Police killing of black people is not a black problem. It is an American problem.
Donald Sterling, eccentric billionaire and owner – at least for the moment – of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, learned firsthand the weight of his own words on Tuesday. After allegedly being recorded making numerous racist remarks about African-Americans (both on his team and otherwise), the National Basketball Association handed him a lifetime suspension from association with his own team, along with a $2.5 million fine.
Though Sterling’s comments were highly inflammatory and distasteful, the NBA’s swift and severe consequences helps contain the damage, keeping the poison from infecting the league’s reputation any more than it already has. And good riddance to such attitudes, as they should find no audience in any public forum, let alone in a sport where a majority of the players are black.
Sterling’s consequence is not why I feel pity for him. He got what he deserved, and the stigma that goes with such shunning likely will weigh on his future business ventures. What saddens me for him is the sense I have of him as an individual, having read extensively about him online, and having listened to the audiotapes attributed to him.
I almost felt sorry for Donald Sterling when I listened to the original recording of an alleged argument between him and his ex-girlfriend, V. Stiviano, released by TMZ Sports on Saturday. The argument centers around Stivianio’s friendship with black and Hispanic people. The desperation in Sterling’s alleged voice is palpable as he tries to scurry like a cockroach exposed by the light, but doesn’t get away.
The day after TMZ released the recording, Deadspin released an extended version of the tiff with transcript included. In this recording, the cockroach is caught for examination under the proverbial glass. From the Deadspin report:
V: I don't understand. I don't see your views. I wasn't raised the way you were raised.
DS: Well then, if you don't feel—don't come to my games. Don't bring black people, and don't come.
V: Do you know that you have a whole team that's black, that plays for you?
DS: You just, do I know? I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them?...
Sterling does not “support them.” He pays them for work. He does not “give them food.” He gives them a wage for employment. He does not give his players “clothes, and cars, and houses.” The Clippers Corporation signs a paycheck, made possible by advertising dollars and ticket sales attracted by the highly skilled labor of the mostly black and brown Clippers players themselves.
Duane Buck currently sits on death row in a Texas jail cell partly because he is black. He has been held since his 1997 capital sentencing hearing, which was influenced by blatantly racist testimony. Trial prosecutors relied on erroneous “expert testimony” provided by psychologist Walter Quijano, who claimed African-Americans are more liable to commit future acts of violence than non-African-Americans.
Swayed by the misinformation, jury members accepted as truth Quijano’s claims. According to Texas law, a jury finding of “future dangerousness” is a prerequisite for a death sentence. Consequently, Buck was convicted in the fatal shootings of Debra Gardner and Kenneth Butler and issued the death penalty.
"Really? Gandhi's in hell? And we have confirmation of this?"
At the climax of The King's Speech, I held my breath with the rest of the packed audience and hoped to God that history was kind to King George VI.
[Editors' Note: Former state trooper James Bonard Fowler plead guilty this week to a misdemeanor manslaughter charge in the 1965 shooting of Jimmie Lee Jackson in Alabama.