Donald Sterling is this week’s big loser. Labeled a racist for the nation to see, fined millions of dollars, stripped of his franchise. It’s an awful time to be Sterling. In fact, Donald Sterling isn’t sterling. He’s mildew-stained crap.
That said, if Sterling is a 100 on the latest pathetic scale, the NAACP—one of my all-time favorite organizations and a group I joined while still in college—isn’t too far behind.
In case you don’t know, the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP (mission: To ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.) was about to present the Clippers soon-to-be-former owner with its lifetime achievement award. Such was not all that surprising, considering the organization had given him a Humanitarian Award in 2008, and a President’s Award in 2009.
But here’s the thing: Sterling has been a scumbag f-o-r-e-v-e-r. His hostilities toward African-Americans are no secret, and haven’t been in decades. As NPR rightly noted: “Sterling has been sued multiple times over the years for residential discrimination against blacks and Latinos, and tenant abuse, as he tried to evict legal residents from their rent-controlled apartments. In 2009, he settled a $2.7 million rental lawsuit, the largest residential ever brought by the U.S. Department of Justice.”
So why, oh, why, was the NAACP propping him up and gifting him with multiple accolades? Answer: (Almost certainly) money. With said awards comes an unspoken understanding of mutual giving. We hype you up … you hype us up. The seal of approval from an organization as powerful as the NAACP was enormous for Sterling, who, obviously, relies on the diverse customer base of Southern California to spread his brands and spend their money. As a businessman with his hand in 1,000 different pots, he needs to be seen as a kind, warm, big-hearted man who cares about the needs of many. Thanks to the NAACP, that image was burnished and, temporarily, sealed.
Now, however, the NAACP is, well, fucked. Whoever decided to honor Sterling needs to be fired, then fired again. If a group of people made the call, they all must be gone. Now. This minute. This second. This nano-second.
The NAACP has a proud history—one that dates back to the Race Riot of 1908 in Springfield, Illinois. It was formed by a slew of wise, intelligent figures, including Oswald Garrison Villard and W.E.B. Du Bois. Its history is amazing. Its role in the Civil Rights era can’t be overstated.
But with said accomplishments comes a modern-day responsibility to uphold the legacy; to make righteous calls; to stand steadfast and defend the mission.
The NAACP has failed. Miserably.