Before I begin, I'd like to issue the disclaimer that I don't want ANYONE to think that racism is more acceptable to me than HIV-phobia/ignorance. At my core, my greatest wish is to have all human beings treated with equality/respect as a matter of fact, not favor.
While it may be easy to dismiss the ramblings of the graybeards of the White Male Patriarchy as "enfeebled" or "senile," the fact of the matter is Donald Sterling is a public persona. That his infamy has skyrocketed in recent weeks testifies to that; your random racist aunt who smacktalks "the blacks" at Thanksgiving isn't about to get a call from Anderson Cooper (et al).
On the one hand, I view Donald Sterling as a poster child for "forced retirement"; on the other, I feel we need to designate an island of exile for these last vestiges of the worst of the 20th Century. These men have fringe beliefs and too much power.
When I view Donald Sterling, I cannot help but see my father, and others of his generation. NO my Dad is not racist or HIV-phobic (he also isn't a real estate gazillionaire who owns a basketball team), but he came of age in a world where straight white men ran everything, and not just 90% of it like they do today.
It's why I forgive my Dad for conflating HIV and AIDS, to this day. It's also why I roll my eyes when he starts objectifying female passers-by young enough to be his granddaughter (usually I will issue a rejoinder objectifying the rear ends of male passers-by, to make him aware of just how heteronormative he's being).
There's a lot about this Donald Sterling story (Part 1) that appears murky to me, stemming especially from that "girlfriend-slash-personal-assistant" of his. I will omit my own impressions of Stiviano's role here, however it's my belief her coming out and saying "he's not a racist" was her attempting damage control of some kind.
Just as an aside, relating to the macro issue of "My father's generation": if you're an old man, stay away from women under 35 years old. They don't love you, they never will. Additionally: it must be extremely confusing to the dying White Male Patriarchy that an old man dating a much young woman is now considered "gross," while an older woman with a younger man is now considered "empowering."
The media firestorm that erupted was tempered in more intelligent circles, being called the "self-congratulatory anti-racist back-pat." When we are provided with concrete, obtuse examples of racism, and then point that out as a society, it makes us feel better about our own questionable beliefs and actions. In THAT regard, Sterling is a whipping boy.
I would imagine that among the mega-wealthy members of the dying White Male Patriarchy, this sort of racism is common. Because Sterling "owns" a "team," it's insanely easy to see this, as Oprah did, as "a plantation mentality."
Oprah and Howard Schultz on Donald Sterling's purported racist comments
Oprah and the Starbucks CEO share their views on the controversy over the Los Angeles Clippers ...
Read on cbsnews.com
It may sound awful, coming from a younger white male (whose modern street cred comes exclusively from his homophilia), but I would generally say this problem will take care of itself -- these men represent a dying minority. In a similar vein as social conservatives right after the start of the AIDS Epidemic: this "problem" should "take care" of itself. Meaning: the White Male Patriarchy will be extinct someday. Like, within our lifetimes.
But then last night happened. In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Sterling kind of comes across as though he has a vendetta against Magic Johnson. He mentions having gone to synagogue to pray for the basketball star after "he had those AIDS," as if that excuses bigoted beliefs. Know what else, Mr Sterling? Social conservatives have been praying for AIDS forever -- to eliminate the victims, or save them, it doesn't matter. It's not a free pass and it definitely doesn't provide him with laurels to rest upon.
Donald Sterling: Magic Johnson Should be Ashamed to Have HIV
The rest of Donald Sterling's "I'm not a Racist" interview with Anderson Cooper ...
Read on gawker.com
Since this whole kerfuffle began with Stiviano posing with Johnson on Instagram, I'm starting to wonder how deep this anti-Magic Johnson sentiment of Sterling's runs. Was he uncomfortable that not only was his "girlfriend-slash-personal-assistant" posing with a black man, she was posing with someone who has HIV? I really wonder about this.
Because the way Sterling speaks on HIV/AIDS in this interview, it's extremely obvious how ignorant he is on the matter. Does he personally know that Johnson had unprotected sex with girls in every city? Or is this an assumption, on par with yesteryear's "only fags and junkies get AIDS"?
I'm not entirely inclined to give this geezer a free pass based on age; I would almost argue it's the sheltering that stratospheric wealth can lend. He views himself as the "savior" of black people in the same way a plantation owner would, yes, but the larger impression he conveys in talking about all the houses and cars he "buys for black people" is that he really doesn't interact with his employees much. Which... kinda dispels the "plantation owner" meme.
In 2 weeks from now, I've been planning on "outing" myself on social media as HIV-positive. I decided to give myself a 6-month closet to regroup and evolve before going public. As this horizon is now fast approaching, reality's anxiety has begun closing in on me. Do I really want to be so blasé about this, with people who are not much more than strangers to me? Am I really ready to have some people (yes, like Donald Sterling) treat me as a THING, and nothing more?
Yes. I am. And so I thank you, Donald Sterling.
Thank you for reminding me that stigma and bigotry have no place in 21st-century society. Because of your words, I'm reinvigorated to live my life in the sunlight, haters be damned.
The White Male Patriarchy has GOT to be allowed to fade off into the sunset ...
Read Ben's blog, A House in Virginia.