Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Any Sterlings here?

Donald Sterling, the suddenly infamous owner of the NBA team, Los Angeles Clippers, has been caught out being racist and now finds himself having to sell his team and dissociate himself entirely from basketball. Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner has fined him $US2.5 million and, on top of that, banned him from all association with both the Clippers and the NBA for life. But since he is 80, the last punishment will unfortunately not be as severe as warranted.

Let him go! And all others like him!

But I must ask, What would happen if we discovered highly-placed people like him in our midst? I mean, if we were to catch them unawares on tape or video declaring their racism, not merely suspect them to be racist bigots, and able to broadcast it to the whole wide world.

Racism is always vile, ugly, and exploitative, but Sterling’s racism, which, it turns out, was evident long before now, is all the viler, uglier, and more exploitative for being conducted in 21st century America and, by extension, 21st century Earth. America remains, in widespread popular perception at least, the ultimate in melting pots and democracies, and here is an American man, a rich white old American man, who has benefitted to the tune of millions of dollars on the strength of the amazing talents of mostly black basketballers, protesting to his non-white girlfriend that she should not be bringing black people to ‘my games’, or be posing with black people on social media like Instagram, not even celebrities like Magic Johnson, and thereby occasioning him social embarrassment.

But even before this expression of outrageous racism, he was found to have discriminated against Blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities in the provision of housing; and he was alleged to have said, ‘Black tenants smell and attract vermin.’ Also, he had to pay $2.73 million in a Justice Department suit that accused him of discriminating against blacks, Hispanics, and families with children renting property belonging to him.

For his current affront, the whole basketball world has been coming down on him. For example, Magic Johnson called it a shame, vowed not to attend any Clippers game so long as he remained the owner, and is even looking to buy the team. LeBron James says such conduct does not belong in ‘our’ NBA. And a very angry Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reacted as follows:

‘Racists deserve to be paraded around the modern town square of the television screen so that the rest of us who believe in the American ideals of equality can be reminded that racism is still a disease that we haven’t yet licked.’

Well, the digitisation of information has made sure that the whole world knows about Sterling’s wretched conduct and, before its power, he cannot but leave basketball entirely. He might be forgiven, but he is not to stay in his station.

So back to the question. What if we were to catch, say, a politician, or sports administrator, or the chairman of a State enterprise expressing his racism in a supposedly secret space?

We know that there is racism in the distribution of contracts, in the appointment of members and chairpersons to state boards, in the employment and disemployment of people in public sector jobs. But either we have never really been able to prove it, or else we are not sure we can build an airtight case against it. But we are sure that we see moves that tell us that some people are preferred to others on the basis of race in critical areas of life. And we know that this does not happen only under Afro-dominated governments or Indo-dominated ones.

But we have never really heard - have we? - any politician declaring their racism in a way similar to Sterling’s. So if we caught a politician unawares, and we digitised the deception and sent it over the web, what would happen?

He couldn’t send his lawyers after anybody. He couldn’t prevail on any court of law to prevent what has already been done or stop its continuing dissemination. He could deny it is his voice but nobody would believe him, not even the Prime Minister.

So he would have to resign, wouldn’t he? Or the Prime Minister would have to fire him, wouldn’t she? Perhaps the Government would also have to resign?

When Glenn Ramadharsingh did his foolishness on an airbridge flight in full view of other passengers, he had to resign or be fired. There was no doubt about his abuse of power, everybody came to know about it, and the Prime Minister had to get rid of him. There might have been forgiveness but there was no longer any station for him. When Sacha Singh accused Chandresh Sharma of causing her to hit her head and black out in a public place and the matter came to be known far and wide, Sharma had to go.

Again, there might have been forgiveness, but his station had evaporated.

There are certain things that simply disallow continuation in a station. A politician caught expressing racism against Afros or Indos is one of them. If we caught him, we would nail him to the cross, and let him bleed out, wouldn’t we?

But this is idle, vexatious talk. No matter how intemperate his manner is, our politician can’t be caught. We have been diligent but we have found no Sterlings in Trinidad and Tobago, have we?