Amid all the outrage spewed by a disappointed commissioner, fans, players and casual enthusiasts of the NBA over the Donald Sterling commentary, an important revelation — that was perhaps more substantial and newsworthy than the actual disturbing comments — had been exposed.
For decades, African Americans have made valiant efforts in overcoming historical barriers, en route to formidable roles in society. From notable, pop-culture-transcending figures like Oprah Winfrey & JAY-Z, to philanthropic influencers like Magic Johnson & Russell Simons, to political revolutionaries like Rev. Al Sharpton & President Barack Obama. This progress, and steady rise in prominence, has been well-documented.
Though many minorities have seemingly transcended race discrimination ( to an extent), there are still hundreds of millions subjected to and ridiculed by it on a daily basis — either blatantly or unknowingly.
Sterling’s comments were “out of line”, “disturbing”, “unfortunate” or any other overused adjective that you’d like to insert. This is understood. But when the fire is extinguished, and the smoke from this specific incident had cleared, society will still be faced with an incredulous underlying issue that can’t be swept under a massive rug via organizational sanctions (i.e. – government fines or societal lifetime bans).
Institutionalized racism, a system that inattentive and naive individuals have disregarded under the assumption that a two-term encompassing, African-American president is representative of a collective shift in attitude towards race, has been affirmed, loudly.
Contrary to this assumption, it is REAL & extremely prevalent in America today.
Fortunately for minorities that were too content with their place in society, and for whites that found it hard to believe that a contaminated version of themselves STILL existed, an embarrassing power struggle between a pissed wife and gold-digging mistress went too far. And resulted in the release of soundbites to TMZ reaffirming a mentality America thought it left behind in the 70’s.
Not only did Sterling detail his views that black people are commercializable and allowed to generate him hundreds of millions of dollars, sans reciprocating the decency, respect and humane interactions a white man doing the same would be afforded. [I’ll leave this redundant narrative to the TMZ’s, Deadspin’s of the world to continue to over-report].
He also detailed a system in place that is ‘too large to influence’. When asked by his then-girlfriend V. Stiviano if maltreatment of blacks was “right”, Sterling responded:
“It isn’t a question—we don’t evaluate what’s right and wrong, we live in a society. We live in a culture. We have to live within that culture.” He then proceeded, “I don’t want to change the culture, because I can’t. It’s too big..”.
This unfortunate “system” has tainted Sterling’s beliefs, leading to many housing discrimination claims, including a 2009 wrongful-termination lawsuit and a 2006 housing-discrimination charge from the Department of Justice. As ESPN’s Bomani Jones eloquently pointed out, discrimination from a man with Sterling’s massive influence leads to the stunting of generational wealth and, ultimately, economic progression — a key to the advancement of a deprived people:
“A lot of people like to use [the ability to relocate] as a strategy to avoid [poor education and communal violence]. It’s like to find an apartment in one of those nice neighborhoods, so then they could send their kids to nicer schools, and have a chance for their kids to go somewhere in life. Instead when you can’t do that, you wind up in […] these neighborhoods that are created by apartheid. And they’re desolate and they’re dangerous, and they’re frightening and we just have whole generations of people that we have given up on. ”
“When we start looking at all these people who are dying as an economic byproduct of the people like Donald Sterling, and you now have a problem because […] he said something that intimated that he doesn’t respect his players? I’m calling you out as a fraud.”
You can’t help but think about it: how many other bigoted, out-of-whack, byproducts of this “system” are manning influential, authoritative roles in society? For sure the ‘friends’ Sterling alluded to, but how many other lives are directly affected by the respective biases of their superiors? More importantly, sans a national TV, prime-time audience to leverage — and, I don’t know, flip uniforms jerseys inside out to in protest like Chris Paul and the like were afforded — how & when will the voices of the oppressed be heard?
Unfortunately, clerical and entry-level professionals, for example, are more expendable than NBA stars, since athletes pale in comparison to the hundreds of millions of job/career-oriented individuals in America. This amounts to more leverage for the power players in REAL society.
When courageous authors like Michelle Alexander write books on institutionalized slavery within the prison system (industrial prison complex), the outcry is underwhelming. When film directors like Mark Crutcher create documentaries like Maafa 21 referencing Planned Parenthood’s malicious objectives & NAACP’s indirect support of structured racism, the objectives are often lost in translation. Signs may have been missed in the past but as a society, we can’t have a similar bland approach with this most recent revelation.
This matter needs to be absent of ethical negotiation. Failure to acknowledge the system that birthed Sterling’s behavior, and have the tough dialogue to prevent youth from growing up in households where this mentality is deeply embedded, would only set us back as a people, decades in progression.
Adam Silver, LeBron James and Magic Johnson were all in agreeance earlier this week when they stated, “there’s no room” for racism in the NBA, and sports in general. Regrettably, organized competition is only meant to be a momentary diversion from reality. When reality can no longer be vacated — when shot clocks expire and fans vacate stadiums and living room couches — the unfortunate is reaffirmed.
It’s 2014 and we still have a ways to go in vacating the space in society that racism currently occupies.
Cause there shouldn’t be any room for it either.