When the initial reporting of the Clippers owner's remarks began, I was shocked. How could a man who owned an NBA team allow himself to think the way he does AND allow himself to be recorded making these remarks? It's 2014! The guy is a billionaire! What's wrong with the guy? He's in L.A. for Pete's sake--does the name 'Mark Furman' ring a bell, Donnie? When Johnnie Cochran got the detective to admit that he had used the N-word sometime in his life, Mr. Sterling 'shoulda took the hint.':
"Don't say nuthin', won't be nuthin.'"
As the days went on, certain 'news' organizations wanted to turn the focus of Sterling's remarks from racism to the issue of privacy. 'How could this woman secretly record this man?' 'Whatever happened to 'free speech'?' One news program quoted a certain billionaire NBA team owner as saying he, "doesn't want to live in a country where he could say something in private and lose everything he owned." Free speech does NOT mean free from consequences. These statements make me wonder what these people who are more 'outraged' at the taping than the remarks are saying privately. Their argument seems to be that "we all say things we don't want others to hear." But "we all" do not say racist things.
A few years ago, a physician in my hospital had a reputation for holding "certain views" about "certain groups." He was a white, rich son and grandson of doctors, did a lot of charity work and had his share of humanitarian awards so rumors of his real feelings towards women, minorities, etc., were written off as jealous people trying to damage a 'great man's' image. When he found out that I was Native American, he started calling me "Red" but he "didn't mean anything by it. Don't be so sensitive." I was told.
I had heard that he only treated white people, had settled a couple of discrimination lawsuits and was married but his mistresses were always African-American. I wondered how someone like that could be granted admission privileges at this particular hospital. Money? Power? Probably. No proof of his true self? Definitely.
That all came to an end when one of his "ladies" recorded the good doctor voicing his opinions in one of their conversations and made it public. In the recording, he 'explained' the physiological reasons African-Americans are better athletes than whites. He states that he 'preferred' white patients because 'having to wear gloves to examine Hispanics and African-Americans took too much time.' Far worse things followed. At one point the woman asks him how he could say those things about black people to her when she is black and he is heard saying, "The only color than really matters is green!"
The firestorm with Mr. Sterling reminded me of this incident because it was very shocking to hear a doctor reveal his contempt for and prejudice against minorities. Unlike Sterling, this man had taken an oath to treat all people with dignity and respect. Right? Maybe like Sterling, this man felt that his life, career, wealth and accomplishments entitled him to feel the way he did.
While the fallout was nowhere near that of Donald Sterling's fall from grace, it did show certain qualities and expectations the 'rest of us' project onto people of wealth and power and what happens when we are proven wrong. We may find out that we're wrong a lot.