this isn’t about v. stiviano

donald and vnba commissioner adam silver came down hard on clippers owner donald sterling for his racist comments about not wanting black people at his games.  on the audio recording of sterling speaking to his girlfriend v. stiviano, sterling admonishes her for posting a picture with magic johnson on instagram and embracing her blackness when the world sees her as “a latina or a white girl.”  as the owner of an almost all black team in a sport played overwhelmingly by people of color, it was necessary for sterling to get more than a slap on the wrist and the nba acted accordingly by fining him $2.5 million and banning him for life.  whether or not he will be forced to sell the clippers is yet to be determined.

i wish i could say that the story ended here; however, patriarchy and misogyny don’t take a day off, even when faced with rank white supremacy.  i’ve been inundated by tweets and jokes from both news pundits and sports commentators about how donald sterling’s life has been ruined by a conniving sidechick.  in fact, in a time article condemning donald sterling’s actions, basketball legend kareem abdul jabbar had this to say:

and now the poor guy’s girlfriend (undoubtedly ex-girlfriend now) is on tape cajoling him into revealing his racism. man, what a winding road she led him down to get all of that out. she was like a sexy nanny playing “pin the fried chicken on the sambo.” she blindfolded him and spun him around until he was just blathering all sorts of incoherent racist sound bites that had the news media peeing themselves with glee.

this analysis is not only a red herring because the issue at hand should be donald sterling’s racism NOT v. stivano’s actions, but elucidates a larger point about the harmful tropes women of color face.  unfortunately,  jabbar is not the first man to blame a woman for a man’s actions;  black women have faced this narrative for centuries.  words like “cajole” (to persuade someone with flattery) and “sexy nanny” evoke the stereotype of black women as licentious beings who use their uncontrollable sexual prowess to bait and hook their lovers.  for v. stiviano, a black and mexican woman who is decades younger than donald sterling, this narrative makes her the assailant and him a “poor guy” victimized by her intoxicating ways.  i’m not buying it. in fact, a man with as much privilege and power as donald sterling should not be seen as the victim in any situation, absent torture, where he reveals his personal beliefs.

kareem abdul jabbar isn’t the only person who has described v. stiviano as a shady temptress; sterling’s wife filed a lawsuit against her claiming stiviano “engages in conduct designed to target, befriend, seduce, and then entice, cajole, borrow from, cheat, and/or receive as gifts transfers of wealth from wealthy older men whom she targets for such purpose.” (here goes that word cajole again.)  the lawsuit further states stiviano’s “feminine wiles … overpowered the iron will of [sterling] who is well known as one of the most shrewd businessmen in the world.”  the fact that a black man and white woman in her lawsuit are depending on the same stereotype of a woman of color to deflect a white man’s responsibility for his actions is powerful and proves the impact of patriarchy, misogyny and white supremacy on women of color.  stuck at these intersections, v. stiviano, a woman who arguably helped to protect an entire sports franchise from a bigoted owner, is not applauded, but mocked and blamed. 

donald sterling’s racist beliefs have nothing to do with v. stiviano, and while mainstream society may have taken a bold step against tolerating individual racism, gender-based discrimination against women of color is still business as usual.


what a $1000 shirt looks like

if i owned a $1,000 shirt it would stop traffic.  i’d keep it in a special place in my home–not the closet, but in a unique display case in my living room for all visitors to see.  if i owned a $1000 shirt it would kill.  most importantly, it certainly would not have an unidentified animal swimming around the neck nor would it look like i scored it from the clearance rack at chino’s.

 meet ann romney.  owner of a $1,000 reed krakoff shirt and wife of mitt romney, the shoe-in for the republican nomination for the 2012 presidential election.

admittedly, i don’t know much about ann romney, aside from her political affiliation and obvious penchant for extravagantly-priced-ugly shirts, i could walk past her in the mall tomorrow and not recognize her face.  however, when people wear expensive ugly clothes, it tells us a lot about both them and society-at-large.  here’s what i’ve surmised:

1.) she’s pretty audacious.  after her husband’s comment that he doesn’t care about the very poor, i’m shocked ann romney so willingly flaunted her wealth on national tv.  do i really have to be reminded that not only am i too poor for the potential next president to care about, but his wife owns shirts that cost more than i can afford to pay for housing?

2.) she’s out of touch with reality.  price tags don’t positively correlate with style–expensive items are not inherently fly. in fact, they’re just expensive. ann romney should give michelle obama’s stylist a call.

3.) presidential candidates and their families are anchored members of the american patriciate.  politics are predominated by the wealthy and money spent on presidential elections could feed entire countries.  for example, barack obama spent $730 million to become president in 2008.  of course, this was not his personal stash, but realistically how many people have the resources to tap into $730 million?  wealth, or the lack thereof, is primarily cyclical–it takes money to make money, and in this case, it takes personal wealth to raise the millions of dollars necessary to become president of the united states of america.

as a black woman in america, i rarely feel connected with political leaders or their families.  folks in positions of power rarely look like me or have a background that’s remotely similar to mine.  ann romney’s $1,000 shirt just further isolated me from the american electoral process.  she nor her husband are in a position to represent my interests–especially not my fashion sense.

black women: perennial caretakers and supreme matriarchs


the washington post’s recent article entitled “for some black women, economy and willingness to aid family strains finances” gives a glimpse into the strain and pressure black women face when providing economic stability for family and friends.  the article features a middle-aged sista whose income dropped dramatically after she was injured on her job and could no longer work. after buying her dream home, the settlement from her employer begin to dwindle, and she has recently faced foreclosure and mounting financial hardship, all while supporting her longtime partner and family members.  as I read the article, i realized i was so accustomed to black women holding family and friends down until i normalized this way of life.  everybody doesn’t take neighbors and friends into their home on a long-term basis?  everybody doesn’t take money from their 401k to save their sister’s home from foreclosure?  not according to a survey commissioned by the washington post.

nearly half of the 800 black women surveyed by the post and the kaiser family foundation revealed they help elderly relatives and more than 1/3 regularly assist friends and family with child care, more than their white counterparts in both categories.  to some, such actions would be considered philanthropic foolishness, especially when black women are twice as likely as white women to report problems making their rent or mortgage payments.  just take the sista in the post story, now living on a substantially reduced income and almost losing her dream home to foreclosure, she continues to give.

now, i’ll say what the post didn’t: black women give because that’s all we know how to do.  our history, not only as partners, wives and mothers, but also as slave bearers and mammies positioned us as perennial caretakers.   we are typecast as supreme matriarchs whose images headline movies such as big mama’s house and tyler perry’s madea dynasty.  it’s no surprise then that we’ll  literally give our last dollar to a relative or friend in need—as the mules of the world (term coined by author zora neale hurston) we’ve been taught undying self-sacrifice.

however, in a society whose hegemonic powers rest upon the myth of rugged individualism, helping others, especially when resources are tight, is not only undervalued but demonized.  mainstream american rhetoric tells us not to concern ourselves with others’ problems.  just worry about yourself.  but, for black women facing interlocking systems of oppression, we know our plight is intertwined; the relationships described in the post article are very often reciprocal.  most importantly, when faced with the need to survive, absent a legacy of wealth or access to credit, we must depend on each other.