Love this piece and particularly love the "quote text exchange w/ my friend" power move http://t.co/O0YVMchJzD
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) September 9, 2014
Rembert Browne, Atlantan native & person of color, reports:
… First, the sentence from his email that clarifies Levenson’s observational logic:
i never felt uncomfortable, but i think southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority
Blacks and whites don’t mix. But it’s mainly the whites that are having issue being around so many blacks. And the whites have the money. But the blacks are everywhere. And not spending money. But I need the money. And the money is white. So we need fewer blacks. And if that happens, the whites will come. With their money. Disclaimer: I love black people.…
This isn’t racism. This is simply the elementary thought process of a powerful 62-year-old rich white man with a crippling debilitation: being a powerful 62-year-old rich white man.
Is that a generalization? Absolutely. But Levenson’s email turned generalizations into a sport, so why not play his game for a bit? He’s making leaps about race and class that are irresponsible — they’re only understandable if you live a life truly concerned with one demographic. And if you’re a living representation of your primary concern — white money — then it’s not such a surprise that you believe that is the only concern…
But again, none of this makes Bruce Levenson a racist. An interesting byproduct — perhaps a trick — of labeling someone a racist is making them an exception. Racists, once outed, are banished to Racism Island, and then it’s business as usual for everyone else. That’s the Sterling example. But Bruce Levenson isn’t an anomaly. Who doesn’t know a Bruce Levenson? Who hasn’t overheard someone at work or a friend’s dad talk like this before? They’re everywhere. And the worst thing that could come out of this melee is to make his case a special one. Because it’s not. It’s lazy, it feeds the cycle of misguided outrage, and ultimately it’s giving this generation a pass by making Levenson seem like an outlier.
What’s true is that he’s not good at his job. Because as much as I love the Hawks in success and in mediocrity, the team is still a joke to the rest of the NBA. And it’s a cop-out for Levenson to get in front the story, create his own narrative, and leave on the grounds of “Bruce Levenson, embarrassed by Bruce Levenson’s comments.” Because a powerful 62-year-old rich white guy can bounce back from a racial brain fart. But being a bad businessman, running an organization terribly? Not so much…
You people need to figure out how to make us people more comfortable – just because we were born rich and white doesn’t mean we know the way home from third base.
so, how bad really is his team for him to come up with such nonsense?
@amk: the team has been competitive for quite a while. Not a championship level team, but consistently in the playoffs. The problem is they haven’t made as much money as other large market teams (Atlanta is the 8th largest market in the country), but that is something that’s plagued all of their pro teams. They’ve lost two NHL teams, the Braves have trouble drawing fans despite being a playoff team for more or less two decades (they’re moving to the suburbs), and the falcons didn’t really become relevant until they got Michael Vick (pre dog fights).
(With apologies to raven.)
It’s Georgia. What did you expect?
@amk: The Hawks are never really bad exactly. They are just mired in a state of perpetual mediocrity and its clear that the management has no real interest in making the investment or taking the risks involved to become real contenders. They just put out a team that seems reasonably competitive every year and cash the checks. I am sure every sports fan of every type is familiar with just this sort of franchise.
Since we talking about “rich white guy” problems….just wanted to say ..
FUCK You Michael Moore!
Michael Moore Slams Obama: HIstory Will Only Remember You Were a Black President
if there is something white folk should really be thankful for, it’s that Black folk and other minorities have taken so much bullshit in stride. Ugh.
Yeah! Fuck you Michael Moore!
Dude did make some good movies, though. (Bowling for Columbine, Roger and Me …)
See how that works?
@lamh36: forgot to say that Michael Moore can kiss my natural Black ass!
Well I’m going to remember Michael Moore as the guy who bought a 10,000 square foot lakefront mansion to go with his “property near Park Avenue in Manhattan”.
After I’d read about that it became impossible to take anything Moore said seriously.
Sad to say, but Moore probably is reflecting the views of a lot of white people, because they find it impossible to give Obama credit for anything he’s done. The only thing they can see is his blackness, so that’s how they’ll remember him. To them, he’ll never be “the President who saved GM” or “the President who reformed health care,” because they can’t see past the color of his skin. Which is really, really sad.
(As always, note that I’m white, so I can see this from inside, so to speak.)
@Mnemosyne: Moore will never forgive him for being the centrist he ran on being as opposed to the Great Pure Leader who will deliver us into Socialist Democratic Utopia. Because of that, he’ll just be The Black Guy.
Jim, Foolish Literalist
I don’t begrudge Moore his money, but I am heartily sick and tired of his schtick, from the near-pathological emoting to his pseudo-regular guy uniform. Does he even try to be funny anymore?
