Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Donald Sterling Problem or an American Race Problem?

I have been paying attention to the recent scandal surrounding the owner of the LA Clippers: Donald Sterling.

Of course, his actual comments are interesting along with the fact that his girlfriend is Black and Latina and he seems to be in denial about it. But what's also interesting is that once again, like with Paula Deen, America is captured by an individual white person who says really racist things and kind of conveniently overlooks their actually racist acts.

Sure, Paula Deen said some racist things. But I was far more concerned with her racist acts such as under-paying and mistreating her Black staff. To me that's a lot more important than what she had to say about Black people.

Likewise, Donald Sterling had been known to be a perpetrator of housing discrimination. But not many people cared about that. But once he said no Black people at his games... that was when everybody got mad! Or at least pretended to.

Why is that?

America is a lot more concerned with appearing post-racial than actually being post-racial. Time and time again racist acts are ignored and swept under the rug. But every once in awhile a white person will be publicly dragged for saying something very racist.

That's the unspoken rule in American race relations: you can be racist but don't sound racist. You can treat people of color horribly, but you can't verbally express that you want to treat them horribly. That is crossing the line in America. This isn't 1965 anymore.

So every once in awhile a high profile white person forgets that we're in "post-racial" America and that saying racist things is not okay and they become the white guilt scapegoat for the season. The white liberals condemn them and the white conservatives halfheartedly defend them on the basis of "free speech" and whatever other excuse. And white America sighs and says, look, we're not racist!

Meanwhile Black players are still akin to slaves within an elaborate and lucrative plantation system. Meanwhile Black people in general are facing exacerbated economic barriers due to race so that they can't be at many of these games anyway, even if they wanted to. Meanwhile there are Black and Latino families being denied housing. Meanwhile, in Paula Deen's case, Black workers are still being under-paid and unacknowledged for the recipes they created.

I'd like to see this most recent incident transform in a larger call for equity for Black players and racial inequity in general. This isn't just about Donald Sterling. In fact, I don't even think it's mostly about Donald Sterling. At least not for a person who is concerned about racism in a genuine sense, and not just cosmetically.

It's about America. It's about the persistence of racism.

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