In the wake of Sterling’s alleged recorded comments demonstrating his racism, major sponsors for the Clippers are now pulling out, and the NBA may be considering suspending Sterling for “conduct detrimental to the league.” Fans are boycotting the games and merchandise. The NBA could eventually put enough pressure on Sterling as to essentially force him to sell the team.
People are comparing Sterling’s remarks to Bundy’s, but I see an even more appropriate comparison: Brendan Eich.
Now, Sterling has been accused of institutional racism for years, most notably in two suits brought against him, one for housing discrimination (favoring Korean tenants over blacks and Hispanics), and one for pay discrimination. Both involved allegations of racist remarks by Sterling, but there was no definitive proof. His contributions to an array of minority advocacy groups may have smoothed over the ruffled feathers—enough, apparently, that Sterling was about to receive his second lifetime achievement award from the NAACP.
How does this compare to Eich? Well, keep in mind that there was no firestorm over Sterling until the recording was made public. While it hasn’t been positively proven as genuine, there is little doubt regarding its authenticity. And now pretty much everyone has started shutting down their relations with the man, leading to much harsher consequences than Eich suffered. Remember, there was relatively mild reaction to Eich—employees and users protested, and one company disallowed Mozilla’s browser. In response to Sterling, however, fans are in an uproar, employees are protesting, virtually all sponsors are pulling out, and the league is probably going to get involved.
In Sterling’s case, we suspect that he was discriminating against minorities, while at the same time, we know he was helping them in other ways. The key point is that no great public outrage happened until there was evidence of a racist belief; the charges of actual discrimination have been around for years, and never sparked anything like what we see today.
Eich is usually defended on the basis that only his beliefs are in issue—so how is that not equivalent?
In Eich’s case, however, we know that he not only believed that gays should be denied the civil right of marriage, but that he wanted that discrimination written into law. Not just applied to people he dealt with directly, but to one of the most populous and influential states in the country.
Naturally, the two cases do not line up perfectly, but I find it hard to see how the reaction to Eich is unjustified if the reaction to Sterling is justified—unless you consider discrimination against gay people somehow more acceptable.
One common response is that the discrimination against gay marriage was more popular, that millions of people voted for it. Is that supposed to somehow make it better?
Tell me, if Eich had contributed to a bill that would have made it illegal for non-whites to get married, would the reaction have been different? Would it have been more OK if millions of people had sided with such a proposal?
An amusing side note: though Sterling was already drowning out the Bundy story, conservatives did not waste a minute pointing out that Sterling is a “Democrat donor,” and that “100%” of his political donations are to Democrats. See? Democrats are racist! And hypocrites!
What they don’t mention is that Sterling has been a registered Republican for the past 16 years.
They don’t mention that the donations to Democrats were made 22 and 24 years ago and amounted to all of $4000.
They also do not mention that Sterling made a grand total of three donations to three politicians. Two of them—Bill Bradley and Patrick Leahy—were basketball players before becoming politicians. How about that. For all we know, the NBA or someone within the organization may have solicited the donations in order to garner support for the organization. The other donation was to a California governor. Sterling has not donated anything since then, suggesting that he is not exactly a political activist. In short, there is as much reason to believe that Sterling made the donations for pragmatic rather than political reasons.
Not that I am surprised at the conservative attempts to frame Sterling as a Democrat; it’s what conservatives do, especially when right-wingers are on edge about associations of such people with conservatives and conservative causes. Take, for example, mass shootings; whenever there is a notable mass murder involving firearms, there is a common assumption that these people are wingnuts, so conservative forums, web sites, and bloggers waste no time in labeling them as “Registered Democrats.”
A recent viral email (which made it into letters to the editor as well) identified a half dozen infamous mass murderers as “Registered Democrats”:
Adam Lanza was tagged as a “Registered Democrat” on nothing more than that Connecticut is a blue state. Lanza was said by people who knew him as politically conservative, and he was never registered to vote.
Nidal Hasan, the (first) Ft. Hood shooter, was also tagged as a “Registered Democrat”—but lived in states where there was no registration by party affiliation.
Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter, was called a “Registered Democrat” despite the fact that he was not even a U.S. citizen and thus not eligible to vote.
James Holmes, the Aurora theater shooter, was described not only as a “Registered Democrat” but also as staff worker on the Obama campaign, an Occupy Wall Street participant, and a progressive liberal. The voter registration was based on someone else of the same name. The other stuff is complete fiction made up by conspiracy theorists.
Finally, while Columbine shooters Klebold and Harris were too young to vote, their families were identified as (you guessed it) “Registered Democrats” and progressive liberals. This claim was never substantiated; the families lived in a conservative suburb; and the boys’ ideology was most marked by admiration for Timothy McVeigh. Which is not to say that they or their families were conservative, but rather to point out that what little evidence there is points in neither direction in any conclusive regard.
Versions of the email also included “Timothy McVey” (presumably Timothy McVeigh) and the Unabomber.
“McVey” is labeled as “Oklahoma City Bombing raised Democrat and pro-Union.” McVeigh was a registered Republican who also voted for Libertarian candidates. His father was a Democrat and a union member; to label McVeigh, his causes, and his inspirations as somehow influenced by ideological opposites simply due to family association is, to say the least, specious.
Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, is claimed to a “Registered Democrat and inspired by Al Gore’s Book Earth in a Balance.” Kaczynski was neither Democrat nor Republican, but a rather specific breed of anti-technology anarchist, and wrote disparagingly of “leftists.” The Gore reference is based both upon a right-wing meme that connected Kaczynski’s writings to Gore’s book, and an unsubstantiated rumor in the conservative American Spectator that FBI agents had found a heavily notated copy of Gore’s book in Kaczynski’s cabin, but this was “suppressed” to avoid embarrassing the Clinton administration. In short, more conspiracy theorist crap.
In short, just a whole lot more hooey. Not that one could expect much more from a viral right-wing email.