"They can all kiss my behind," Boumani Jones rants (video, below), righteously and rightfully, on ESPN last week about Donald Sterling.
No fan of Sterling, Jones called out the Los Angelos Clippers' owner several years ago for housing discrimination. In the wake of Sterling's bigoted remarks and subsequent punishment last week, Jones notes "That stuff is for real; you're going to talk to me about what's going on with Donald Sterling and his mistress?"
"That stuff," Jones explains, long has been in play, though given insufficient attention. Decades ago, on the heels of the great black migration from the rural American south to cities in the northeast and upper Midwest, white people moved to the suburbs. In what became known as the nation's most segregated large city, Jones recalls, Chicago officials built a freeway system so that whites in the suburbs could get to their jobs downtown while bypassing black neighborhoods which the highways ran through, and divided. That is the "biggest reason," he maintains "we have all these dead children in Chicago, fighting for turf, fighting for real estate."
It would be nitpicking to mention that Jones neglects the interstate highway system, especially because he recognizes the role of transportation. The destruction of urban black neighborhoods aided and abetted by wealthy men in the real estate industry is "for real" and lost in the revulsion and convulsion over the remarks of an owner, who made his billions partially by racially discriminatory real estate practices
Jones, who asks rhetorically of Sterling "you would rather have your woman sleep with Magic Johnson than take a picture with him?", is one of the few people who noticed Sterling told his girlfriend she can have sex with black men but not be seen in public with them. Jones notes
He didn't say he didn't want black people coming to his games. He didn't say he didn't want Magic Johnson coming to his games with black people. He said he didn't want his woman out there with black people- because that would be embarrassing to him. And most of the racism he talked about in that call... now you tell me right now if you believe for a second that Donald Sterling young black dudes or black dudes of any type that he's the only one who would have any problem.What he said was "this is how things go with the rich people I hang out with and the rich people I hang out with don't want their woman hanging out with black people even if she is black."
It's not only Donald Sterling, and it's not only race. Writing in a vein similar to Jones' argument, Salon's Andrew O'Hehir (pronounced as the airport) understands
Maybe Stern and Silver tolerated the obviously despicable Donald Sterling for such a long time because no NBA owners were terribly anxious to attract scrutiny to the extent, or the origins, of their wealth. There’s no such thing as clean money for people who have that much of it, and almost every NBA owner hit it big in some predatory industry: banking, real estate, venture capital, private equity, commodity trading and so on. (Denver Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke took a more direct route, marrying a Wal-Mart heiress.) Do they really want all their past business deals explored, and all their private off-color conversations exhumed, as has now happened with Sterling? Do the trendy fans of the trendy Brooklyn Nets really want to know how owner Mikhail Prokhorov accumulated his billions, seemingly overnight, from the privatization of the Soviet Union’s natural resources?
While Jones notes Sterling is "an easy punching bag," O'Hehir similarly remarks "no one's heart should bleed for Donald Sterling." But he knows
this saga does not in fact show America at its best, and does not demonstrate how far we have come and what enlightened attitudes we now hold. It demonstrates something entirely different: Our eagerness to be distracted by symbolic narratives that embody a lot less meaning than they seem to, rather than confronting conditions of genuine social crisis and economic contradiction.
Denouncing Donald Sterling does not, as Jones insists, address housing discrimination nor- as O'Hehir maintains- in any way "address the bizarre racial dynamics of American sports, and still less the institutional racism of society." But it does make us feel warm all over. O'Hehir recognizes a "scapegoat, whose ritual sacrifice may make us feel better about ourselves." In like manner, Jones slams
the only opportunity that a lot of people out here will have where they feel comfortable within their souls and within their psyches to stand against racism because it's so easy to do it on this right here and it's so scandalous. It's such a funny story when it comes to it right there so everybody is like... my chance to speak out on racism because when the next time comes and it's real racism... that's when you get to pop up and be like "but wait, I said something about Donald Sterling."
Jones and O'Hehir were commenting on the condemnation of Donald Sterling. But they were inadvertently, unintentionally referring also to the election of Barack Obama, which has given rise to the self-satisfied contention that the nation could not possibly be racist. We elected a black man as President! That one act, resulting primarily from the revulsion of the American people to eight years of failed conservative Repub leadership, evidently has given license to many individuals and interest groups to oppose anything the President proposes, and almost anything they think he believes.
There is a close correlation between individuals who opposed Senator Obama's candidacy and those who assert that racism has been banished from society That has been a malady of the right. Now, among so many others, the same instinct has reared its ugly head because we have snatched the low-hanging fruit and run Donald Sterling out of town.