Donald Sterling Is Low Hanging Fruit

The only people surprised by the audio recording of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his convoluted racism are those who have no idea who he is or what he is about. He is a well-documented and repugnant racist who for decades used his wealth to and privilege to negatively impact the lives of countless Black and Brown people for his own enrichment. He is a disgrace and has long deserved the scorn and ridicule that has now befallen him. But there should be no celebrating at his loss. Sterling is low hanging fruit in a larger, more significant reality: There likely are leaders in all fields of human endeavor who share his beliefs about minorities; it's not much of a stretch to believe he has similarly low views of women. And the control the Donald Sterlings of the world have control over wide swaths of jobs, housing, and access to education. Scary.

The firestorm engulfing Sterling should not obscure this reality. From Congress and state legislatures to universities, from Wall Street to Hollywood, and from religious institutions to professional sports leagues, Sterling's kind of racism still lives an active life. That truth constitutes a much bigger story than Sterling and his Benedict Arnold mistress. Applauding the NBA, which did nothing as his racism perfected over the years, now is to celebrate the grabbing of low hanging fruit.

Racism is a part of the human condition. It has been among us forever and will continue indefinitely. It cannot be eradicated as like a virus. The best way to deal with it is to expose the stupidity and ignorance that drives it and punish the pockets of those who perpetrate it. Enter V. Stiviano, gold digging public servant. For whatever reason, and by "whatever reason" I mean money, she kept company with a decrepit racist. In so doing, she was either blissfully ignorant or excessively tolerant of racism. While releasing the audio is probably revenge-driven, her action did the public the great service by expanding the conversation about racism from the fringes of America to the boardrooms of the super rich.

Too often a racist is an ignorant person with no particular impact beyond his or her own words; think angry talk show caller. Here, we reconfirm that racist ignorance can be found in high and powerful places; think the guy who owns the radio network. That is an important change because those in the latter group have the means to impact the policies that perpetuate racism. We now can put a face on those people. They're Sterlings.

So as the dust settles around this case and everyone recedes to the sidelines, let us not forget that there is a larger story worth following. Yes, Donald Sterling is a repugnant racist who is finally getting a taste of some bad medicine. Yes, V. Stiviano is a double-dealing gold digger. More importantly, though, is that the permanence of racism should not only be addressed in times of controversy. It should be exposed and treated for what it is: a dangerous scourge that merits continuous exposure in all aspects of society.

Michael K. Fauntroy is associate professor of political science at Howard University and specializes in race and politics. He blogs at and can be followed on Twitter @MKFauntroy.