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Posts Tagged ‘Donald Sterling’

In the midst of the attention LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling has received lately, J. J. Abrams released information about the cast of Star Wars Episode VII. As several others have pointed out, the cast is notable for its white maleness. Amanda Marcotte at Slate argues that this was Abrams’ chance to make some Star Wars history, since the previous movies haven’t had many women, either. She notes that Battlestar Galactica successfully integrated more women into its reboot, and explores the impact that gender equity in a major sci-fi franchise like Star Wars could have had on the genre.

By looking into the future (or the past of “a long time ago,” in the case of Star Wars), science fiction allows writers and filmmakers to imagine a world where race and gender boundaries have changed. The original Star Trek was noteworthy in part because of its racial diversity. J. J. Abrams is not necessarily opposed to the creation of strong female characters, as Alias and Lost show, but it is interesting that his recent history in the area of diversity is noteworthy primarily for his casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness and the lack of female characters in Star Wars. It is interesting to consider what Abrams’ Star Trek reboot would have looked like if he hadn’t been focused on finding actors who matched the race of the original cast.

Of course, a lack of diversity is more appropriate for Star Wars, which hasn’t always had the best depictions of race, as explained by Hooper in this edited clip from Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy:

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A few days ago, L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling was revealed to have said some racist things. Although his fate as owner of an NBA team has not yet been determined, his ability to interact with those on his team and attend NBA games has been; he has been banned for life.

There are a number of interesting sociological questions related to this situation. One concerns the relationship between private statements and personal property. Another is related to types of discrimination and why statements that gain public attention can have more severe consequences than years of discriminatory practices. Although NBA players are paid very well, we can also use this situation to examine relationships between owners and players. Finally, Doug Hartmann at The Society Pages has a nice exploration of the situation’s impact on our understanding of racism in America.

Included in Hartmann’s post is a message from Max Fitzpatrick of Central New Mexico Community College (Edit: Fitzpatrick’s message is now its own post). Fitzpatrick writes:

Instead of merely being what Marx sarcastically called “critical critics”—those who attempt social redress through words alone—we should take these opportunities to bring attention to—and to change—the poor social conditions and institutional discrimination disproportionately faced by people of color. Attacking the material foundations of the problem will be more effective than simply laughing at the wrinkled old symptoms of the problem.

In some ways, the Sterling situation seems to support Fabio’s claim that, while we are not “post-racial,” we may be “post-racist.” Although racism is still prevalent, its public expression has been severely limited. As Fitzpatrick and Hartmann note, however, this may actually serve to make racism and discrimination more dangerous, since they continue to have serious negative effects even when society claims that they don’t.

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