A Further Perspective

The Left’s Sterling Standards

It has a selective understanding of justice.

By 4.30.14

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The NBA’s tolerance of bad behavior is notorious. But Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racism gives the league a chance to discharge all of its unspent moral energies. His words, not his racist deeds as a landlord and owner (known to the league for years), will cost him his team. Prior to the release of his rants, Sterling could count on the league to overlook his racism. He even found pliable activists, eager for his donations, at the Los Angeles NAACP to give him awards.

The liberal media was happy to learn, contrary to earlier reports, of Sterling’s status as a registered Republican, though it must disappoint reporters that he is a RINO who gave to Democrats, not a Tea Partier. Sterling has now received the NBA’s equivalent of a death sentence—a lifetime ban and the almost certain loss of ownership of his team.

This is deserved, but some of the advocates for it were a little hard to take. Having covered for countless felons in the league over the years, their stance of moral superiority isn’t exactly earned. That they entrust “racial unity” to the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons doesn’t inspire much confidence either.

That the ban only now follows the revelation of Sterling’s words befits a culture in which the greatest misdeeds are thought crimes. Big shots in the NBA have survived rape or assault charges, but Sterling wasn’t going to survive a TMZ audio file—a matter of such seriousness that President Obama himself had to weigh in on it from Malaysia.

Meanwhile, the Left is using the episode, along with Cliven Bundy’s ruminations, to mock the Supreme Court’s claim last week in the Michigan affirmative action case that racism has diminished in the country. (In the 2012 campaign, Joe Biden suggested that Republicans wanted to put blacks “back in chains.” It is surprising that Biden, always looking for a chance to boast, didn’t point to Bundy’s remarks as specious vindication. No doubt in time he will.)

Convincing the country that it remains as racist as ever is always job one for the Left. Liberals need that frenzied view maintained in order to protect the reverse racism of affirmative action. Liberals would like Americans to believe that most employers and educators are covert Sterlings. This makes it easier to cast affirmative action as a never-to-be-phased-out buffer against oppression.

But the Left doesn’t feel any need to extend its concern to the oppression felt by innocent white or Asian students who must pay for the sins of the Sterlings. It treats “reverse racism” as a derisive concept. Justice John Roberts has disappointed the liberal elite by deigning to take the injustice of reverse racism seriously. His statement—“the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race”—is dismissed out of hand.

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination,” wrote Justice Sotomayor in euphemistic defense of reverse racism in last week’s dissent. Her well-advertised “empathy” doesn’t quite reach white and Asian students, who must carry the weight of those “centuries of racial discrimination.”

The preservation of a race-conscious society is an oddly proud enthusiasm for the Left, which explains the ease with which it defends the self-segregation of black colleges and exclusionary ethnic clubs and casts a blind eye to the Jeremiah Wrights while treating Sterling and Bundy as moral monsters. “Race does matter,” insisted Sotomayor in her dissent.

Given the Left’s self-segregating, race-conscious mindset, it is not surprising that one of the reactions to the Sterling scandal was a call for an all-black league. Ex-Knick Larry Johnson tweeted out: “Black people your Focusing on the wrong thing. We should be focusing on having our own, Own team own League! To For Self!!”

It would be nice to think that Sterling’s ejection is a step toward a colorblind society. But under the hectoring of Spike Lee and company, it won’t be. Their investment in racial grievance and race-conscious policies is too great. The Sterlings will deservedly disappear from polite society, or even impolite society like the NBA, but the Jeremiah Wrights won’t.

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About the Author
George Neumayr, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is co-author, with Phyllis Schlafly, of the new book, No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.