@Jim, Foolish Literalist: No, he’s just a scold now, sad really.
@Mnemosyne: exactly tell me that’s not exactly something if said by Beck or Limbaugh, we wouldn’t all be calling them the racist fucks that they are
yet a Dem “ally” says the exact thing and what it’s ok cause hey, “we friends”… naw man, fuck that.
I’m telling y’all white progressives are their own worse enemies sometime when it comes to Black and Brown audiences of people.
No one like to feel condescended to, especially but supposed “allies”. and we wonder why progressive candidates just can’t seem to power up the minority vote as much as just regular straight Dem candidate.
ugh. woosah, woosah! let me just go to bed before I start calling MM et al everything but a child of God.
seriously good night this time
@srv: It’s not hard to go home when you get to third base – they just have to turn left.
There are people who may be uncomfortable around black people. They can also change how they feel. Personal anecdote follows:
Back in the 1950’s, my uncle refused to enter a restaurant because a black couple went into it just before he got to the door. (this was in California, he was visiting from Oklahoma). He wouldn’t do business with anyone who served blacks. In the 1960’s this same uncle said some things that shocked the whole family with their viciousness towards blacks. He didn’t retract them, but he did feel that it was necessary to explain why he said them – too proud to admit he was just wrongheaded.
My husband and I visited them in the 1980’s. We went out to a buffet restaurant with the extended family in tow, and stood behind and equally large extended family of black people. My uncle actually started talking to them, after both groups of us realized that we were doing the exact same thing – taking the easy way out to feeding over a dozen people because of visiting relatives. The black family had visitors from the east coast, we were from the west. It was a perfectly normal friendly thing to do while we waited for them to accommodate our large parties. I was a little surprised by how casually friendly my uncle had been, and how comfortable he was talking to someone who was black. In about 20 years he had gone from “never going to be anywhere I have to see a black man” to commenting how much he had in common with a black man he had never met before.
If my uncle could change, anyone can change. I know there is still prejudice and bigotry and racism there, but there also a lot of people who no longer think twice about the color of the people next to them. And would prefer to be with a black supporter of Oklahoma than a white supporter of Oklahoma State (or vice versa).
Yes, being in the minority is uncomfortable, for some more than others. You can be a minority of female in a “man’s” profession. You can be a minority of music major in a world of engineering and business students. You can be a minority of smart, in a world of average. There are all sorts of ways to be a minority, besides skin color. It just never meant than an extra effort was needed to make the minority feel more comfortable, until the minority became white people.
It’s also rather illuminating to the mindset it’s not about who are our fans, how can we better meet their needs or desires, it’s a long litany of how their existing fans are not quite living up to the team’s / corporation’s exacting on-air and other requirements so let’s swap them out and get some easier, more theoretically appropriate presentable fans that are recognizable from our theories.
I figured out Michael Moore was an anklebiting moron when I read “stupid white men.” Hardly required so many half-truths to get his point across. It doesn’t surprise me he’s so negative about Obama.
People won’t remember Michael Moore at all.
Michael Moore is one of the people who remind me that while the term “liberal elite” is mostly just Republican piss and wind, there is in fact a sliver of substance to it. And reminds me why the urge to punch such people in the face became such a fad.
I would have thought that a guy who went to the trouble to create an entire movie about the fucked-up state of the American health care system might have been more inclined to note the importance of the ACA. I guess not.
On the Atlanta thing, it’s worth noting that one of the big reasons behind the Braves’ move to Cobb County was a desire to separate their richer, whiter fans from the black people who make them uncomfortable. That’s why the lack of public transport to the new stadium was, if anything, seen as a feature rather than a bug – you don’t want “those people” taking a bus to your neighborhood, do you?
When I lived St. Louis I knew a fair amount of white suburbanites who would not go downtown because they felt there were too many black people downtown. I don’t know what the percentage it is, but there are certainly some. Mr. Levenson should not have said “white people”, but would have been correct to say “some what people”. I don’t know what the percentage is, or how it affects his games, and I would certainly have done some polling before I would make any statements or business decisions based on ignorance.
There are plenty of teams in Atlanta, both professional and college. Perhaps it isn’t a matter of fear, but preference for baseball or football that drives most of the numbers.
The Hawks have made the playoffs in each of the last seven years. Which might not seem like great shakes, except it’s the second-longest streak in the league (Spurs, 17). They may not be threatening to win titles, but they’re hardly a joke.
The Sixers? The Sixers are a joke.
