If you’ve plugged in any electronic device or spent even a second watching the news this week, you probably know about the racist remarks allegedly made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. In a tape surreptitiously recorded by Sterling’s now ex-girlfriend, V. Stiviano, Sterling can be heard making a host of offensive and racist remarks.
He allegedly requests that his girlfriend avoid bringing African-Americans to Clippers games and that she refrain from taking photos with or being seen in public with racial minorities. In a separate recording, Sterling allegedly remarks that black Jewish people are “a hundred percent” less than white Jewish people, and that blacks are treated “like dogs” in Israel.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver responded to the leaked tapes by banning Sterling from NBA games for life. He’s also stated that he wants to force Sterling to sell his team.
This isn’t the first time Sterling has been accused of racism. In fact, in 2006, ESPN published a story with the headline “Sterling’s Racism Should Be News.” Sterling has been sued for housing discrimination at least twice, and in 2009 the Justice Department ordered him to pay a $2.75 million settlement for housing discrimination—the largest settlement the Justice Department has ever obtained for such discrimination. Elgin Baylor, a former Clippers executive, filed a discrimination suit against Sterling in 2009, and stories of Sterling’s racist remarks are legion.
Although it’s easy enough to find stories of Sterling’s allegedly overtly racist behavior, the attitudes conveyed in the most recent tape convey prejudice that necessarily affects daily behavior. Even players who didn’t experience overt racism may still recall subtle instances of racism. Sociologists call this type of covert racism microaggression.aggression that a Tumblr page dedicated to racial microaggression has thousands of followers. Racially privileged people engage in microaggression any time they practice a behavior that makes racial minorities feel unwelcome or unsafe.
Examples of microaggression include:
- Racist jokes
- The use of racist epithets or knowing use of offensive language
- Making unwarranted assumptions about a person’s behavior or background because of the color of his or her skin
- Silencing racial minorities by dominating work or classroom discussions or frequently interrupting a racial minority
- Treating a person as a representative of an entire group solely because of the color of his or her skin
- Dismissing claims of racism
- Giving subtle preference to people who share your racial background or skin color
Over time, these microaggressions can affect everything from self-esteem to work and educational performance. A team overseen by Sterling may have allowed such aggression to proliferate for years, if not decades.
Equally important, though, is the reminder Sterling provides to all members of racially privileged groups: It’s easy for privileged people to forget about the racism and aggression minorities experience on an everyday basis. Sterling’s recording doesn’t have to be just another reminder of an unjust world. It can be a wake-up call that each and every one of us needs to monitor the way we treat others and ensure that we don’t allow our own biases to harm others.
- Berman, M. (2014, April 28). Why the world finally noticed Donald Sterling’s appalling history. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/04/28/why-the-world-finally-noticed-donald-sterlings-appalling-history/
- Haaretz. (2014, April 28). NBA’s Donald Sterling tells girlfriend, ‘In Israel, blacks are treated just like dogs’ Retrieved from http://forward.com/articles/197191/nbas-donald-sterling-tells-girlfriend-in-israel-bl/
- Jones, B. (2006). ESPN.com: Page 2 : Sterling’s racism should be news. Retrieved from http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=jones/060810
- Microaggressions. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.fordham.edu/academics/office_of_research/research_centers__in/center_for_teaching_/the_art_of_teaching/microaggressions_89343.asp
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