I unfortunately fell behind but I’m answering the question now so here it is:
Indirectly related to the recent Donald Sterling/Clippers saga, while racism shouldn’t be tolerated, my question in terms of values is: should someone whose private conversation is unknowingly being recorded be subject to persecution when he is not intending to publicly voice his feelings, views, or beliefs? Is there a difference with intentionally public ranting racist remarks, as opposed to expressing personal thoughts in private to yourself and your close confidants?
What seems like a very complicated conversation is really much simpler than it’s been made to be. Regardless of whether someone says, or even does, something objectionable or even wrong, it’s no one’s business between them and G-d. This is the fundamental operating principle behind the prohibition of lashon hara, literally evil speech. A person is prohibited to say anything about another person, even if it is true, if it might cause people to think negatively of the person being spoken about. The Rabbis have even extended this as far as to mean that a person shouldn’t even say something positive about a person, lest it cause another person to think or say something negative about the person being spoken about. A proper treatment of these laws can be found in the book Hafetz Haim, written by Rav Yisrael Meir Kagan zt”l and English books on the subject can be found from the Chofetz Chaim Foundation.
Now on a technical level once a matter is known to ten or more people, it can be spoken about in public. Nonetheless this is generally, but not always, bad policy. The fact of the matter is that we all have opinions that are going to be found to be distasteful. Actions are primary, and with very rare exceptions the only things the human beit din (courts) were put in charge of were actions. Therefore, if we know something said something disgusting in private, but does great things in public, we should focus on these deeds. That is not making light of what they said, but simply attempting to judge people favorably.
Making public racist statements is very different. The purpose of making inflammatory comments is to inflame, instigate, and divide. We see from the case of Penina, the co-wife of the then-childless Channa in 1 Samuel who teased Channa in order to get her to pray for children, but was punished for hurting her feelings by losing her own children that it is never permissible to inflict emotional harm with words. Racist comments are obviously worse since they cause to upset others with no productive value. They only cause hurt and discord.
Now some will point to some of the statements of the Rabbis in the Talmud or elsewhere that appear to be racist. This in itself is a form of demonization of Judaism. The Rabbis were astute about human nature and made insights in much the same way that psychologists and anthropologists do now, at a time when the fields were not differentiated as they are now. That distinction only really took hold with figures such as Ockham and Descartes almost 1,000 years after the Talmud was written. The Rabbis always judged individuals as individuals and to every extent they could favorably. Many examples can be brought from the Talmud and later to establish this to be the case.