Donald Sterling Slave Master
In this April 4, 2010, file photo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling sits courtside during the NBA basketball game between the New York Knicks and the in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok, File)

As Donald Sterling’s life implodes, one perplexing question continues to crop up. How can a man who dates, sleeps with, and reportedly showers lavish gifts on his black-Latino mistress express such hate-filled, racist remarks?

What’s more, he owns an NBA team full of black players.

Carol Anderson, an associate professor of African-American Studies and history at Emory University, says it doesn’t surprise her Sterling is capable of rationalizing close interpersonal relationships with people of color.

These workable relationships function because the dynamics are based on an unequal alliance, she says.

Sterling’s “exotic” trophy girlfriend, V. Stiviano, serves as a perfect distraction to boost the ego of an 80-year-old man well past his prime.

“It’s not a relationship of equals,” says Anderson. “It’s a relationship that’s predicated on seeing African-Americans as hyper-sexualized. When it comes to the body, these are interchangeable parts that you extract as capital.”

What is also clear from Sterling’s comments, which originally surfaced on the TMZ website on April 25, is that color-ism also rears its ugly head.

V. Stiviano is mixed race, but in Sterling’s eyes, she can still “pass.”

“You’re perceived as either a Latina or white girl,” says Clippers owner Donald Sterling on the audio-recorded conversation with his boo V. Stiviano. “You’re supposed to be a delicate white or delicate Latina girl.”

As for the Los Angeles Clippers, well, he is their boss.

“What it appears to be is that they [Clippers] are not human beings,” says Anderson, who attributes Sterling’s outlook to a slave master or plantation owner mentality.

“They’re just as important, just as functional, as the field hands were back on the plantation.”

“They’re interchangeable. They’re there to extract the goods and services in order to make the owner very wealthy. This is not a relationship of partners, this is not a relationship of equals.”

Anderson says this uneasy contradiction is nothing new in American history.

U.S Senator Strom Thurmond illustrates this point perfectly, she says. He was a staunch segregationist and outspoken opponent of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Yet after he died in 2003, it was revealed that at age 22 he fathered a daughter [who he provided support for] with his family’s black maid.

During slavery, it has been well documented that slave masters carried out sexual relations with female house and field slaves.

The Sterling-gate debacle raises an uncomfortable notion: the fact that someone can have an intimate, long-term affair with somebody of another race yet still harbor deep-seated, bigoted, racist opinions.

“Donald Sterling can easily live with the dichotomy of having racist beliefs but also hire black folks and even have a black mistress or lover, because he is in denial; he has never considered himself a racist,” says New York psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere.“Why? Because he hires black folks and even has a black mistress or lover.”

“As to why he would be attracted to her? Simply because there is an excitement, the forbidden fruit of being involved with someone who is the opposite of what is part of your day to day private life.”

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