Usually on The Lookout I share my views on at least five stories concerning Black folks in the media but this week, all anybody is talking about is Donald Sterling — the hopefully soon-to-be former owner of the L.A. Clippers. So, I figured, my column this week had to focus on what we should really ‘Lookout’ for in Sterling’s comments.
As you know NBA commissioner Adam Silver threw the book at the longest tenured owner in franchise history Tuesday following TMZ’s release of a racist recording where — like a modern-day plantation owner — Sterling can be heard talking about his players as if they were his slaves.
“I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses,” he tells his Black and Mexican mistress V. Stiviano, who secretly taped him. “Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them?” he asks her.
But while much has been said about notorious slumlord Sterling and his long and undisputed history of racism– to include insults he made years ago about how his Black tenants “smell” and “attract vermin” – the issue is so much bigger than the words of a bigoted, 80-year-old man.
The real issue here is the “culture” that Donald Sterling represents.
He said it himself on that now infamous recording: “We don’t evaluate what’s right and wrong,” he explained to Stiviano, after demanding she not bring or be photographed with Blacks like NBA great Magic Johnson or L.A. Dodgers player Matt Kemp at his games. “We live in a society. We live in a culture …we have to live within that culture.”
Hmm, exactly what culture is Sterling speaking of?
While he may now be banned from the sport for life and fined $2.5 million dollars – a drop in the bucket in his nearly two billion-dollar enterprise — trust, Sterling is hardly alone.
In fact, the rest of his “culture” – a.k.a all the other people who feel like he does – are not only still out there, they’re busy drafting and enacting the laws that will continue to keep us legislatively enslaved.
That “culture” Donald Sterling speaks of is represented in the United States’ Congress, where Republicans like congressman Paul Ryan, John Boehner, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Ted Cruz are working overtime to either push or support bills that will cut billions of dollars in food stamps – literally taking food out of millions of poor children’s mouths.
The “culture” is demonstrated in the Supreme Court where Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito recently scrapped section four of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, the provision that dictates which parts of the country must have changes to their voting laws cleared by the federal government or in federal court before they are made. In areas generally affecting whom, you ask?
You got it – Black folks.
The “culture” Sterling mentioned is evident with other team owners, most of them white men who rep a league made up of 80-percent Black players –who, in my opinion, moved too slowly to denounce Sterling. He made his position toward Black people very clear: “You can sleep with them, you can bring them in, you can do whatever you want,” he told Stiviano, echoing the good ol’ boy mentality shared by many. “The little I ask you is not to promote it on that [Instagram] and not to bring them to my games.”
In other words, “They’re cool as far as working for me … just don’t bring them to my house or allow them to date my daughter.”
The “culture” is the anchors at FOX News and those pulling the strings inside our police stations, federal and local courthouses, prison complexes and medical facilities. They’re the ones insides the schools teaching our kids!
They’re billionaires like the Koch brothers who’ve got the money and power to give and take away opportunity at will.
The “culture” is Trayvon Martin’s killer George Zimmerman and Jordan Davis’ killer Michael Dunn – a man who didn’t think twice about pulling the trigger on a Black teen because he played his music too loud.
The “culture” is newly-minted Tea Party poster-child Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who had this to say to the New York Times recently about African Americans: “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton … And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less.”
The “culture” is vicious, unrelenting, pervasive, obvious yet hidden and unapologetically anti-Black.
From the moment our ancestors set foot in this country we have been at war with this “culture” — abject racism reinforced by the chain and whip and guarded by the U.S. Constitution.
Today the “culture” openly mocks and disrespects our President, calling him a liar, a monkey and worse, spending hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to appeal the Affordable Care Act just to spite him.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless,” and the spirit by which he proclaimed this is still true today.
Yes, Sterling was booted out. Yes, he stands to lose his team. But the take-away should be that we don’t have to wait for the powers that be to make the call.
We don’t have to hold our breaths and hope the other team owners see it from our side.
We can and should stand up and speak out whenever and wherever there is injustice.
Our job – the next time we run up against “the culture” — is to say, you know what? Eff the game. Playing in it, going to it or watching it is not worth the insult to my dignity and pride.
It is to exercise our enormous collective economic power and just stop buying – whether they’re jeans, pancake platters or seasons tickets – from people who hate us.
It’s to strike, rally, protest and put pressure on any of the corporations that dare to back “the culture.” And, finally, it’s to back ourselves – building up businesses in our own community – so that when the “culture” shows its true colors we have the strength to hit it where it hurts. In the pockets.
After all, we have the power to control the culture if only we would wake up and use it.
I’ve spent my entire career as a civil rights activist and anti-violence advocate. I hear from folks all over the country about how fed-up they are—how much they want change—but they don’t know where to start. It’s not enough just to be informed, we’ve got to work tirelessly to do better. With the “The Lookout,” I’ll collect the most important stories and action items that you need to know about and things you can do each week, keeping you involved so you can create positive change for yourself and your community.
I want to hear from you; what’s going on in your community? What stories or events should folks know about? Leave a comment below.
More About Tamika Mallory
Called “a leader of tomorrow” by Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, Valerie B. Jarrett, Tamika D. Mallory is a nationally recognized leader and civil rights activist. Tamika is the Founder/President of Mallory Consulting, LLC and the former Executive Director of the National Action Network (NAN), one of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations. She is featured regularly as a leading voice on key social justice issues and is currently making headlines around the country for her tireless activism and strong stance on women’s issues, anti-violence, young adult advocacy, and decency.