I’m a little perplexed at the complexities of contract law that allow one man to declare that another man is for life banned from association with an entity that he lawfully owns. But then I’m just a simple military dude…
Anyway, what’s even more vexing for me is the existential consideration that Donald Sterling is, at his most fundamental level 100% exactly the same person today as he was five days ago when the NAACP was poised for the second time in five years to celebrate his humanity and dedication to the race-baiting and shit-stirring organization.
The first lesson, I guess, is the one I’m learning more about all the time, and that’s that we shouldn’t have heroes. All men’s feet are made of clay. Some dudes are really good, some pretty nasty. Some share our beliefs in some contexts and to some extent, but we should always appreciate before we put anybody on a pedestal that everybody’s shit stinks. And the same goes for organizations. It may not come as much surprise to find that Paula Dean or Cliven Bundy or that duck guy might espouse racist feelings (and to be fair, some were on to Sterling in 2006), but when a group like the NAACP can make such an incredibly lazy mistake (btw, that first award he got from them was in 2009), kinda makes you think organizations like that have different motives, huh?
The second lesson is that you really should never believe people when they piss and moan about privacy. You don’t have to agree with or even do anything less than outright condemn Sterling’s comments as Neanderthal to appreciate that, were it not for a likely unlawful (in California where it occurred, where both parties are legally required to be knowledgeable of it) recording of an otherwise private conversation, we’d have a) never heard of this guy, and/or b) never known of his thoughts. And yet, so many privacy advocates are cheering his head on a stake.
But this isn’t about what Kareem himself acknowledged is a creepy lack of deference to privacy, per se. It’s that today we must live in a world of Schrodinger’s Racist. Here, someone’s beliefs on race are both racist and tolerant until his box is opened. A dude is not just obscurely unknown to the masses, but can actually be lauded and held up as a paragon of tolerance because of his outward and public actions. He’s believed to be pure and clean and totally un-racist.
Something tells me Sterling has felt this way for a long time—at least at some point since 1981 when he purchased the Clippers. Donald Sterling wasn’t punished today by the NBA because of what he is or what he believes (as chilling as that may sound…) No, he was punished because we found out about it. Someone opened his box and he must pay.
Bottom line is that anybody in public life either is or isn’t a racist. Or a homophobe. Or whatever… Without knowing the insides of his mind, he is neither racist nor non-racist, really. Only when we open his box to we learn. Curious, isn’t it, that he could have taken his actual feelings… the actual content of his character, if you will…to his grave, were it not for that recording. And we’d have been none the wiser.
Worse, thanks to the NAACP, we’d have believed him to be downright humanitarian by the very organization that feels (for some reason) it has the final say in such manners!
Just food for thought.
-Nick (ColoradoPatriot, from Houston, of all places…)
P.S. A corollary: Intellectual quiz: Can you think of any other instance where people have hidden who they are, what they actually believe, their true characters, out of fear of what ‘decent society’ would think? Can you imagine what the turmoil would be like of living with such a secret and knowing that at any moment you could be exposed and what that might mean to your life, your loved ones, your very livelihood? Ever think what it might be like for those people when they’re exposed and suddenly those who used to be friendly with them publically deny and spurn them? I dunno… just a stream of consciousness.