Neuendorf: The Trickiness of Racism and Media

Zachary Neuendorf

These past few weeks, the nation has beared witness to multiple accounts of pure racism by two older white guys- one of them, Cliven Bundy, a libertarian rancher in Nevada and the other is the wealthier, more accustomed to the media, former owner of the Clippers basketball team, Donald Sterling- although I will admit I had never heard of a Donald Sterling prior to the leaking of a tape to TMZ where he condemns his girlfriend for socializing with black people.

Earlier was FOX News’s old muse Cliven Bundy’s remarks that he wondered if “the negroes were better off as slaves, picking cotton, and having a family life.” The racism is unmistakable, and both have faced the deserved consequences. Bundy has been demoted to the nation’s mascot to leftover, isolated Americana racism, a title no sane person could would take pride with.

Donald Sterling, being more powerful and prominent in culture, was required to pay a higher price for his bigotry, which makes sense considering his position in the sports world. The NBA slapped him with a $2.5 million fee and he is also received a lifetime ban from all NBA activity- including games, practices, and meetings. He will also be encouraged to sell his portion of the Clippers team, and I think, it will be the least he could do to sell the team in recognition of the despicability of his comments.

The media took shock with both of these incidents, which is interesting because their levels of racism are not all that unfamiliar to any of us. Either one has been on the receiving end of such prejudice or one has has a white great-grandpa who looks and talks an awfully lot like Cliven Bundy after he has tipped back one-too-many beers.

What is clear is that racism has changed great lengths since its extreme extroversion and action-oriented days of decades and centuries past into a word-driven hate of a generation or two ago into a more introverted, internalized, kept-in-thoughts racism that lives in more of us than we would care to admit. In short, racism exists.

I am a white guy, so are Donald Sterling and Clive Bundy- of different generations, of course, but we share what is seen as a gender and racially privileged upbringing, which I will not repudiate. Sharing these birth traits with the two fellas, I likely internalized a similar sense of superiority at a young age over those who are minorities, but thanks to the times in which I was raised, I was able to identify those prejudices and shame them to death or at least to a feebleness I can control.

An ordinary, yet magnificent ability we all possess is to use our head and think outside of the constructs the greater society has lodged into our perception of the world in order to form an opinion that contradicts with other’s ill moralities. 

Sterling and Bundy did not have this luxury or have not exercised it. Their misconceptions about race were more-so reinforced by their environment. Their comments remains inexcusable, but understanding this gives us a way to understand their racism and how amidst the disturbing reality it brings to focus, the two incidents can be interpreted as being so absurd that it is laughable.

Racism is a choice and that many of face on a very inward level on a daily, maybe even hourly basis. And it does the issue a great injustice to treat the occasional outburst of racism like it is some exotic feeling that only the evilest men in the world have. And by writing this article to coalign with the relevance of the Sterling/Bundy story, I am being a perpetuator of the subject of my criticism. It is a tricky cycle to break.

Sterling was punished because he was caught- his punishment was on behalf of the NBA to save face. What is unbelievable is that Sterling has never expressed these opinions before now in a setting in which people from the NBA would take notice and be able to punish him. There is no way Sterling has been careful enough to veil his racism since 1981.

Oh, yeah that is right, he hasn’t. He was found to have been practicing in discriminatory housing by refusing to rent to black and Hispanic families and he is no stranger to racial slurs.

It is a sad day when we have to rely on TMZ to get the ball rolling on social progress.