The NAACP and Sterling: The Revolution Will Not Be Funded

leon-jenkinsLA Clippers owner (“owner” a term with chattel slavery attachments if ever there were one) Donald Sterling made his billions by excluding and refusing Black and Latino tenants and through exploiting Korean ones. “Owner” is appropriate in this context because he then used the fortunes he made from buying, selling and excluding homes for people of color in order to buy a National Basketball Association franchise, which he would use to buy and sell and profit off of the work of young Black men, whom he showed off to females while they were showering like stud showpieces. He actually likened it to a plantation system – in a favorable way. Sterling also sexually abused his female employees (of which his now-former girlfriend was one) in much the same way that a plantation owner sexually hounded those he “owned.” None of this was secret before. So why did the NAACP decide to reward this white racist, sexist billionaire not once but twice? What kind of relationship do the NAACP and Sterling have?

Frankly, it’s that word: ‘billionaire.’

The NAACP is a non-for-profit that relies on the *ahem* generosity of wealthy donors. Accordingly, there are only so many capitalists that so many non-for-profits can vie for.

But then, why is a chapter of the NAACP – the one closest to Sterling’s racist and sexist practices – willing to forgive him even after the NBA cut him out? Simply, the NBA cut him out because finding out that Sterling was a racist was hurting their business. Pro sports do not care about social justice unless it cuts into the bottom line, and it was apparent that Donald Sterling ordering his girlfriend to not take pictures with Magic Johnson was going to cost the NBA more money than it was worth. This is also why Major League Baseball still approves of the racist Atlanta Braves Tomahawk Chop and why Dan Snyder and the Washington R*dsk*ns are still in business with the National Football League. This is capitalist business, a model forged in the US on the bodies, death and work of Black, Brown and Asian people. It is built on the theft of Indigenous lands and subsequent slaughter of Indigenous people. Has much changed after all, progressives?

And where there is much money and a need to plug in holes, there will be lies and excuses. The rich aren’t like the rest of us, after all. Even to those who are supposed to represent the rest of us, like Leon Jenkins, president of the LA chapter of the NAACP:

God teaches us to forgive, and the way I look at it, after a sustained period of proof to the African American community that those words don’t reflect his heart, I think there’s room for forgiveness. I wouldn’t be a Christian if I said there wasn’t.

In supporting Sterling through this, not only is Jenkins lying through his teeth (and establishing very convenient grace theology), he’s showing the sad reality of the Non Profit Industrial Complex: The revolution will not be funded. NFP’s rely on funds from capitalists – capitalists rely on White and Male Supremacy practices like land acquisition and familial heredity to establish and hold on to their capital. The NFP’s are supposed to right the wrongs of the world, but they are often at the whim of the very parties responsible for making such a mess in the first place. And those parties, as in the NAACP and Sterling, have very clear demarcations of whom and how to criticize.

This is not to say that we should remove ourselves from capitalism altogether – that is hardly possible unless you are ready to completely live off the grid. It’s to say that we progressives need to watch our backs and our wallets. We cannot trust capitalists (whether the Kochs or the Gates), non profits, or unions to speak for us or to always represent our best interests. We must organize and stay vigilant at the grassroots level.

Because it’s pretty obvious these parties care more about making budgets than about discarded tenants – despite what their mission statements say.


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


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