Yesterday was Donald Sterling’s 80th birthday. It was not a happy one. Sterling, a California lawyer and real estate tycoon who owns the Los Angeles Clippers, has been caught in a maelstrom of controversy–not even controversy, really, just denunciation–over one or more tapes that his former girlfriend made secretly while they were arguing. The girlfriend, one of whose aliases is V. Stiviano, released the tape or tapes, perhaps seeking revenge after she was sued by Sterling’s wife to recover her community property interest in the gifts that Sterling gave to Stiviano, which included a house, two Bentleys and a Ferrari.
The more you learn about the story, the stranger it gets. If you listen to the tapes, which have been made public by TMZ and Deadspin, it is hard to make sense of them. Sterling doesn’t want Stiviano to put up photos of herself with African-Americans on Instagram or bring them with her to Los Angeles Clippers games. He says he doesn’t care if she associates or sleeps with black people, just don’t put them up on Instagram. An odd distinction! His request was motivated, evidently, by the fact that one or more of Sterling’s friends called him to comment on the Instagram photos. While Sterling never says this, reading between the lines it appears that someone must have teased him about his mistress consorting with blacks.
What makes this bizarre is that Stiviano herself is black and Mexican, a fact that she reminds Sterling of during their argument. The situation is otherworldly, in that Sterling seems not to have noticed that his own girlfriend is black. This is a screen shot from TMZ, which supplies a transcript along with the audio:
So Donald Sterling emerges as a pathetic figure: a reverse image of Othello, a doddering old man with a young black mistress who cheats on him. He understands, but asks her not to embarrass him before his friends. He may also be suffering from dementia. For a billionaire, he makes precious little sense on the tape(s). But then, most of us probably wouldn’t make much sense to outsiders if tapes of our domestic arguments were made public.
The condemnation that has been brought down on Sterling’s head is unanimous. Basketball players, rappers, pundits, politicians: all expressed disgust for the “racism” that has been unmasked. The NBA has launched an investigation. Race hustlers like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are delirious with excitement. Not a single person has defended Sterling, to my knowledge.
The story caught up with President Obama in Malaysia, where he was asked about it. (Note how strange this is: If dozens of bodies had been discovered in Sterling’s back yard and he had been discovered to be a serial killer, it never would have occurred to a reporter to bring it up.) Obama naturally used the opportunity to make a political point:
President Obama on Sunday described comments reportedly made by the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers as “incredibly offensive racist statements,” before casting them as part of a continuing legacy of slavery and segregation that Americans must vigilantly fight. …
“The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that’s still there, the vestiges of discrimination,” Obama said during a news conference in Malaysia, where he was traveling.
A billionaire asks his African-American mistress not to post certain pictures on Instagram: is that what the “legacy of race and slavery and segregation” has come down to? Are the “vestiges of discrimination” so slight that this lovers’ spat is the subject of a presidential news conference?
“We’ve made enormous strides, but you’re going to continue to see this percolate up every so often,” he added. “And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why statements like this stand out some much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves.”
Which is another way of saying, we don’t have much in the way of actual racism or discrimination to talk about (not against African-Americans, anyway), so we have to make do with this kind of petty, personal revelation.
The political motive to make Donald Sterling the poster boy for 21st century racism is obvious, but is he actually a racist? I have never met the man, but it doesn’t seem probable. He owns a basketball team on which 12 of the 14 players are black. The coach is black. Sterling has black friends, like Earvin Johnson; it was an Instagram photo of Stiviano with Johnson that precipitated the fatal argument. Johnson reacted angrily, vowing never to attend another Clippers game. Yet Sterling has long considered Johnson a friend; on the tape, he tells Stiviano that Johnson is worthy of respect.
The Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP had announced that it would soon give Donald Sterling its Lifetime Achievement award. I don’t know what he did to deserve it, but he must be a conventional liberal to be eligible. We know that he is a long-time Democrat and Democratic Party donor. But that counts for little when the opportunity to fan the flames of race arises: the NAACP has said that it will rescind the award.
So an 80-year-old man with a much younger, mixed-race girlfriend is sexually insecure–go figure! He has a friend, a negative-image Iago, who plays on his insecurity and teases him when the mistress posts pictures with black men, however innocent they may be. So the old man asks her not to do it. She can spend all day with black men and even sleep with them, he says, just don’t post photos or attend Clippers games with them. But the young woman already has one foot out the door, and she illegally records her conversation with the old man, and then turns it over to two of the most disreputable gossip sites on the internet.
This sad domestic drama has become the best evidence the Left can come up with of the ongoing legacy of slavery and discrimination. It merits denunciation by the President of the United States, who locates the old man’s sad story in the grand sweep of history.
On the tape, Donald Sterling says, “I love the black people.” I can’t vouch for his sincerity, but there is nothing in the DMZ/Deadspin tapes that belies that sentiment. It is telling that this domestic upheaval between an aging billionaire and his gold-digging, disloyal mistress represents the best the Left can come up with to support its claim that racism and the “legacy of race and slavery and segregation” are alive and well. As for Sterling, he is merely collateral damage. That Lifetime Achievement award was almost in his grasp, when he became more useful to the Left as a villain. Something tells me, however, that Stiviano will land on her feet.