Donald Sterling was recently recorded telling his Afro Latin girlfriend to keep her associations with other blacks to herself behind closed doors. Sterling, now former owner of the Clippers Pro Basketball Team has earned billions of dollars from the blood sweat and tears of black athletes, many of whom thought Sterling to be a friend and mentor, only to discover recently that he secretly loathes them.
Talk show host D.L. Hughley posed the supposition that most white men of a certain age hold racist views and most of the call ins to his syndicated radio show agreed with him. I hope that most of you have had an opportunity to hear the exchange between Sterling and his former girlfriend. Sterling cajoled her to keep her relationships with blacks out of the public eye, mainly because he didn’t want to deal with the acrimony his friends heaped upon him after seeing a photo of her and Magic Johnson on Instagram.
Hughley also criticized Cliven Bundy, a cattleman angry at the US Government. He suggested that black people were better off as slaves because picking cotton was a skilled trade and now that we have lost our former skills we flounder in the wilderness of poverty, apathy and ignorance.
I know both of these men. My drinking buddy for over 10 years was someone I describe to others as “the whitest man I’ve ever known”. We managed to be friends despite the constant rhetoric that spewed form his mouth. For a decade, I tolerated his bigoted jokes, even repeated some of them; attended parties he hosted at his home for his ‘One Percenter’ buddies and came to understood the roots of his arch conservative political views. It didn’t take me long to realize that ‘racist posturing’ was for the outside world and for his cronies. He was consciously upholding a point of view that had been passed down from his father, after the old man had accumulated some wealth and stature, here in America.
I loved ‘the whitest man I knew’ because of our relationship. We took care of each other as often as men can do that sort of thing. When we went to one of his watering holes where we were sure to encounter his old cronies he would introduce me as his “body guard”. I would go along with his charade because in reality I would physically defend him against any threat we might encounter in the mean streets of Detroit. I would also defended him, on occasion, when our black female co-workers verbally attacked him because of the caustic remarks he would make in their presence just to make them angry.
I am not without sin, therefore I no longer criticize others for their perceived bigotry. I know that I often say things about others that I really don’t believe intellectually. I know that it feels good when I ‘vent’ by calling someone a name privately that I would never dare utter publicly.
“Men change masters willingly, hoping to better themselves; and this belief makes them take arms against their rulers…..” Machiavelli
I grew up in a time of heightened awareness for black men and women. I marched with King because my parents demanded it but when I grew into manhood, I sided with Saint Malcolm because I’ve never been able to embrace pacifism. I eagerly bought into the Pan Afrikan dogma of the 60’s and 70’s that I am descended from hunters and warriors not tillers of the soil. I went to the Black Panthers lair, the Black Topographical Center on Linwood and the Shrine of the Black Madonna in search of information about liberating black people.
As time moved forward, I found far too many people with personal agendas and few with sound economic and political strategies to advance our people. Brothas in dashikis were selling heroin in our community while exhorting Pan Afrikanism, the Panthers had white women waiting on them hand and foot in their lair and the leaders of the movement were selling their souls for government jobs.
My time at the university enlightened my world view. I developed a better understanding of the mechanics of oppression. I became less militant and more focused on proactive ways to effect change through working within systems. I graduated and got a job that allowed me to be part of the solution to some of societies’ problems.
At the beginning of my professional career. I became active in the largest independent union in the country. I learned the mechanics of power and watched as many in power became corrupted. I saw in action Lord Acton’s assertion that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
I don’t care if Donald Sterling and Clive Bundy mean what they say about blacks. They are relics representative of belief systems that will die along with them. In any event, their day to day actions do not reflect their words, which is the height of hypocrisy and therefore not worthy of serious consideration. Only a fool gives power to meaningless words!
When I attended my friend’s funereal, I kept looking at the entrance of the church just waiting for his mulatto child to break through the door, like that scene in the movie Imitation Of Life! That drama never occurred that day to the chagrin of several of us that knew him well because I knew deep down inside that he loved many black people, some in a biblical sense. His actions not his word told me who he was not the comic rhetoric that spewed from his mouth daily. Most men say one thing then do something quite different behind closed doors.
At the end of the day, I hope to be judged by my actions and hope that my actions are not misinterpreted.