percent Nation” tenets is the belief that “(w)hiteness is weak and wicked and inferior — basically just an errant child who needs to be corrected.”  Also common to this belief system is that the white man is the devil.

five percenter

While a few articles made note of Carter’s ostentatious display of racial hatred, virtually none of the NBA players, or the association, or Mayor Johnson, commented publicly.  In fact, many NBA players have been seen sporting similar necklaces bearing the “Five Percent Nation” symbol.

What would be the effect of a white player of any sport attending a sporting event with an ostentatious display of neo-Nazi ideology?   Like, say, an Aryan Nation armband?  In the weakly-reasoned defenses put forth for Carter’s racism was the comment that the symbol is “not really racist” and has been integrated into American society like other formerly racist symbols, such as the Confederate flag.   No kiddin’?

The difference between Sterling and Carter, of course, is that Sterling is white, and Carter is black, which means Sterling’s alleged comments will spark angry outrage, while Carter’s documented actions elicited a litany of excuses and justifications.  I would have much more empathy toward those so seemingly aggrieved by Sterling’s comments had I heard similar condemnations for the overt racism displayed by Shawn Carter.  I have even less patience for the faux-outrage when I read and hear the endless refrain that black racism isn’t really racism, or if it is, it is justifiable racism.

So Doc Rivers, Chris Paul, Stephen A. Smith, the NBA players en masse, and (pre-emptively) Barack Obama and Eric Holder, can keep their big mouths shut about Sterling if they were struck with collective laryngitis about Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter.   They won’t, of course.  And we will hear about Sterling’s comments ad nauseum, and be told that it is somehow proof that ALL whites are racists.   But if they consider Donald Sterling a hypocritical and bigoted racist, they can ask him to move over, and each can grab a seat on that same bench.  They are of precisely the same ilk.

“It bothers me… that you are associating with black people” is no more (and probably less) racist than “whiteness is weak and evil and inferior”.

No matter how offended you pretend to be.




9 thoughts on “"Racism!" They Cry, Selectively”

  1. I don’t think the two are so easily compared, to be honest. Jay Z is a stupid piece of shit, yes, and probably does hate white people if he’s sporting that trash. Still, not the same. If the Clippers story is true, that is – I don’t know a single thing about him other than what I learned today, so for all I know he’s a KKK member or a Black Panther himself who was just pissed about his girlfriend straying (?). I’m gonna go out on a limb from a position of blissful ignorance and ASSume he is probably more like the former than the latter (and as an NBA coach, it’s highly unlikely he is either).

    1. He’s actually an owner. And, from tales told, a bit of an idiot. But the two are eminently comparable. Especially with regards to the reactions of outrage on the one hand and silence, even support, on the other.

  2. For another example, compare the outrage over Cliven Bundy’s recent statement with the silence stemming from Sotomayor’s comments in the Schuette case.

  3. Sterling is a scum bag. Let’s not race to defend this d-bag. This is a man who makes a lot of money as a slumlord. I use that word deliberately and not as hyperbole. I know people who have had to sue him to get basic repairs done to rentals units. The likelihood that the repairs take longer is directly related tot he color of the tenant’s skin. A few years ago, he was hit for over $2 million for racial discrimination in housing.

    1. Nobody is defending anyone, Bill. I don’t care if Sterling IS a racist. The double standard is what is in play here. This Jay-Z idiot wears an unquestioned symbol of racial hatred, and all the people who rush to condemn Sterling are either silent, or speak out in support of the rapper. Including NBA players who wear the same symbol of racial hatred out in public routinely.

  4. I thought that they are supost to be called “people/person of color”. So start POCing.

    Points for those who catch the science fiction rif here.


  5. I have heard about the crime of “driving while black”. This seems to be similar; “being racist while white”.

    I would love to see Jay-Z’s et al. comments about race in private conversations compared to Sterling’s. In intensity, quantity and profanity. Given his free use of derogatory words about women and blacks I think I can guess how he talks about whites, asians, etc.

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