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:
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.
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.