I feel bad for Donald Sterling. That’s right, me who is African American descent, feels bad for Donald Sterling. I am by no means justifying his actions. I feel bad for Sterling because I think people are judging him too harshly from the recent recording of him. My husband disagrees with me and I am sure most readers will also.
At first, I was appalled by the news clips I saw. I asked my husband to explain it to me because I was so confused. From what I understood, his alleged mistress was African American and Mexican so why would be racist against African Americans? Why was he saying these horrible things? My husband tried to explain but then he told me that I had to listen to the audio tapes. So I did over and over again. After I listened to the tapes, my perspective of the situation changed.
If you really listen to both sides of the conversation, the woman on the tape seems to be trying to set up Sterling. She kept goading him trying to make him say racist comments. Every time he would try to defend himself, she would cut him of. At one point, he says why are you saying this?
Before I go on about my opinion of the recordings, please take a moment to think of a conversation you have had where you or someone you know said something not politically correct. My mother who is 91 and bless her heart has made a comment that all Mexicans steal. I quickly reminded her I was part Mexican. I have never seen her be anything but kind-hearted to all races but she still made this racist statement. I have written about this before. I have written how people will stand in front of me and say disparaging words about one of my races and I have to admit most of the time I just stand there and take it. A lot of the time, these are people I love and respect. In highschool I found that I had to conform. I still haven’t figured it all out yet. I have learned that standing up sometimes is not worth the fight or I don’t have enough fight in me.
I have heard worse race bashing on a playground, literally. Sterling didn’t know he was being recorded. He could have easily used the “N” word or referred to black people with some other derogatory slang but he didn’t. I would expect a hard cord racist to use those words but instead he compliments Magic Johnson as a human being. He states he should be looked up. When asked what the issue is he states, “We don’t have to broadcast everything.” From the beginning of the tape Sterling’s main complaint is about other people calling him about the girl associating with black people.
I think the tape would be more shocking if it was him saying how he hates that he has to employ black basketball players or if just came out and said the “N” word. I would expect the kind of reaction he is getting had he said that on the tape. Just because he says don’t bring black people to the games doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t like black people. It might mean he wants to conform to his peers who don’t like black people, it might mean he believes in separation. I am going to be honest, there have been a few incidents in my life where I didn’t feel comfortable bringing my dark-skinned African American cousin to events where I knew it was going to be mainly white people. That doesn’t make me a racist.
After college I worked for the PGA Tour as part of their Minority Internship Program. Basically the goal of the program was to get more minorities involved in business portion of the golf world. The program is needed because sometimes separation between races exist, whether it is on purpose or just happens.
Are we falling into this girl’s trap like Sterling? When she says, “I’m sorry you are a racist,” Sterling always objects. She is clearly trying to make him sound like a racist but he doesn’t give in to her.
To me, it sounds like his peers are giving him a hard time because she is associating very closely with African Americans. He is asking her not associate with black people because it makes him look bad in his peer’s point of view. He says, “I’m living in a culture, and I have live within the culture.”
Listen to the tape closely, that is what I got out of it. He could indeed dislike or even hate black people but he never says it on the tape.
There is a great book I have called, “White Like Me,” by Tim Wise. It talks about racial identity and how whiteness influence the lives of white Americans. He talks about what it means to be white in a nation created for white people. He talks about how privilege affects almost every part of society, from education, to employment and to the justice system. He points out that white privilege can ultimately harm its recipients in the long run and make progressive social change less likely.
Relisten to the tape. Sterling is wrong but I don’t think you can judge him solely from this tape alone. On the tape he states, “There is nothing wrong with you or your skin color. Why are you saying these things? To upset me?” At one point he says, “I love the black people.” He could have said a lot worse.
He says Magic Johnson should be admired. He also says, “But don’t put him on Instagram for the whole world to have to see so they have to call me.” I think that is the important part people are missing. From the beginning of the tape to the end of it, he talks about how other people have a problem with it. I know, it doesn’t make it right.
I am not defending Donald Sterling or his actions. I am just saying, I wouldn’t want my life judged or summed up from a 10 minute recording especially if that recording has what appears to be some sort of set up. Would you?
© 2014, MaLu Bradford Beyonce, All Rights Reserved.
You may reach MaLu Bradford Beyonce at firstname.lastname@example.org.