Donald Sterling vs. Systemic Racism: It’s OK, We Can Talk About Both

Race Manners: “Why are you spending all this time trying to fan a flame that isn't worth the effort?” We unpack this and more in a Facebook Q&A about the Los Angeles Clippers owner’s alleged anti-black comments.  

Los Angeles Clippers players sit on the bench wearing their warm-up tops inside out in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Golden State Warriors during the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena April 27, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. The players wore theirs warm up this way in protest of owner Donald Sterling’s racially insensitive remarks. Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Keisha Bell: Having learned that “Sterling” was born with the last name “Tokowitz” and changed it when he became an adult, I wonder how much of his thought process is related to his Jewish personal, family and/or historical experience and if this is an example of modern-day “passing.” If it is such an example, I wonder if it would show him in a different light and/or if the opinions projected on him would be retargeted to the institutionalized systems of racism that have been prevalent in this country for generations.

Jenée D Harris: Interesting take. I wouldn’t doubt that there’s a lot of pain and insecurity in his life that has informed his current outlook (in fact, I think a lot of racism is fueled by fear and insecurity), and that he’s been impacted by bigotry in the world around him. But I think it would be tough to tell a story in which he’s a sympathetic character who’s a victim of systemic racism, when so many others in that same system have managed to find some decency within themselves.

Keisha Bell: But isn’t that a thought question concerning a lot of minorities who don’t “make it out” of poor economic conditions by those who either did succeed or by those who never faced such conditions … the comparison of “Demetrius” made it out, so why not “Tyrone”? “Tyrone” may not get the sympathy, but that doesn’t change the fact that systemic racism affected them both; its manifestation on life is just different …

Read more of the chat (including a debate about whether Muhammad Ali is a good model for the Clippers players’ response) here.

Read more at The Root:

LA Clippers Stage Silent Protest Against Owner’s Alleged Racist Remarks

NBA Enabled LA Clippers’ Owner and Now Must Oust Him

Donald Sterling’s Long History of Racism and Offensive Remarks

Donald Trump Goes After ‘Very, Very Bad Girlfriend’ for ‘Baiting’ Donald Sterling