30 Apr 2014

America is not “post racial”; just ask Donald Sterling

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A response to Jason Whitlock’s Culture Clash commentary on ESPN.com.

By Jill Pilgrim, Esq.

For those who heralded Barack Obama’s election as the beginning of the “post racial” era of American history, the LA Clippers-Donald Sterling saga is just one more reminder that this belief is untrue. Setting aside the question — “What does post-racial mean?” — we have numerous studies, statistics and antidotal stories that bear witness that racism and prejudice is alive and well in America. How many times does news media have to report stories of sending in two people – one black, one white – with exactly the same academic and work histories on a resume, only to have the white job candidate routinely receiving the offer? How many stories do we need to hear of white families fleeing neighborhoods and public school districts, when too many minorities move in? How many times do we need to see the studies that show high school students from poor and minority school districts being incarcerated for “minor crimes” while their white counterparts in “advantaged neighborhoods” are sent to the principle instead of the police station for the same infraction?

Having concluded for myself that America is not “post racial”, Jason Whitlock’s April 29, 2014 commentary on ESPN.com raises some important points, many of which I disagree with. The “ratings-pleasing mob hell-bent on revenge” provides America with yet another opportunity to inch towards its espoused high ideals and “core values” of “equality” and “equal justice for all”. Yes, the LA Clippers-Sterling incident is similar to the Travon Martin tragedy only that it exposes the hypocrisy and double standards related to the “race issue” that must first be recognized and discussed, before it can be effectively addressed. Prejudice and racism do not exist in a vacuum and are not limited to “white-on-black” incidents. Black-on-black; Hispanic-on-black; black-on-white; muslin-on-white; white-on-Asian; and many other prejudices and hate speech play themselves out every day in America. They are all wrong and regrettable. This is not a “black issue”, it’s an American problem. The hypocrisy of sport lies in the throngs of multiracial fans who fill stadia and arenas and watch sports broadcasts every week to cheer on their favorite sports teams and “multi-ethnic” players, buy and wear their numbered jerseys, but who in their respective individual lives harbor prejudices and act in ways that do not respect equality of treatment and equal justice. What I love about sport is the fact that it does “even the playing field”. The best athletes rise to the top based upon their God-given talent and the business-minded benefit from those talented athletes by owning and managing the leagues and teams that they play in. Everyone wins!

Sterling upset the balance by being un-savvy enough to appreciate that in the 21st Century young mistresses are capable of using all the electronic gadgets and media at their disposal to protect their less than secure station in life. Celebrities and professional athletes learned this lesson the hard way! The existing “right to privacy” laws, regrettably for many, have proved insufficient to prevent leaks of private moments. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how or why Sterling’s remarks became public, what matters is that “well-intentioned” Americans accept this as yet another of many opportunities to move the needle towards its “post racial” and “equality” ideal, if indeed that ideal remains the “American Dream.” Thus, “public display of outrage” in this circumstance is warranted by all who wish to create the American Dream. Better yet would be for those American Dreamers to turn the mirror and look at themselves and be committed to “doing something” in the march towards “post racial” America. In this vein, the other wealthy white predominately male sports team owners taking action to “help” Mr. Sterling sell the LA Clippers to a less bigoted owner(s), would be a demonstrable step in the direction of “changing the culture.”

In sum Mr. Whitlock, removing Mr. Sterling achieves an important goal and he is an important and relevant “scape goat!”

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