August 13, 2006
Written by C.N.
For those of you who follow basketball, you may know that Donald Sterling is the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, who recently concluded their best season ever, even outperforming their cross-town rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers. Sterling has many business ventures, one of which is rental properties. He and his employees are now accused of discriminating against Blacks and Hispanic renters, in favor of Koreans:
In the seven-page complaint, Justice Department lawyers said Sterling’s agents at various times have refused to rent to non-Koreans at their buildings in Koreatown, and have been guilty of “creating, maintaining, and perpetuating an environment that is hostile” to existing non-Korean tenants.
According to the lawsuit, the Sterling companies also have refused to rent to African Americans at properties in Beverly Hills, and have misrepresented the availability of units to blacks and families with children. . . .
The case is an echo of a private lawsuit filed against the Sterlings in 2003 on behalf of about 20 mostly black and Latino tenants or prospective tenants. According to that suit, filed by the Housing Rights Center, a Los Angeles nonprofit group, Sterling had told members of his staff that he did not like to rent to Latinos or African Americans because “Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building,” and “black tenants smell and attract vermin.”
Early in the case, U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz ordered the Sterlings to stop using such words as “Korean” and “Asian” in building names, as they had done in changing the name of their “Mark Wilshire Towers” to “Korean World Towers.”
On the surface at least, it appears that Sterling and his representatives have some explaining to do. If in fact he is guilty of these charges, he is in fact guilty of committing two wrongs. The first is the direct discrimination against Black and Latino renters. Unfortunately, housing discrimination like this is still rampant and perpetrators like Sterling (if in fact he is guilty) need to be exposed, punished, and made an example of for other landlords to notice.
But just as important, the second injustice committed here is fanning the flames of intergroup tension and hostility between Koreans on the one hand, and Blacks and Latinos on the other hand. While some Asian Americans and others may say that the scope of such anti-Korean hostilities is overblown, the fact is that perceptions that Koreans are getting preferential treatment — unbeknownst to them we should note — will not help to improve relations between these two sets of groups.
All of us as Americans, including Korean Americans, should forcefully denounce these practices committed against all racial/ethnic groups, but particularly against Blacks and Latinos, and demand that landlords abide by the Fair Housing Act or otherwise get thrown in jail. As Martin Luther King, Jr. put it so eloquently, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Housing Discrimination Against Non-Koreans" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2006/08/housing-discrimination-against-non-koreans/> ().
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