Monday, April 28, 2014

What's Wrong With Donald Sterling?

For those who may have been hiding in a cave, or vacationing out in the woods, and not had access to public information over the last few days, the picture on the left and comments regarding same have been causing quite a controversy.

While the title of this article is "What's Wrong With Donald Sterling?", Mr. Sterling himself is not even in that picture. It is actually a picture of basketball legend and Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson, surrounded on the left by Rachel Rodriguez and on the right by V. Stiviano.

Ms. Stiviano happens to be the ex-girlfriend of a very wealthy 81-year old man, and that old man is the Donald Sterling in question. He is the longtime owner of the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA, and he was none too pleased, despite having a decades-long friendship with Magic, to learn that Stiviano had posted this picture to her Instagram account.

Now for those of you still behind the times, Instagram is yet another social media site, a place where folks post up pictures. What makes Instagram unique is that it has a variety of editing tools to give your photos a unique look and feel, such as the old-time look you might find in boardwalk 1800's-era pics, or turning color pics into black and white. The site also allows you to share the pics easily to other social media sites, such as Facebook or Twitter.

Stiviano apparently had the pic snapped months ago at a 2013 Dodgers game, but just recently posted it to her Instragram, along with another of her posing with Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, also a black man. Apparently a friend of Sterling saw the pictures and told him about them. This prompted Sterling to confront Stiviano in a conversation that was recorded by her, in which he demonstrated quite obviously the answer to the question posed by this article.

What's wrong with Donald Sterling? The answer is fairly easy: he is a racist. We are talking separate drinking fountains, separate bathrooms, have them sit in the back of the bus racist. Because while publicly he has glad-handed black people, donated larges sums of money to black charities, and even received awards from black organizations, deep in his heart he simply feels they are inferior. Why else would he make the comments that he made to Stiviano?

In the conversation, Sterling asks "Why are you taking pictures with minorities?" When Stiviano, of black Latino heritage herself, questions this concern, Sterling replies "Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo...broadcast that you're associating with black people." He goes on to say that she doesn't have to "..have yourself with, walking with black people" and specifically states that he doesn't want her bringing Johnson to the Clippers games as well.

Besides the obvious problems with these statements, they are completely ironic, as Sterling has owned the Clippers since 1981, and the overwhelming majority of the team's players over those three decades have been black players. In fact, the NBA itself, in which he is one of only a few dozen owners, features blacks as an overwhelming majority of it's overall player base. So Sterling has had no problem with employing blacks, or making money from the performance of black athletes.

Of course, Sterling, through others (he has not publicly responded himself yet) is circling the wagons. He alleges that Stiviano embezzled nearly $2 million from him during the relationship, that she stated she would "get even" with him, and of course there is the whole matter of her taping this conversation to begin with.

Sterling, by the way, is married. Has been for 50 years. His wife filed a lawsuit in March which states that Stiviano met Sterling at the 2010 Super Bowl and began having an affair with him. According to the Los Angeles Times, Mrs. Sterling alleges in her suit that he used community property to buy Stiviano "a 2012 Ferrari, two Bentleys and a 2013 Range Rover", worth over half a million dollars all together. The suit also alleges that he gave Stiviano nearly $2 million to purchase a duplex near the Beverly Center, a major LA shopping mall, last year, and has provided her with nearly a quarter of a million dollars in upkeep and living expenses.

As the relationship between Sterling and Stiviano has apparently finally begun unwinding in recent months, there have been a series of lawsuits and public comments. Who knows the nature of the relationship between Sterling and Stiviano behind closed doors? However, anyone with two eyes and half a brain can take a look at the old man worth a fortune, the 20-something bikini model, and add it up to the typical gold digger getting whatever she can from a rich, old man. And also, a rich old man getting whatever he can from a bikini model thanks to his wealth. It's a very old story.

However, while much is wrong with Donald Sterling using his wealth in this manner, and much is wrong with V. Stiviano using her feminine charms in this manner, those are basically character flaws. The problem that has emerged thanks to the recording is a deeper one, the problem of racism.

That any human being, wealthy or not, has a problem with their close friends, even their intimate relationship partners, simply being seen in public, posing for innocent pictures, posting those on social media, and in general simply associating with members of any minority racial, ethnic, or religious community is appalling.

Why would Donald Sterling, or anyone else of that matter, care at all that V. Stiviano or any other human being is posing for pictures at a ball game with a black celebrity, an Asian fan, a Hispanic ballplayer, or any other human being who is from any non-white background?

Now don't get me wrong, I am far from naive. We all have our prejudices. We all have our faults. But if you ever see a friend or family member hanging out with someone of another race, posting pictures with friends of other racial or ethnic backgrounds, or engaging in a relationship with someone of another race and actually feel something offensive inside, then the problem is with you, not with them.

And this problem is not going to go away simply with a bunch of lectures from public figures, or with any amount of blog articles. It is going to lessen only when the great majority of people in every single race, ethnicity, and religion stop looking at others with a label, and start looking at each person as an individual human being.

What's wrong with Donald Sterling? Frankly, a lot of things. But most certainly that he is a racist. And guess what? News flash: he is far from the only one out here. And that number does not only include whites, it includes members of every racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual background that you can name. Judge Donald Sterling properly, as he deserves. And then when you are done, take a moment, and take an honest look at yourself as well.

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