This weekend, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught on tape telling his then-girlfriend V. Stiviano that she shouldn't publicly associate with "minorities" because it's unbecoming. While Sterling had a problem with his girlfriend publicly associating with minorities, he certainly had no problem privately sleeping with them; Stiviano is black and Mexican. Shocking? Hardly.
Deadspin has the full, unedited 15-minute recording of Sterling and Stiviano's argument, which centered around Stiviano posting photos with Magic Johnson and other nonwhite celebrities to Instagram and doddered into incomprehensible talk of culture and Israelis treating black people "like dogs." During one portion of the tape, the contents of which have spurred serious talk that the famously racist Sterling should be kicked out of the League and possibly forced to live on Asshole Island by himself where he's free to yell racist shit into the ether, Stiviano apologizes for her own nonwhiteness, saying she wishes she were light skinned. Sad, awful stuff.
Did I mention that Sterling has been married to someone who is not V. Stiviano this entire time?
On one hand, Sterling, who owns a team in a professional sports league where the vast majority of players are black, lecturing his biracial mistress on the moral inferiority of nonwhites reads like clueless irony at its least self-aware. But on the other, it brings into sharp relief the fallacy of claiming that dating, loving, or befriending a member of another race somehow inoculates a person against racism. "But My Husband/Wife/Best Friend/Top Performing Employee/Hookup Buddy Is Black!" is not an insurance policy against racism. In fact, in cases like Sterling's, surrounding himself with black people has only served to embolden his chainsaw-fucked world view.
Romancing or befriending someone of another race and then acting like a piece-of-shit racist is an American tradition almost as old as millionaires who claim to be devout Christians despite not having given all of their possessions to the poor. An entire branch of slave owner Thomas Jefferson's family tree consists of descendants of Sally Hemings, who equality nerd Jefferson once owned. Anti-civil rights stalwart Senator Strom Thurmond impregnated the 16-year-old black servant of his father when he was 22. She later gave birth to a daughter. George Zimmerman's got a black friend. So does freedom-lover/slavery enthusiast Cliven Bundy. The KKK member who will soon go on trial for murdering three people at a Kansas Jewish Center was once caught locked in carnal embrace with a black transgender prostitute.
People use the "black lover" defense for more minor transgressions as well. Earlier this year, Chelsea Handler was accused of racism after using 12 Years a Slave's win at the Oscars as a peg to promote her new book Uganda Be Kidding Me. She defended herself by saying she couldn't be racist, because she dates black people. Paula Deen, ever nostalgic for the Old South, defended herself against accusations of racism by presenting a Black Friend. Scott Baio acted like a dick about Michelle Obama and responded to accusations of racism by posting a photo of himself posing with his wife's best friend, an actual black person.
Racists befriending or sleeping with members of the race they disdain has been going on for so long that it almost feels like there's something beyond hypocrisy going on. It's almost as though, for the Donald Sterlings of the world, other people exist to be owned, manipulated and dominated. For fucked-in-the-head megalomaniacs, relationships, romantic and platonic, aren't opportunities for two people to relate and share, but rather for one party to own the other. There's nothing inherent in dating a member of another race that insulates a person from being racist, and it's time for that excuse to die a thousand fiery deaths. Following in its wake, hopefully, will be Sterling's career.