Sterling and Bundy: And the Racist Beat Goes On

Updated May 15, 2014

It was just a year ago when millions of Americans were reacting to the crass, old-style racism of former celebrity chef Paula Deen. If you followed the story, you know what happened to her career in the aftermath. That being said, earlier this year, she inked a $75 million dollar deal with an investment company to oversee what remains of her former empire. I guess it safe to say that Deen is yesterday’s news.

Now, we are being inundated with the racism of a clueless rancher and NBA team owner. To be honest, there was and has been so much intense coverage of Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling that I had initially decided that I was not going to discuss the issue. The story had been covered from so many angles that it seemed that all bases had been covered.

Bundy is the anti-government cattle rancher whose actions sparked armed confrontation against federal agents. He denounces minorities for receiving welfare and other government benefits, yet he has been a prime beneficiary of government subsidies for more than two decades. The situation seems to have subsided for the moment.

However, as we go into week three of the Sterling story, it seems that this is not going away anytime soon. It seems that the mainstream media and much of the nation are infatuated with Sterling, his mistress and the estranged wife soap opera. It is a real-life Tinseltown story and it is getting more bizarre by the day as the result of the continuous stream of interviews and “leaked” recorded phone conversations.

Both men have managed to reignite the all too common divisive issue of race with their acerbic comments. The 60-something Nevada rancher and the callous octogenarian businessman have kept the 24/7 news cycle of media running non-stop with ongoing, in many cases, vehemently blunt revelations.

In the case of Bundy, his misguided, nostalgic belief that slavery was a good thing for Black people (for the record, Paula Deen apparently has an affinity for slavery as well, or at least slave-themed weddings) in that their family structure was more intact demonstrates the most blatant form of ignorance. Bundy was and is obviously unaware of the undeniable havoc that the institution of slavery wrecked upon millions of Black families ― socially, economically and psychologically. Perhaps some factual reading on the topic is in order for him.

Sterling initially made international headlines with his “private” conversation he engaged in with his now estranged girlfriend/mistress, V. Stiviano, pleading with her not to be publically seen with Black athletes or Black people in general, yet he granted her his “permission” to sleep with Black men as long as she did so in private. His approach is very similar to many White men in positions of power who have historically bedded Black women, and, in a number of cases, impregnated them, but dared not be seen in public with them. Some did, however, secretly financially compensate the women — as did Sterling.

Speaking of financial matters, Sterling has recently remarked that it would have been more prudent of him to buy off Stiviano with “hush money.” Really? Well, well, well. It is too late for that now. Moreover, wouldn’t that be an admission of wrongdoing?

What is even more interesting is that many people are using Sterling’s and Bundy’s ages, 67 and 82, as a reason as to why they should not be judged so harshly for their retrograde comments and beliefs. Sorry, folks. These are men who have lived thorough enough historical events, the civil rights movement, the modern feminist movement, integration of workplaces and other historic milestones. The “they are old men” argument does not fly here. In fact, Bundy was a young man when dramatic, revolutionary changes of the 1960s and 70s occurred in our nation. Sterling was in his 30s. Their ages are not suitable justification for such draconian attitudes. Interestingly, the “she is an older woman” argument was the same defense mounted by supporters of Paula Deen. She was 67 at the time. It did not fly then and it does pass the credibility test with these two men.

As any racially aware person knows, Bundy, Deen and Sterling are far from outliers. They are people (in the case of Deen and Sterling, public figures) who have been exposed voicing sentiments that millions of other everyday people do on a daily basis.

Another, an even more important factor is that, even those, both public and private citizens, who have recently, justifiably, and passionately condemned the vile sentiments of both men, are often silent when it comes to tackling the more damaging forms of systematic and structural racism that has a significant, negative impact on the lives of far too many Black and brown people. Where is the similar outrage directed toward poverty, high incarceration rates, abnormally high unemployment, subpar and financially inadequate school systems, bias and negative treatment in the criminal justice system, the workplace and other related forms of injustices? This is something that has to change.

None of us who are attuned to the history of our nation and human nature in general are under the illusion that we will reach a racial utopia anytime soon or most likely ever. The Cliven Bundys, Paula Deens and Donald Sterlings always will be with us. That being said, bigotry aside, all of us committed to justice must continue to make a vigilant effort to combat racial prejudice in all forms both subtle and overt.