Two Crimes & One Punishment


It seems to me that a breach of human goodness is a greater offense than a breach of privacy.

Recently, we had a situation where a certain kind of law was exposed to be broken, albeit only with the help of having to break another certain kind of law. By now, everyone has drawn an opinion about Donald Sterling (the L.A. Clippers owner) and his “alleged” voice recording. He has essentially been caught (hook line and sinker) practicing his best Leonardo DiCaprio cum Django and talking all kinds of racist gibberish. Now, some are obviously mad about the fact that this guy (an owner of a basketball team with mostly African-American players; it’s exactly as bad as it sounds) has been allowed to continue to prosper under his racist mindset. Some, though, actually want to make the argument that there is a second (potentially worse) offense; that the act of the voice recording is also punishable and maybe even more offensive than the actual racist content of the recording itself. I, though, want to say that of the two acts (the recording and the racism), racism is the higher-order offense, and also that the racism itself is the only act of the two deserving of punishment.

Firstly, there are some people who truly think the first offense in the Sterling debacle is the recording of the conversation (and not the conversation itself). Understanding that people care about privacy, I can see how a private recording of a conversation might be a crime all on its own. After all, no one wants to be recorded talking to their lover during the act, or simply telling their children a bed time story. It would be strange and seems obviously wrong (even potentially malicious). After all, everyone has a right to wipe their own ass in privacy without showing the world how the process works. It doesn’t make sense to want to show the world the things that do not concern or affect them without my permission. So, sure, intrusion of privacy, and subsequent exposure of private matters, is totally offensive.

But in this case, intrusion of privacy was used to expose a punishable offense of a higher order: racism. The fact of the matter is, by hook or crook, we have found a still-thriving racist. I mean, can you believe it, in this day and age, a still-fermenting germ of racism exists and has grown to reach pretty far up the social ladder. This guy is a billionaire and owns a basketball team and real estate. It isn’t hard to see how he could resemble a slave owner and his team resemble (through his perspective) his slaves. It, of course, is not the first time he has been exposed for having the mindset he does. He once led women to the locker rooms, allowing them to marvel at his belongings (or players, in non-racist speak). The commissioner of the NBA thankfully exterminated that germ in the best ways he could (exile from the NBA and multi-million dollar fines). In this case, we unfortunately got to see someone wipe their own ass (in private) with humanity itself.

See, the distinction is quite simple: one wrong doing was/is more wrong than the other. In other words, racism is a higher-level issue than privacy. If you’re racist, you’re at risk to affect the lives of everyone that comes in contact to you and even those at a distance (internet, phone calls, etc.). As we’ve seen, slavery became a hugely prevalent crime when that racism germ was allowed to grow and spread. Racism is an incredibly damaging offense that is still being tended to today (and will be forever tended to, it seems). There is still pent-up tension about what took place all those years ago, not to mention the different versions of racism that are thriving elsewhere (Palestine/Israel, South Africa, Mexico, etc.).

On the other hand, the biggest consequence of privacy intrusion is the complete exposure of one’s own individual total-sum of information. For instance, one’s credit card information, one’s private photos, and one’s home and belongings could all be taken through a breach of privacy. But in those cases, it does not seem impossible to recover from all the possible damages. One can call the bank and cancel their card, or become famous through the exposure of private photos (Kardashians, etc) or just use insurance money to re-buy belongings. In short, it seems much more easy to fix or at least recover from privacy intrusion than from racism.

To clarify, I think racism is a more damaging offense than privacy intrusion. It is clear that privacy intrusion on its own can be a crime, but if the intrusion merely served as a means to prove the existence of a more dangerous offense, then the intrusion itself cannot be interpreted as the actual offense. Sure, this might sound like Patriot Act jargon, but in this case, where there are actual people arguing that the recording itself is a comparable offense to racism, I have to disagree. Whether privacy still exists at all or not is a different matter. I simply think that, while it might be true that there seems to be a breach in privacy here, there is also a breach in human goodness. I think human goodness should be preserved more so than privacy, and if it means exposing a few racists in order to help exterminate racism and keep it from growing, I’m ok with it. I mean, I have to believe that most people would prefer to have a racist-free America than a tinted-window car. If you get a tinted window car, you might get profiled, stopped and all that jazz (even with those privacy-screen windows). Of course, if you ask for a racist-free America, you might not get stopped simply for the sake of getting stopped. That’s how I see it.