"Well," Sterling continued, "what kind of a guy goes to every city, he has sex with every girl, then he catches HIV and -- is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about? I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go into the background."
What kind of a man owns slaves, implements Jim Crow laws, empowers a drug war against the poor, subjugates women, discriminates against gays or denies housing to blacks and Latinos -- is that someone we want to respect and tell our kids about? That man should go into the background.
Or maybe that man should be allowed to repent and redeem himself. And maybe he should be judged in context with empathy and a full understanding of his complicated journey.
Donald Sterling is ignorant of African-Americans' complex journey. He does not know what he does not know. He has no respect for us or our flawed culture. He has little or no sincere remorse for the discriminatory manner in which he ran his real estate empire, treated Elgin Baylor as general manager of the Clippers or behaved in his private interactions with his mistress.
He sees black people as inferior to white Jews.
"The Jewish people -- the Jewish people have a company, and it's for people who want to borrow money and no interest," Sterling told Cooper. "They want to give them a fish pole -- a fishing pole. We want to help people. If they don't have money, we will loan to it you. You don't have interest. One day, you will pay us back.
"... I spend millions on giving away and helping minorities. Does [Magic] do that? That's one problem I have. Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people. And some of the African-Americans -- maybe I will get in trouble again -- they don't want to help anybody."
There are kernels of truth in Sterling's rant. I've written about black people's indifference to supporting the black institutions, particularly historically black colleges and universities, that have supported us. The reason Sterling was twice selected to receive lifetime achievement awards from the NAACP is because white Jewish people are the longtime financial supporters of the organization.
What Sterling fails to comprehend -- and many people black and white fail to understand -- is the uniqueness of our struggle in America. We were systematically pitted against each other in slavery. Our individual survival was predicated on our willingness to betray each other. We are subliminally trained to see ourselves as inferior to white people. We are socialized to hate ourselves.
I transitioned from past tense to present tense because the training and socializing have never stopped. They've taken new forms -- mass incarceration through an immoral, pointless drug war and popular culture that profits from, celebrates and mainstreams the degradation and dehumanization of black people.
It's how we went from Dr. King's generation demanding to be treated as men to a generation demanding to call itself and be treated as n-----s. It's why Doc Rivers, David Stern and everyone else were quite comfortable ignoring Sterling's documented history of housing discrimination and reprehensible treatment of Elgin Baylor. We drink from the same polluted well of bigotry as Sterling.
I get why the NBA wants Donald Sterling to go away. His transparency is overshadowing the games. I hope he sticks around until we're forced to address the elephants he keeps putting center court.