On a recent drive home from Lansing, I turned on my SiriusXM radio and caught part of an interview between Dan Le Batard and Bomani Jones. They were talking about the Donald Sterling incident and, for the most part, Jones was saying exactly what I feel about the whole situation. The time has come for everyone, me included, to stop lying about race in America. You see, this whole thing is going to blow up a number of issues in our society, which is a good thing. We all should want this explosion to happen before we get back to being comfortable on the status quo of race relations in America.
If you haven’t heard the full copy of Sterling’s rant, or only heard the bits and pieces that TMZ has pushed out, then you may think that the gist of the audio is that of a very rich man in Los Angeles who lost his mind and started complaining about black people attending basketball games with the girlfriend he has on the side (said girlfriend being sued by his wife). It is very easy to make that the target of our horrified faces.
What a bad thing to say you very bad man!
There’s another part of the story that some pick up on. This girlfriend recorded her man in his home, where there’s an expectation of privacy and shared it with the world without his permission. What the hell?!! Does she work for the NSA? How unfair of her to take advantage of a bumbling old man by tricking him into saying vile things and recording it! Perhaps it’s all a part of a conspiracy to force Sterling to sell the team to Magic Johnson?
Still, others will pick up on the angle that the First Amendment should protect Sterling from having to lose ownership of the Clippers because we all have the right to say what we want. We also have the right to have our own opinions about any subject, even if they are not popular with the others who are playing in the public sandbox.
Very few, however, have picked up on the big issue here. How easy is it to point out obvious racism and do nothing about “real racism”? Kudos to Jones and to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for being among the few who get it.
Jones said in his interview, “This is the only opportunity that a lot of people out here will have where they feel comfortable within their souls and within their psyches to stand against racism. Because it’s so easy to do it on this right here and because it’s so scandalous … it’s such a funny story when it comes to it right there. So everybody is like ‘Well I can’t miss my chance to speak down on racism because the next time comes and it’s real racism that me and you are actually talking about and the rest of them are being silent that’s when you can pop up and say I said something about Donald Sterling!'”
There it is.
The other owners of the NBA, the sponsors of the Clippers, TMZ, Fox News, CNN, ESPN, the NBA players themselves, Oprah, Magic, you and me and our neighbors. We are all jumping over ourselves to throw a stone at Donald Sterling for what he said. Where the hell were we and where were our stones for the things that Donald Sterling did? Where are we going to be when the real racism is seen, ’cause it’s already here?
What is real racism? Is it, as in Sterling’s case, not having your woman or your man be seen in public with a minority because that is embarrassing to the other folks in your clique? Is it a minority woman shaking her head because you are seen with your wife, who happens to be a white woman? Is it a situation of groupthink from people who cannot fathom the idea that a black man can be the elected head of the local Republican Party? (Tsk tsk , “Worthams is a sellout isn’t he?”) Is it pointing out that anyone who disagrees with the President is a racist or is un-American? Is it not calling a minority doctor by their title? Is it found in calling Dr. Williams or President Obama, Mr. Williams or Mr. Obama instead?
By the way, how did you refer to George W. Bush when he lived in the White House? Just curious.
No, these are all the easy aspects of racism that we can turn our collective noses up at. Jabbar said in Time Magazine, “He was discriminating against black and Hispanic families for years, preventing them from getting housing. It was public record. We did nothing. Suddenly he says he doesn’t want his girlfriend posing with Magic Johnson on Instagram and we bring out the torches and the rope. Shouldn’t we have all called for his resignation back then?”
There it is again.
Where is the real racism in our nation?
It’s the turning a blind eye to the 2003 actions of Donald Sterling by his peers and his community and of the Los Angeles Branch of the NAACP who gave this man a life-time achievement award because he cut a very big check. 19 plaintiffs in 2003 sued him for housing discrimination. He was accused of driving blacks and Latinos out of buildings he owned. This type of discrimination has been destroying cities, and more importantly, lives, all across this land. As middle class minorities try to empower themselves, instances of housing discrimination hinders the attempt because in many cases not only do people lose out on quality housing but they all lose out on the opportunity for their children to have access to quality schools and educational opportunities.
He was sued in 2003 and had to pay $5 million for it. Very few of us know about this because very few reported it and even more ignored it. A second suit was much of the same, because he refused to rent apartments to black people, to Latinos, and to people with children. The cost that time – $2.75 million and it was not big news.
Look at Chicago. Look at Detroit. Look at Muskegon Heights. Look at Benton Harbor. Now ask yourself why are there are many large tracts of land that are like battle zones? There are places in Chicago, as pointed in Jones’ interview, where people are fighting and dying for turf, while a highway runs through their yards allowing people to go from the suburbs to their jobs without having to set foot in “the hood.” This weekend, there will be people from West Michigan who will take the train to Chicago so they can go shopping and visit a museum. Very few will notice the areas the train moves through on their way to the Magnificent Mile.
How many people will be on the train complimenting the NBA Owners for their inevitable vote to depose Donald Sterling for his very bad words, but won’t think about why some people can’t get a nice house in Lisle.
Now keep in mind, I’m a republican. I don’t believe that government should ensure everyone has the same as everyone else. That comes from strong work and discipline.
But the time has come for our society to stop jumping on the easiest soapbox around to scream in the wind. We must stop lying about our concerns about racism. Either we care and are going to do something about this or we are going to go get comfortable on our couches, grab a remote, and watch game 7 between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.