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Sitting Sterling’s Shiva

By Kathy Y. Wilson · April 30th, 2014 · Kathy Y. Wilson

Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling thinks all black people stink.

He has a predilection for the black male body, sometimes ushering white women into his locker room to admire them, saying things like “Look at those beautiful black bodies,” as though they’re up for sale on the auction block.

He thinks all Hispanics sit around and drink and smoke all day.

He gets angry at his side piece for taking pictures of herself with big black men like Magic Johnson and “broadcasting” those photos on social media.

It’s no wonder we’re sickeningly enamored of Sterling’s bizarre racism, even in our hatred and public castigation of him.

Because Sterling has for years blatantly spewed his disdain for blacks and Hispanics — and gone largely unchecked by the public writ large — he’s shape-shifted into a modern-day slave owner, something none of us have ever seen or experienced except through movies like Django Unchained or 12 Years a Slave, images we can leave behind in the darkness of emptying theaters.

It’s funny/sad to know that a monster-faced white man — a Los Angeles property owner in addition to his NBA team ownership — could treat people like chattel and not be deterred, not even by a nearly $3 million Department of Justice lawsuit filed after Sterling, who settled but admitted no wrongdoing, refused to rent to blacks.

When he did rent, he was a tyrant.

When a black woman tenant living in one of his Los Angeles properties complained directly to Sterling about her leaking refrigerator, her broken dishwasher and demanded remuneration for her damaged property when her apartment flooded, Sterling told his property manager: “I’m not doing that. Just throw the bitch out.”

Sterling, for me, is one of those classic wealthy racists: He is buffered by his extreme wealth from the sting of his wicked ways, so he has no idea, really, what he’s up to and so he just vomits out whatever’s on his mind, unchastised.

But his kind of racist always lets us know what he’s thinking and I like that as opposed to the internal racist.

It took a simple, modern-day technique to bag this modern-day slave owner: the smartphone as recording device.

An old-school racist like Sterling will always be undone by modernism.

It is mostly sad that his black players, now that the truth has hit TMZ and thereby everywhere else, have to figure out how to appear stoic and unfazed on the court while simultaneously harnessing their own rage and disappointment in private ways so as not to appear like their “owner” — a perfect word here — is a racist maniac who views them as money-earning property; like slaves.

Because, after all, aren’t slaves supposed to be happy while they’re hunched over in the sun for hours picking cotton and tobacco? Aren’t they supposed to be happy to merely be alive, clothed, fed, housed and employed?

Sterling said as much when V.

Stiviano, his bi-racial, multi-named business associate-cum-paid sex partner (allegedly) asked him why, as a Jew, he could think so lowly of blacks when he had a team full of blacks playing for him?

His (serious) answer was that he gave them houses, cars, clothes, food and took care of them.

This is painfully true and but one of the reasons why the entire hierarchy of the National Basketball Association should be deconstructed and laid bare and made more equitable for qualified blacks and other players and coaches of color to become owners and managers and not merely coaches/overseers because the overseer has no real power and can be quickly and without explanation fired for not delivering a championship season (see former New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson).

So it is that L.A. Clippers’ head coach Doc Rivers must put on a brave face as the “spokesman” for the team. Over the weekend before losing a game to the Golden State Warriors, the Clippers players threw their jackets in the middle of the court and warmed up in long-sleeved T-shirts without the word “Clippers” during the pre-game.

It looked good, like a classic, silent protest, like black-gloved fists thrust in the air before the nation and the world, but what these Clippers need is a Cassius Clay-caliber protest.

They have the human right, at this juncture, to be loud, angry, crazy and aggressive with their protests.

But they are bound by their contracts to play; therefore, they are bound — enslaved — by all the things those contracts paid for (and Sterling provided, remember?) to be silent and let Rivers “speak” for them.

I wonder what would happen if a high-post player like, say Blake Griffin — who’d be a much-prized mulatto on Sterling’s plantation because he is the product of a black father and a white mother — refused to play, decided to wear all black just for one game and sat on the bench.

Then when the obligatory ESPN reporter asks him why, he can invite her to his parking lot press conference where he lets loose on the oppression of having to serve under an owner like Sterling in a league run by commissioner Adam Silver who’s apparently been neutered and left with amnesia about Sterling’s years and years — he’s worked in the league since 1992 — of racist antics.

Probably not.

We have other things to look forward to.

Stiviano’s recordings of Sterling chastising her for “broadcasting” herself with black men, perhaps made as payback for the $2 million lawsuit filed against her by Sterling’s wife, have unplugged the holes in the retaining wall of Sterling’s racism. It’s about to flood the league.

Waiting with a mop like one of those kids after a sweaty player has wet up the floor was Silver, until he handed down a $2.5 million fine and lifetime ban for Sterling April 29, a punishment lauded by Magic Johnson, who is said to be interested in buying the Clippers.

I’ll be sitting Shiva for Sterling, who surely has died a media death before any of this even hits the court system, where he’ll have the opportunity to further enlighten us about his ownership rights.

CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: letters@citybeat.com



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