Get Off Their Backs by J'son M. Lee
Many people seem shocked by the alleged anti-minority comments made by Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling. Here’s an abbreviated version:
“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” You can can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that…and not to bring them to my games,” Sterling said to his mixed-race mistress, V. Stiviano. He went on to tell her that she is "supposed to be a delicate white or a delicate Latina girl."
Ironically, Sterling’s mistress is black and Mexican. I’m guessing Sterling only sees Stiviano’s exotic beauty, and chooses not to acknowledge the offensive side of her—the black side. This assignment of value by having white blood, and lack of value by having black blood is a function of bigotry and exclusionary tactics that began during slavery.
Celebrities, and non-celebrities alike, voiced their outrage over the alleged comments. Many called for a severe sanction if the comments were substantiated. Even President Obama weighed in on the matter. "The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that's still there, the vestiges of discrimination," Obama said during a news conference in Malaysia. "We've made enormous strides, but you're going to continue to see this percolate up every so often. And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why statements like this stand out some much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves," he added.
So, why are people shocked by Sterling’s comments? It is abundantly clear that there is a segment of the population that feels minorities are still inferior to whites. In my opinion, being shocked at his blatant racism is a wasted emotion. Posting on Facebook gets the word around, but does it call us to action or simply sensationalize the offense? I read a lot of these posts, and one in particular really intrigued me: If Donald Sterling had said the same things about gays, would the public outcry be different? I don’t know that the outcry would have been different, but the LGBT community—a community inspired by the African American Civil Rights Movement—is very quick to call foul on actions that infringe upon our human rights and civil liberties. We are in a perpetual battle for equality, often receiving harsh criticism for the strides we have made. I’m not sure the LGBT community would have given Sterling so many chances to disrespect us.
As minorities, we can’t just take to social media when things outrage us; we have to put our power—our minority power—in action. In my heart, I believe that Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who made the ultimate sacrifice for his beliefs, was called by God to transform a society steeped in racial injustice. We need another Martin Luther King, Jr. Have we forgotten his struggle? Are we too self-absorbed to struggle? Are we perfectly comfortable resting on the laurels of our ancestors? King said, “If it loses the will to finish or slackens in its determination, history will recall its crimes and the country that would be great will lack the most indispensable element of greatness—justice."
Have we lost the will to finish what our ancestors started? We can’t change people like Sterling, but we all have the power to rally one another. We can’t wait for Reverend Al Sharpton or Reverend Jesse Jackson to rally us. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not called as I believe Reverend King was, but I still should be a catalyst for the change I want to see. I’ve been a bad steward over the freedoms I’ve been afforded.
I can’t change Sterling, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make a difference. Maybe I’m too scared. Maybe you’re too scared. Why aren’t we willing to sacrifice like Dr. King? While we may not be willing to sacrifice our lives, are we willing to sacrifice some of our comforts (food, TV, places we frequent, etc.) to make a stand? Or are we going to keep posting on Facebook and pretending we’re about the cause?
Let’s stand up for one another, whether gay or straight, black or white. Who will if we don't? Maybe my part in the struggle is to cause us to think. What’s your part? We can’t keep relying on the Reverends to do our job. I’m sure they’re tired of us standing on their backs.
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