Robin Abcarian: Sterling, Bundy show that racism is still alive

05/01/2014 12:00 AM

04/30/2014 5:37 PM

So a white NBA team owner walks onto a cattle range.

Strike that.

A white rancher walks into a sports arena.…


I’m trying to wring some grim humor out of the news, but I’m getting my racists all mixed up.

Maybe there’s just not a whole lot that’s funny about two creepy old white guys getting caught on tape with their racist pants down.

Unless you count the fact that one of them, apparently, was about to get a lifetime achievement award from the NAACP – now that’s funny – while the other is a hero to conservatives for defending the Constitution of a government he claims does not even exist.

What we really have here is a master class in how American racism is still alive. It’s at home on the range and, incredibly, courtside at the NBA, where three-quarters of the players are black.

“We’ve made enormous strides,” President Obama said Sunday when he was asked about the Donald Sterling controversy. “But you’re going to continue to see this percolate up every so often, and I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, and teaching our children differently.”

So, I guess we owe Sterling, the Los Angeles Clippers’ 80-year-old owner, and 67-year-old Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy our thanks for giving us the opportunity to show our children how racism expresses itself in the 21st century.

Sterling, who was banned from the NBA Tuesday by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, is a man who feigns brotherly love in public, but appears to spew racial toxins in private.

“You want me to have hate towards black people,” says Sterling’s girlfriend, V. Stiviano, in the recording of an apparent lovers’ quarrel.

“I don’t want you to have hate,” Sterling says. “That’s what people do. They turn things around. I want you to love them – privately. In your whole life, every day, you can be with them. Every single day of your life. But why publicize it on the Instagram, and why bring it to my games?”

Is it bizarre that the long-married Sterling, who has a history of being accused of racism, dates a woman who describes herself as half-black and half-Mexican?

Indiana Pacers power forward David West nailed the dynamic in a brutal tweet: “Sterling basically articulated Plantation Politics.… Make money off the Bucks/Lay with the Women/No Association in Public good or bad.”

Unlike Sterling, who would probably never say publicly what he is accused of saying privately, Bundy has no compunction about expressing his racist views in public, precisely because he’s too dim to understand that what he’s saying is offensive.

In Bundy’s view, he’s just explaining when he attributes black underemployment to the loss of skills that were acquired during slavery. “They never learned to pick cotton,” he said. “And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves?”

On Stiviano’s tape, Sterling says: “Hispanics feel certain things toward blacks. Blacks feel certain things toward other groups. It’s been that way historically and it will always be that way.”

I’ll give the last word to a man whose very life refutes the notion that how it’s always been is how it always has to be.

“When ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance,” Obama said Sunday, “you don’t really have to do anything. You just let ’em talk.”

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