To us Jamaicans, American racism is a puzzling phenomenon. I won’t pretend that Jamaica is – and always has been – free of racism. But, in Jamaica, it has been more a question of shade prejudice than color prejudice.
I suppose it was the legacy of slavery, when the biracial children of slave owners were privileged, some even being declared “white by law” to protect them from being sold like cattle.
Whatever the roots of Jamaican prejudice might have been, I am sure that in this day and age, more than five decades after Independence and nearly seven decades after “adult suffrage,” the vast majority of Jamaicans – of all shades and ethnic backgrounds – unquestioningly accept each other as having equal rights.
So I am startled when I read remarks attributed to Americans like Donald Sterling and Clive Bundy. Surely, they can’t be serious?
Who would seriously suggest – as Bundy did – that black Americans might have been better off during slavery because, at least, they had cotton to pick back then?
What reasonable human being would indulge in the kind of jealous rant that Sterling delivered because his girlfriend posted a picture of herself with Magic Johnson on the Internet?
People often reveal their true feelings when they’re emotionally upset, as the owner of the LA Clippers obviously was. In hyperbole, of course, but true nevertheless.
Sterling is an old white man with a young multiracial girlfriend. Naturally, he is insecure and suspicious. But isn’t it a paradox that he is so jealous of a girl who is half black and half Hispanic that he lashes out at her by attacking all black Americans?
I know, I know, Sterling has been guilty of racial discrimination in his housing projects. There’s no doubt that he harbors an aversion to black people. And black people should, in return, avoid working or associating with him. If I were a professional basketball player, for example, I would do my best to quit the Clippers and play for some other NBA owner.
I bet in his heart of hearts, Sterling must know his racism is wrong.
Do all American racists know they’re wrong? Of course not. Those crazy white supremacists who showed up at the Bundy ranch with loaded guns probably think they’re engaged in some kind of holy crusade. That’s what the Nazis believed, wasn’t it?
I am far more troubled by the racism of the militia members than I am by the foolish ravings of rich old coots like Sterling.
I am even more alarmed by the systemic racism in America’s law enforcement and justice systems, even in the Supreme Court. The deep-rooted racism of the nation’s highest court has expressed itself in such horrific ways as dismantlement of the Voting Rights Act, upholding Michigan’s ban on Affirmative Action and granting corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns.
Sterling and Bundy are relics of the past. The law enforcement system and the courts are custodians of the future.
Also endangering America’s future is a prurient strain of racism that persists in the nation’s politics. The Republican Party has found that in the wake of Barack Obama;s election, they can use white resentment to win votes, especially in the South, the West and the rural Midwest.
To me, that is far more troubling than Donald Sterling’s rant or Clive Bundy’s idiocy.
But I am confident that America will reject Republican policies when voters recognize them for what they are. This nation elected – and reelected – a black president, after all.
(AP photo above is from Dec. 19, 2010, and shows Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his girlfriend, Vanessa Stiviano, watching the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers.)