Friday, March 20, 2015

Unite, Distract — and Rule: Donald Sterling (& Cliven Bundy [and SAE Bus Songs]) 1 May 2014/20 March 2015

            The headline on The Ventura County [CA] Star for 30 April 2014 read "Sterling Tarnished" (the Star has a real thing with cutesy headlines): "Clippers' owner banned for life by NBA." That was above the fold, just below the box referring readers to page 5A for the deaths of "at least 35 people in the South and Midwest" in tornadoes. Under the headline was a story by a local reporter on the celebration that replaced planned protests at the LA Clippers v. Golden State Warriors game (the Clippers won 113-103), and the Associated Press story on NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's announcement of the lifetime ban on Donald Sterling from "any association with the league or the Clippers," plus a $2.5M fine, plus calls that Sterling sell the team. The Star that day commented on Sterling's fall in its lead editorial, and a reporter-cum-columnist reported and commented on the case on page 1 of the Sports section, dealing mostly with the racist comments Sterling had been recorded making, but mentioning briefly — very briefly — Sterling's history of issues with race and misogyny, and housing discrimination.

            And so on with much of America's media uniting in noting that Donald Sterling is a racist asshole.

            Okay, I agree: Donald Sterling is a racist asshole, an ineffective team owner, and one creepily weird dude. Still, people should not be punished for what they are and most of the time only condemned, contemned, and verbally (counter)attacked for what they say. What counts most is what people do, and where the hell was the National Basketball Association when Sterling was quite likely racially discriminating in housing and undoubtedly acting as one shitty landlord!?

            Far more important is this. The attacks on Sterling unite all us right-thinking Americans in enforcing norms of decency in language but do little else. The attacks help assuage White feelings of guilt and help Blacks' self-esteem, but that's pretty much it. It's a legitimate high, but a cheap one, literally cheap; real progress will be expensive.

            I'll repeat a rule, one of the Basics every adult human should know: "Guilt isn't inherited; but the loot is."
            To find the US peculiarly evil among the nations is just another form of BS American exceptionalism, but European America was born in the dual original sins of the dispossession and slaughter of Native Americans and the enslavement and exploitation of Blacks. That is where any serious discussion of race matters in the US must begin and topics to which it must return.

            The loot is the main issue, folks; relatively speaking, all else is distraction.

            Look, it's nice if people admire and like you and potentially dangerous if people hate you. Still, what is crucial for minorities is whether or not and how much you really have to care what other people think. Keep your eye on the prize, and the most initial prize is political clout and social status — as in, initially and largely, money: if you have enough of it, you can laugh off the bigots.

            Sticking with Blacks here: much of the wealth of the United States came from extorted Black labor during slavery and to a lesser but significant extent under Jim Crow. That's the loot when it comes to African-Americans, or the main body of it, and some of us shared the loot far more than others. White folks tend to have more wealth than Black folks in large part because White folks inherited almost all of the loot.
            The serious question is what, if anything White and Black Americans — and the various blends of Americans — are going to do about that.

            Freed slaves didn't get "Forty Acres and a Mule," and figuring out a contemporary equivalent will be very difficult; actually doing anything will be painful for a lot of people because it involves reparations, which means taking some of the stolen property and giving it back.

            So let us enjoy righteous indignation against Donald Sterling and throw in Cliven Bundy, the songsters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon of Oklahoma U, and other such, and rejoice in the fall of Sterling and perhaps when the Federal Marshalls stop Mr. Bundy from going from deadbeat racist to insurrectionist. But let's keep the party fairly quiet, and brief.

            Then we can get down to serious discussion of who has what and how they and we got it: what to do with the loot from Grand Theft Continental, with lethal violence, against the AmerIndians, and kidnapping, murder, and crimes against humanity against the ancestors — some quite recent — of African-Americans.
            That's the issue — not the attitudes and blather of bigots.

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