Donald Sterling's Racism Shouldn't Dampen History of Blacks and Jews

We're on Magic Johnson's Side Together

Partnership: Blacks and Jews have a shared history and future.
Courtesy of Marc Schneier
Partnership: Blacks and Jews have a shared history and future.

By Marc Schneier and Russell Simmons

Published May 18, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Donald Sterling simply can’t leave bad enough alone.

Having already irredeemably labeled himself as a racist by berating V. Stiviano — who happens to be of Latino and African-American descent — that she should not bring Blacks to his Los Angeles Clippers games, or pose for pictures with African-American icons like former LA Lakers superstar Magic Johnson, Sterling let loose with an equally repulsive rant earlier this week during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

During the broadcast, Sterling spewed his venom on Magic Johnson; falsely claiming that Johnson “doesn’t do anything for black people”. He also sought to drive a wedge between African-American and Jews by claiming that the Jewish community takes care of their own while prominent blacks, like Johnson, abandon black people who are living in poverty. Quick to respond, Magic Johnson stated unequivocally that Donald Sterling “will not harm Black-Jewish relations.”

The two of us, as Jewish and African-American leaders who have worked together for more than 20 years to strengthen black-Jewish relations, refuse to allow Donald Sterling to make false claims about Magic Johnson, the African-American community, and to undermine the noble work that so many blacks and Jews have done over many decades to bring our two communities together.

In this spirit, we salute Magic Johnson’s response to Sterling’s rancor: “One thing great about the African-American and Jewish communities is that they have worked well together over the years, and we will continue to work with the Jewish community.” He furthered his comments by saying attempts “to pit both communities against each other will not work.”

Magic has worked with American Jews in both business and philanthropy to advance mutual interests and he is a wonderful example of cooperation between blacks and Jews. Furthermore, Magic Johnson has given millions of dollars to support the education and success of young people and has brought businesses to minority-majority cities throughout America. For example, Yucaipa-Johnson, his partnership with a leading investment company, invests in companies located in and serving minority and urban communities.

Thankfully, most Americans are fair minded enough to understand that Donald Sterling’s racism completely misrepresents the Jewish community. It was the Jewish community that stood shoulder to shoulder with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement during the 1960’s and has supported the cause of equal rights ever since. Dr. King understood that those who fight for their own rights are most honorable when they fight for the rights of all people. While his focus was certainly on the needs of African Americans, he championed the needs of all, and in particular those of the Jewish community.

King found a special symbolism in Jewish history, a kinship with the Jewish people, and during his life, no segment of American society provided greater or as consistent support to the black community as did the Jewish community. From Selma to the freedom riders, Jewish-Americans marched, fought and died alongside their African-American brethren.

Just under 50 years ago, June 21, 1964, two young Jews from New York City, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman who had traveled to Mississippi to work for the right of blacks to vote, were murdered by the Klu Klux Klan, together with an African-American friend and colleague James Chaney. The ultimate sacrifice made by Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney is the paradigm of Black-Jewish relations both past and present.

This legacy of Black-Jewish cooperation resonates to this very day as African-Americans and Jews nationwide have engaged in programs to explore and to rediscover shared values.

American society grows more diverse by the day and if we hope to continue in America’s great tradition, if we hope to forge a more harmonious society then we must remain vigilant in the face of racism and bigotry - the kind of hateful rhetoric and diatribe exhibited by Donald Sterling.

Marc Schneier is president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding where Russell Simmons, co-founder of the music label Def Jam, is chairman of the board.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.