By Contributor on April 29, 2014

-- by Fred McKissack

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was right to ban L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life and fine him $2.5 million.

In case you somehow missed it, Sterling made international news this week when TMZ posted audio of racist comments he made to his girlfriend, V. Stiviano. In the recording, Sterling tells Stiviano he doesn't want her to post pictures of herself with African American men on Instagram, or bring black people to games with her.

At one point in the recording, Stiviano says, "Do you know that you have a whole team that's black, that plays for you?"

Sterling responds: "Do I know? I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them?"

At another point Stiviano says she did not remove an Instagram picture of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp because "I thought Matt Kemp is mixed, and he was OK, just like me."

"OK," says Sterling.

"He's lighter and whiter than me," says Stiviano.

"You think I'm I racist," Sterling tells her.

As Silver put it so well, Sterling's racist comments were "deeply offensive and harmful" and "simply have no place in the NBA."

Silver also appropriately apologized to Bill Russell and Magic Johnson and other NBA personalities Sterling had offended.

Under the lifetime ban, Sterling cannot attend games or practices, or set foot inside any Clippers facility, or have a role in his team's business decisions or league Board of Governors meetings. Silver also said he would "do everything in my power" to compel the NBA Board of Governors to "force a sale" of the Clippers. Sterling got the maximum fine possible from the NBA but, bigoted clod though he may be, he will leave a winner. His $15 million investment in the Clippers in 1981 will probably fetch him in the neighborhood of $1 billion.

That's billion with a B. So shed no tear for him.

The deeper story, however, is the public recognition, finally, that rank racism still festers in America.

Sterling has a long and notorious history of racist utterings, which the NBA shamefully ignored up to now. But his most recent spewings coalesce in time and space around the ramblings of Cliven Bundy. Both epitomize a basic plantation mentality -- not slavery as an accepted institution, but an accepted narrative of white superiority and black inferiority -- that is far more dangerous and pervasive than we Americans care to admit.

Sterling's comment "I give them food" shows a total lack of respect, or even understanding, that the players on the Clippers team made Sterling a rich man -- not the other way around.

While we may have legally ended slavery and sacked Jim Crow, the power of privilege, coupled with our still largely self-segregation, feeds into a racially stratified system that is morally bankrupt.

The plantation mentality didn't end with Emancipation Proclamation. It didn't end with Brown v. Board of Education. It didn't end with the March on Washington. Or the Civil Rights Act. Or the Voting Rights Act. Or when Michael Jordan won the hearts of the world.

Very few white Americans embrace blacks on an emotional level. There is still a pervasive belief that whites are smarter and work harder than blacks.

If plantation thinking were truly dead, the NBA would have dealt with Donald Sterling years ago.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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