So Donald Sterling got what amounts to the death sentence. Banned for life by the NBA. His ugly remarks are proof, as I’ve said before, not that racism is alive and well in America, but rather that racism is on its last leg. The man has been publicly branded a pariah. The American people have made him an outcast. You think any of that would have happened if we really were a racist nation, as some would have us believe?
But now that he’s gone, I’m wondering who else among us has said things in the privacy of our homes that would get us in trouble if somebody recorded them and made our remarks public.
Rest assured, I’ve never ever said anything that might even vaguely be construed as politically incorrect. But I’ll bet you have.
And I’ll bet a lot of players in the NBA have.
I’ll bet a lot of politicians have, too.
I’ll bet white people have and black people have and Latino people have and straight people have and gay people have.
So what lesson should we take of the public flogging of Donald Sterling, as deserved as it was?
How about this: If anyone – an accountant, a garbage man, an MSNBC host, a college professor, an attorney general, a president, a truck driver … anyone! … says something racist in the privacy of his or her home, and if it somehow becomes public information, that person should lose his or her job and his or her livelihood – because racist words cannot be tolerated in America, not in 2014.
I understand that Sterling had a high-profile job and that the NBA is pretty much a black league. So his dumb remarks were especially hurtful. But if we want to stamp out racism, what better way than to hold everybody accountable for what they say – no matter where they say it!
I am confused, however, about why there is no universal condemnation of athletes who father children in every city in the league. Or of athletes who beat up their girlfriends. Or of athletes who drive drunk and kill people. I guess none of those things warrant the moral outrage that bigoted words uttered by a foolish old man in private warrant.
But let me be clear: I’m outraged over what Donald Sterling said. Really, really outraged. I say this because if anyone thinks I’m less than really, really outraged because of anything I’ve written here, I might get in really, really big trouble.
One more thing: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a piece for Time magazine about Sterling and racism. After making clear his disgust with the now-banned owner of the Clippers, Abdul-Jabbar writes this:
“Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn’t we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen’s privacy in such an un-American way? Although the impact is similar to Mitt Romney’s comments that were secretly taped, the difference is that Romney was giving a public speech. The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime. We didn’t steal the cake but we’re all gorging ourselves on it.”
Nicely put, Kareem!