America has begun its latest witch hunt. The newest victim is Donald Sterling, 80-year-old financial tycoon and owner of the Los Angeles Clippers NBA team. The charge is that Sterling, during a recorded conversation with his then mistress, told her not to bring black people to Clippers games, or to post pictures of herself with them on Instagram.
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His comments were general, but also specifically mentioned basketball legend Magic Johnson. Sterling was banned for life from the NBA for his comments, fined $2.5 million and may be forced to sell the Clippers. The civilized world cheers; justice has been served. But listening to the incriminating conversation – available for all to hear on the Internet – reflects a more complicated reality.
It’s a conversation between a rich elderly man and his 31-year-old lover, V Stiviano, a woman 49 years his junior.
The nature of their relationship is clear: He’s her sugar daddy, and their relationship has reached an exceptionally ugly stage. He’s emotionally distressed; she humiliates him in public. He feels that by posting pictures with famous black athletes and being friendly with them at Clippers game, she creates the impression that she’s sleeping with them. His acquaintances goad him over this, and he finds it humiliating.
It wasn’t stated clearly, but this was a private conversation – not a public announcement. Private conversations are full of subtext. There is no other way to interpret the things he said.
For example, he himself likes black people, and has no problem if she meets with them or sleeps with them in private. She can appreciate Magic Johnson, and sleep with him if she wants. He also likes Johnson, but would just prefer that she not take pictures with him, or be seen with him at the Staples Center.
Sterling made it abundantly clear during the conversation that he’s concerned with the way things look from the outside, not the way they really are. That’s a very clear distinction for him.
He has no problem that his lover is biracial; he would just prefer she create the impression that she is white or Latino. He has no problem with the fact that she likes black people and sleeps with them; he would just rather she not give that impression. That’s what was really said.
It’s a pathetic situation, and Sterling sounds completely pathetic during the conversation, his voice whiny and bitter. It’s not clear if he is a racist himself, or is only fearful of reactions from racist colleagues.
He’s a disgusting man, but he’s not up for an award from the Ku Klux Klan. An astute lawyer would get him charged with nothing more than tolerating racism. In America, such acts are met with zero tolerance.
Meanwhile, in Israel, Yair Lapid stated straight after the election last year that he would not form “a political faction with the Zoabis” [a reference to Arab-Israeli MK Haneen Zoabi]. And at Purim, Naftali Bennett said that if he were locked in a room with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, “I would send him to make coffee for all of us.”
These things were said by senior elected officials. Not private businessmen. They were said in public, not private conversations. They display a racism far more comprehensive and forceful than that of Sterling.
Sterling employs black people, as opposed to Lapid, who refuses to meet with Arabs. And Sterling would never say he’d send the black manager of his Clippers team to make coffee for everyone.
Sterling is a Jew, and that’s all Bennett and Lapid care about. The truth? Sterling would be a perfect candidate for the Israeli presidency.