What a way to knock that racist Nevada rancher out of the headlines. Only days past anarchist Cliven Bundy showing himself to be what President Barack Obama characterized as "ignorant folks advertising their ignorance," Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling appeared to be caught on tape espousing what Washington Post columnist Clinton Yates called a "plantation mindset."
And while the NBA scrambled to investigate the Sterling case, with a major news conference on the matter planned for 2 p.m. Tuesday, Duke University cultural anthropologist Orin Starn, who has written extensively on sports in America, was struck by how the country "lurches from one racial scandal to another.
"Before Sterling, there was Don Imus," Starn said. "And before Don Imus, there was Al Campanis. And before Al Campanis, there was Earl Butts. And the irony is that nothing ever seems to get fixed. All the professors and pundits and columnists make pronouncements, and then we go back to the same old arrangements. It has this kabuki theater to it, everybody playing their parts, with an 80-year-old owner who turns out to be a bigot this time. It seems we're on this treadmill of racial issues."
Yates, in a Monday appearance on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show, cited "the whole notion of plantation politics . . . a woman [of black and Mexican descent] with whom [Sterling] apparently had some sort of romantic relationship. He had no problem being involved with her in that manner, but doesn't want her to affiliate with people he doesn't deem worthy enough to come to his games -- people he employs in a manner that makes money for him."
To Starn, "It's just another example of racism hiding in plain sight. It's a league with a white commissioner, 29 of 30 white owners, wealthy white fans in sky boxes watching young black men play the game. The plantation analogy can be stretched too far, but it is true these racial divisions are staring at us in plain sight."