Listening to the radio on a recent drive home from Lansing, I caught part of a conversation between sportswriters 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.
The Sterling story is blowing 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.
If you haven’t read the full account of Sterling’s rant, or only heard the bits and pieces in the media, you may think that the gist of the audio is that a very rich man in Los Angeles lost his mind and started complaining about black people attending basketball games with the girlfriend he has on the side. It is very easy to make that the target of our horrified faces.
Few have picked up on the big issue. How easy is it to point out obvious racism and do nothing about “real racism?” Kudos to Jones and to former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for being among the few who get it.
“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,” Jones said. “…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.
Jabbar said in Time magazine, “(Sterling) 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 him a lifetime achievement award because he cut a very big check. Nineteen plaintiffs sued him for housing discrimination that year, accusing him of driving blacks and Latinos out of buildings he owned. This type of discrimination has been destroying cities, and lives, all across this land.
As middle-class minorities try to empower themselves, housing discrimination hinders the attempt because not only do people lose out on quality housing, but also the opportunity for their children to have access to quality schools and educational opportunities.
He was sued in 2003 and paid $5 million for it. Very few of us know about this because very few reported it and everyone ignored it. A second suit was more of the same, because he refused to rent to black people, to Latinos and to people with children. The cost that time was $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 out 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.
I’m a Republican. I don’t believe 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.