“I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers organization or the NBA,” declared NBA Commissioner Adam Silver (as cited in Shontell, 2014). Silver’s aforementioned explanation that Sterling’s principles are in stark contrast to the NBA’s principles of respect for diversity gave us a beacon of hope that racism will not be tolerated in the NBA.
Just when we thought we had made great strides in overcoming racial barriers with our first African American president and People magazine’s pronouncement that Lupida Nyong’o is the most beautiful, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racially charged conversation with his girlfriend let us know we have more work to do.
Why should Sterling’s private conversation matter to us?
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite” (Mandela, 2010, para. 1).
Sterling’s private conversation matters because people make a conscious effort to hate. Moreover, it affects what people say and do. I am not surprised that Sterling had a history of being racially insensitive. In the early 2000s, the U.S. Department of Justice sued him for housing discrimination—discrimination against African Americans and Hispanics. The financial compensation Sterling paid out was one of the largest during that time (2006, Associated Press).
Who does racism affect?
According to Dr. Alvin Poussaint (as cited in Suddreth, 1993, para. 10), “Racism can destroy us as individuals and ultimately destroy the world. . . One of the reasons why it has historically been so lethal and devastating is that when played out unharnessed, the bottom line, is genocide. Once you know that racism leads to genocide, and frequently that is one of its missions, then you can spread out and kind of tabulate the other manifestations on a different level of the genocidal doctrine.”
I recently watched the movie 50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. & Mrs. Kraus (2014). I was touched by Helga Milberg recall of her father’s words just prior to the Holocaust: “. . . . well it can’t last, and it won’t happen here. These people are too intelligent and . . . we’re so advanced . . . somebody’s going to get hurt, but let’s hope it isn’t too many people.”
Racism affects everyone because hatred begets hatred. Many times racism is taught to one family member to another, and when a person is intolerant of one group of people, that hatred could spread to other groups of people.
How should we proceed?
Mother Teresa of Calcutta had the right idea: “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”
Although we have a long road ahead of us, those acts of color blind kindness throughout history help to motivate us. Even when it was not politically correct, people from different racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds have worked together to try to end oppression. We have a rich history of selfless people who made a conscious effort to forsake hatred for the respect and protection of equal rights to all people, and we should continue in their footsteps:
- To the Quakers and other evangelical groups who helped hundreds of slaves escape, we thank you.
- To the thousands of people who risked their lives to save Jewish people during the Holocaust, we thank you.
- To Eleanor Roosevelt who spoke out against racism and fought for equality for all, we thank you.
- To the diverse assembly of people who marched on Washington D.C. with Martin Luther King, we thank you.
- To Maryann Mahaffey who gave her life to the service of equality for all people, we thank you.
- To Lacey Holsworth and Adreian Payne (and to their parents) who showed us that true love and compassion is color blind, we thank you.
- To Commissioner Adam Silver who had the guts to stand up and slap racism in the face as it reared its ugly head, we thank you.
- To the White couple who came into my segregated school district almost 50 years ago to hold after school Bible lessons, I thank you.
- To all the heroes and “sheroes” who chose mankind over their kind, we thank you.
How have the sacrifices of others shaped your life? This is the story in you. Share it.
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Associated Press. (2006, August). Sterling sued by DOJ for housing discrimination. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved from http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=2542741
HBO. (2014). 50 children: The rescue mission of Mr. & Mrs. Kraus [Video file].
Mandela. N. (2010). The Nelson Mandela museum. Retrieved from http://www.nelsonmandelamuseum.org.za/about-us/about-the-nelson-mandela-museum
Shontell, A. (2014). Here’s Adam Silver’s historic statement on banning Donald Sterling for life. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/adam-silvers-donald-sterling-statement-transcript-2014-4
Suddreth, L. (1993). How racism affects everyone. Library of Congress Information Bulletin. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/93/9304/racism.html