I remember reading somewhere that Michael Moore for all the pro-union he spouts off about, he himself used non-union labor in his movies and in his business. Ditto for Ralph Nader.
As far as black people, I’ve seen the Phoenix Metro area grow leaps and bounds in between the GOP recessions. Its extended far out north, grown way way east, way southeast, way southwest and far west. Here’s the thing though, South Phoenix has been considered the primary black(and more recently Hispanic) area of town. Its a lot closer to central Phoenix than any of the other areas I mentioned and its close to South Mountain which is a nice recreational area.. Yet, it was one of the last areas that got new developments. The only reason being that the area was considered the black/Hispanic area of Phoenix.
@JaneE: Love this story.
@brent: Agree. Atlanta Spirit LLC has always had issues with the way it does business. In their minds they weren’t being cheap, they were adjusting to the expectations of their fans. (And despite what the AJC said, they spent a lot more marketing hockey than they did on basketball.)
Plus, it was always easier to get to first the Omni and then Philips Arena on MARTA, which suited in-town fans better than the choice suburbanites you wanted hockey season ticket purchases from.
Just wanted to say that.
it’s weird how insanely endemic this attitude is among white people; you just don’t expect it out of some people but wham, there it is, plain as day, all hanging out there to dry in the backyard.
Mike in dc
1. The Affordable Care Act
2. Killing Osama bin Laden
3. Ending DADT
4. Bringing the economy back from the brink
Michael Moore can kiss my pasty white ass.
Rob in CT
Re: MM… holy shit, no mention of the PPACA at all. That’s just plain delusional.
You can claim that the PPACA is flawed in this or that way, but to put it down the memory hole? That’s nutty.
+1 Excellent observation. It’s not all about you, MM.
@chopper: Not denying the racism, but I see this as the mirror image of the Republicans who assumed that the election of a black man meant the revolution had finally come. They just thought that a president with sufficient melanin would mean that U.S. politics would suddenly resemble Scandinavia’s, and they’re irrationally pissed that it didn’t.
Plus, MM has always generally been a crank, and I can’t dismiss that the rise of Obama signalled MM’s decline as a public figure: he had been the lightning rod for all of the right’s ire through the terms of GWB, but he no longer mattered once they had an ACTUAL politician to hate.
What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us?
See, this is the problem with how the NBA handled the Sterling case – now every plutocrat who wants to sell his NBA franchise will just say something racist and wait for the league to negotiate for said plutocrat to sell at an enormous profit.
I don’t see anything overtly racist in Michael Moore’s comments – he’s criticizing the President for not getting anything done (or not getting everything Michael Moore wanted him to get done, done). I think he’s wrong about the President and what he’ll be remembered for, but he’s being an ignorant, self important asshole, not a racist. Granted, those two categories are not mutually exclusive but just because a person is one of those things doesn’t automatically make them the other too. And, it’s fairly obvious that being the first black President will likely be high on the list of things Obama is remembered for. There’s nothing wrong with that any more than there’s anything wrong with remembering Jackie Robinson for breaking baseball’s color barrier. Moore had scathing things to say about the other first black president – Bill Clinton – if I remember correctly, even though Bill wasn’t actually, y’know, black.
So Levenson observed that whites are generally more racist than blacks, that socioeconomic factors (that’s a code word for the legacy of slavery, jim crow and ongoing discrimination) limit income from the black community, and that to attract white suburban dollars he’d have to white up the stadium?
And that’s racist against blacks? Ummmm, okay…
Enhanced Voting Techniques
I love all of Levenson’s whining about “Hip Hop” being played at the games in the e-mail. This sounds less like racism and more about class and generation (well, racism in the sense that Black culture is the counter culture to the elite’s in America)
@Mike in dc: That’s a good list and it could be several points longer, but to someone like Moore the ACA will never be given any credit because it wasn’t universal coverage which a certain stripe of leftist think is the only solution. Even steps TOWARDS that end don’t count to them because they want that pony now.
Enhanced Voting Techniques
@someguy: the Minority Report pointed out the majority of the ticket holders are white males from 35-55 and Levenson is whining about the lack of “father and sons” – in other words the lack of rich, boomer white males like himself.
Just remember fans, it’s not at all whatsoever about you and your relationship to the team, oh no. You don’t buy enough (enough of the right stuff, mind), scream in a camera-friendly space-filling manner on cue or look right or embody the proper commercial-friendly visage for the closeups? You-all can be replaced with better, upgraded, fans. That Levenson lives inside bubbles within bubbles. Funny that he identifies “others”, those Southern Whites, as being uncomfortable outside of theirs.
