What Do Allen West's Wife and Donald Sterling Have in Common? Racism and Housing Discrimination
White racists like Donald Sterling are racial piñatas. They are a fun and easy target. When people like Donald Sterling are hit and burst, a moment of public racial catharsis takes place.
It is very easy for “good” people to chase the overt, cartoonish, white racist out of the public square on a rail. However, it is far more difficult to examine one’s own complicity with white privilege and white supremacy. The monster is easy to slay; the polite racist who looks like “us”, and behaves “politely”, is far more difficult to confront.
In all, exiling a white racist like Donald Sterling and Cliven Bundy is a fun act.
It is harder to talk about substantive matters like structural racism.
Donald Sterling’s racist speech as recorded by his mistress is an easy target; the white racist who limits the life chances of black and brown people by refusing to rent or sell them homes, or denying them mortgages, is a far more difficult topic for conversation.
American society is extremely segregated along lines of race and class. Unfortunately, both in the present and the past, there are people of color who have made a tactical choice to be complicit with the forces of white supremacy for personal gain.
As Frederick Douglass so wisely observed, “power concedes nothing without a demand”. By extension, there are individuals who have have decided to surrender to it as a survival strategy and means of personal enrichment.
In that role, Tea Party darling black conservative Allen West is a human puppet for the White Right. He has embraced such contemptible and specious Right-wing beliefs as Birtherism, the Benghazi-fetish, and that white people are somehow “oppressed” in the Age of Obama. If Clarence Thomas is “the worst black man in the history of black people”, Allen West is in his orbit.
Allen West once bragged about being the only black member of a white supremacist motorcycle gang. Reasonable people would be ashamed to make such a pronouncement. Allen West thought it to be an honorable claim, something to be proud of.
Angela Graham-West is no different from her spouse. And like Donald Sterling, she has profited from practicing housing discrimination against people of color.
In support of Cliven Bundy, Angela Graham-West shared the following on her Facebook page:
When I lived in New York I worked at Clairol during the day in the marketing department of the professional products division. I had a great time and LOVED to go to work, but there was one problem........ I only made $38K per year. A real pittance in New York.... so I had to find another way to make money. I started an "apartment matching" business. In other words, I matched people with available apartments for rent. For that they paid me, in cash, 16% of the year's rent prior to getting a lease and keys. I soon made several times my yearly salary, still kept my job and loved it even more because I never suffered from the "short money" syndrome again. AND I met people....
My partner was a Chinese woman who owned the real estate franchise of ReMax and basically she told me "this is business and we are the color of green"...... most of the people you meet will "let down their hair" and reveal to you all types of "pettyfoggery" .... actually that was not the word she used but I want to keep it clean. And I found out quickly that the most liberal, ethereal, earth-shoe wearing, animal kissing, vegan, "people loving" liberal landlords wanted me to make sure that I did not bring them "God forbid": Blacks (they never pay on time), Puerto Ricans (they don't pay on time and are too loud); Indians (they pay on time but cook smelly foods), "mixed couples (too much trouble). AND because I have a tendency to never let anyone know what I am thinking...... they let their collective hair down, I stoically stared at them and I got plenty of clients. Everyday as I got into my apartment, there were at least 12 - 20 requests..... on the answering machine.
Angela Graham-West continues with:
There were "code-words" ....."I only want Americans"; "Angela, I love you BUT you are different"....etc... Italians wanted Italians - no Blacks or Spanish; Jewish were stratified by orthodoxy or non-religious as well as original geography; Not all Spanish are the same.... those from Europe are different from the Puerto Ricans or the Dominicans; Jamaicans don't want African Americans.....; Jamaicans don't want Haitians; Jamaicans don't like anyone; Africans don't like anyone but other Africans and so forth. You get the picture.... I complied and made a six figure living.
People have biases. PERIOD.
Angela Graham-West (likely) broke the law. And she profited, without consequence, from doing so.
White supremacy, in a manner akin sexism and homophobia, often has allies among those who are being oppressed and discriminated against by the in-group. Why? The material and psychological wages, a feeling by the perpetrators that they are “special” and “not like the other ones”, and the lucre that comes with such surrender, is very compelling for the weak-minded, vulnerable, and easily shamed.
Angela Graham-West is not alone in her behavior.
During the centuries of chattel slavery in the Americans, there were free blacks who would pretend to be the friends and allies of runaways in order to trick them for the purpose of collecting a bounty from white slave catchers. White real estate agents would often hire African-Americans to approach white homeowners, and tell the latter that “they were moving in to the neighborhood” in order to create panic selling-selling for the purposes of “blockbusting”.
Racism is prejudice plus power. Consequently, white men such as Donald Sterling are uniquely capable of racism in contemporary America.
However, day-to-day life is far more complicated than the above academic and scholarly definitions of racism. White supremacy can, and sometimes is, aided and abetted by people of color.
Black conservatives play that role in the post civil rights era United States.
It would be an error of inference to conclude that because there are black and brown conservatives like Allen West, Herman Cain, Jesse Lee Peterson, Alan Keyes, Michelle Malkin, and Dinesh D’Souza, those who embrace white supremacy, that somehow racism is “everyone’s sin, and thus, no one’s sin at all”.
White racists such as Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling have black and brown minions. The former are rational actors of a sort who are advancing their own agenda of maintaining white privilege (and its resources) for themselves (and ostensibly other white people) at the exclusion (and expense) of non-whites.
By comparison, black and brown conservatives are race traitors and mercenaries who, like their white conservative masters, are cashing a check with the full knowledge that people of color will suffer because of their deeds…and they do not care.
Black conservatives such as Angela Graham-West are complicit with white racism. The justification is a paycheck. Donald Sterling is an easy target for public outrage. Unfortunately, there are likely too many people of color like Angela Graham-West, on their knees, doing the bidding of bigots such as Donald Sterling and Cliven Bundy.
If Sterling and his ilk are being driven out of the public square on a rail, their black and brown collaborators should be either under the train or near its engine shoveling the coal.