No fool like an old fool
It seems as if the NAACP has at least one thing in common with the young lady who has benefitted so much from her relationship with Donald Sterling, the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Neither V. Stiviono nor the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP let annoying principles stand in the way of raking in the money.
Mr. Sterling’s racist rants recently bumped a deadbeat rancher out of his number one spot on the hit parade of Notable American Bigots.
Sterling, who is 80 and tenuously married, has made life a lot more rewarding for 31-year-old V. Stiviano or Vanessa Maria Perez or Maria Monica Perez Gallegos or Carmen Miranda or whatever name she is working under at any given moment. Stiviano describes herself as an "artist, writer, lover, chef, poet, stylist, and philanthropist." You can claim all those highfalutin’ things when you’re comfortably installed in a $1.8 million duplex, have ringside seats at Clippers games, and can zoom past less successful practitioners of your core profession standing on street corners in your 2112 Ferrari.
Sterling’s (born Donald Tokowicz) now infamous rant to Stiviano about her public association with black people (the woman is half black) is not the first time that the real estate magnate has shown the ugly side of his personality. He was sued in 2003 and 2006 for housing discrimination. Both cases ended in financial settlements. The second suit, brought by the United States Department of Justice, ended in the largest settlement ever levied in a discrimination case. Sterling was able to weasel out of any admittance of wrongdoing, but he doesn’t impress me as the kind of guy who would fork over $2.7 million if there weren’t a few guilty licks of flame under all that innocent smoke.
Now, I’ll bet you are asking yourself why the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, an organization that traditionally is squarely positioned on the front lines of the struggle for equal rights for African Americans, would give a man with this kind of history not one, but two lifetime achievement awards. Isn’t that a little like giving Chris Christie an award for humility? More to the point, isn’t Clarence Thomas enough to have to deal with?
I’m sure that, as soon as the question popped into your mind, the answer couldn’t have been too far behind. Mr. Sterling has donated lots of money to the NAACP. How bigoted can a guy really be who does a great thing like that? It is surprising what an air freshener cash can prove to be, even in the case of a person who claimed that one of the reasons he doesn’t like to rent to blacks and Hispanics is that "they smell."
On May 1, Leon Jenkins, the head of the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP, tendered his resignation in the wake of the Sterling scandal, citing his opinion that the national organization shouldn’t be tainted because of a bad decision on his part. It was an admirable -- and even humble -- stance. I mean, who takes the blame for anything anymore?
It is a shame that you have to take into account the fact that Mr. Jenkins was disbarred in Michigan in 2001 because of "overwhelming evidence" that he sold his office as a judge. Jenkins was trying to get his law license back by doing great things for his people and the community. This guy sounds like he would get along just fine with Mr. Sterling, skin color or not.
The $2 million plus penalties must be something of a recurring nightmare for Sterling. That is the same amount he was fined by the National Basketball Association for his comments to the ever-pliant Ms. Stiviano. Commissioner Adam Silver didn’t mince words. In addition to the fine which, given the extent of Sterling’s net worth, is a little like getting a $100 speeding ticket to the rest of us, he is banned from attending any future games in the NBA for the rest of his life. Of course, given Mr. Sterling’s advanced age, that probably isn’t going to amount to much either, but I’ll bet it hurts a lot more than the money.
Donald Sterling won’t be ringside with His pathetic paid companion at His games watching His team anymore. He won’t get to channel his Great White Father condescension while sitting in His padded chair and expounding on how He provides the members of His team with a roof over their heads and puts food in their mouths, just like the Colonel used to do on the plantations back when those people knew their place.
Another Donald with too much money and a big mouth said that poor Mr. Sterling was just set up by a scheming jezebel, as if Stiviano, a woman with no more intelligence or self-esteem than to just lie down for a living, had somehow tricked the billionaire businessman into making his loathsome statements.
For his part, Sterling showed a complete failure to grasp even the implications of what he said. "I should have just paid her off," was his remorse-filled statement. Money again. The great American lozenge. Will penalties and banishment change a bigot like Donald Sterling? Of course not. That would be like Donald Rumsfeld admitting that devastating an entire country isn’t the best way to introduce it to democracy. But the NBA’s quick response to the hateful drivel spouted by this odious man clearly showed that there will be serious consequences and that, in itself, is evidence of a big step forward.
Alden Graves is a Banner columnist.
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