To realize how “sensitive” white people apparently are, look at the picture of the cheerleaders — Out of around 13 women, I count 6 clearly white, 4 clearly African American and 3 ambiguous, who look caucasian to me, who could be Italian, but might have elements of Latino or African American or Asian. If that is really his idea of “too black” for the comfort of white people, that’s pretty insane.
I don’t much follow professional sports anymore, except during playoffs, so I have no real ideas for how to expand the market for a professional basketball team in a majority minority city in the deep South but it might start with making sure that management incorporates people who have enough creativity to see outside their own demographic box, which, apparently, Levenson has trouble doing. But really, we should see this sort of thing for what it mostly is — the notion that you are born to rule or at least dominate dies hard and this is what Levenson is really saying, that he cannot contemplate an important business or cultural enterprise, much less one that he owns, that is not held up by a critical mass of white people.
There was a really interesting study a few years ago that tried to figure out when white people will decide a neighborhood is too “black” for them. IIRC, it was at about one-third of the population of the neighborhood.
The really interesting part was that the racial/ethnic makeup of the rest of the neighborhood didn’t matter — it could be two-thirds Asian and one-third black and it would still be perceived as a “good” neighborhood by most white people. But if the black population got above about one-third, that tipped it over into a “bad” neighborhood.
Frank in midtown
As a person who has made a living developing statistically reliable retail store sales forecasting models I’m getting a kick out of this. Folks of all races much prefer to shop where they are comfortable, and the variables that most reliably capture this comfort are differences in socio-economic status and race. Without regard to region of the U.S. the statistics supported the contention that most folks all over the country prefer to shop where they are convinced they can pass for normative, after that it is site characteristics meeting the local preferences for safety(visibility. duration of exposure, reputation for crime,) and the composition of the store staff. So, is it racist to acknowledge that customers have preferences and act on those preferences if those preferences are race based?
@Frank in midtown:
Out of curiosity, are you seeing numbers like the ones for housing, where white people are comfortable with X percentage of shoppers of other races? Is there a tipping point that you’ve seen? I’d also be curious to know if the results vary by location — I think of my urban local mall as “normal,” but my mom was uncomfortable because it felt to her like we were the only white people there because most of the people were Asian (usually Filipino), Latino, or Black.
@Frank in midtown: Oh Giggles, you must be one of those secure in the knowledge that you’re in the intrinsically “desirable” subgroup invariably catered to. There is, or at least was, a thread of marketing analysis that tried to identify the market that was and work to better serve that market, instead of dump the existing customers because they don’t play well on da TV. did they even bother to talk to the local companies and investigate why they weren’t buying Season tickets? Or was it all Cheap-ass MBA theory and stats gathered and muddled together into some isotropically idealized Utopia?
Quaker in a Basement
We’re talking about Atlanta.
It has been a few years, but I lived in Atlanta once and I had family there. There is certainly a tipping point where the majority of white Atlantans will become uncomfortable with the racial mix of a public setting or event. It’s certainly not a generalization to say that white Atlanta is afraid of black people. Just do a little Googling and see how white Atlanta talks about MARTA, the regional transit system. Look at the demographics of the vast urban sprawl to the north of Atlanta. Check out the racial mix of public schools in the city of Atlanta.
Levenson knows his market.
@scav: Sad fact is, in a lot of places, white folks got the money and non-white folks don’t. I can imagine the Brewers woudl be in deeo financial trouble if 15-20K native Milwaukeeans came to all of their home games.
That said…my understanding is that Atlanta is one of the hubs for middle-class black people moving back south (because people like to be around people who look like them). Which means this guy is making the argument that black folks don’t have enough money to support his team in one of the few markets where he *can* pull in serious returns without catering to white folks who flee any place they can see five black people. Am I right about the relative economic power of Atlanta’s (and nearby areas’) black community?
GHayduke (formerly lojasmo)
MM is a nattering douche.
There’s a bigger problem here. Namely, the massively racist American economic system consistently and systematically impoverishes blacks (and all minorities, in fact, Latinos included). This forces all business owners, not just the rich ones, to cater to whites and marginalize minorities in order to make a decent profit. Ask yourself: if you own a car dealership, who are you gonna aim your sales pitch at…people with a household net work of $14,000 (Latinos) or $5,000 (black single women) or $134,000 (whites)? If you own a supermarket, where will you locate your major stores — in a ghetto with lower foot traffic and small per-customer average purchases, or in suburbs with high traffic and large per-customer purchases?
So the real solution here isn’t just to adjust the attitudes of rich white old guys. It’s to change the corrupt racist American economic system so that it no longer impoverishes minorities.