Please note that the title of this post is deliberately inflammatory. For the quote, of course, I’m referring to Donald Sterling’s “I’m not a racist” comment to Anderson Cooper while trying to justify his comments on an audio clip in which he is, well, racist. I think it’s fairly clear from the clip, the follow up clip, and all of Sterling’s misguided interviews that he is not only racist but also homophobic and misogynistic. The real problem we’re dealing with, then, is two-fold: One, that Sterling doesn’t believe he is a racist. And two, this audio clip saw the light of day. We’ll deal with problem one today.
1. a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.
2. having or showing the belief that a particular race is superior to another
That’s it. That’s the definition, folks. As Gene Demby notes on the NPR Blog for CodeSwitch (http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/05/12/311917179/donald-sterling-says-he-isnt-a-racist-is-anyone), “When we talk about racism, we’re talking about stuff like microaggressions, which can be motivated by abhorrent views and might be of relatively little significance.”
Believing you are superior to people in other races makes you a racist. Engaging in microaggressions against a person or people of a particular race (telling a woman not to post pictures of herself with Black people) makes you a racist. But Sterling, according to ESPN’s Peter Keating, has gone beyond even those, including having been sued for housing discrimination against Latinos and Blacks when he was a property owner. In short, yes, he is a racist. So why does saying that feel so incendiary?
Being labeled a racist is a stigma, evoking images of hooded men in white gathering in darkness around a flaming cross (though apparently Sterling has no qualms about telling Anderson Cooper that Cooper is “more of a racist” than he is). The legacy of racism in America does go back to the “plantation mentality” that Sterling pretends not to understand. (Okay, really, you have to watch this clip: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/13/anderson-cooper-donald-sterling-interview-reaction_n_5315117.html). Sterling knows being a racist is bad for his image. That’s the only reason I can think of for why he’s deluding himself – or trying to delude us – that he is not a racist. He is so wrapped in a world of his own privilege that his self-righteousness and entitlement is clouding his ability to see nuance. And, you know, logic.