Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Incremental Death of Racism

Today, Donald Stirling, owner of the L.A. Clippers has received a life time ban from the sport of basketball and a 2.5 million dollar fine for some blatantly racist remarks he made in a private conversation with his 'girlfriend', 30 year old V. Stiviano, who proclaims herself  half  black and half Latino.  From this point forward, he cannot even attend the games and practices of any NBA team.  The NBA also wants to force him to sell his team which he has owned for 33 years; as of this posting, Stirling is adamant, his team is not for sale.  The 2.5 million fine is the maximum that can be levied.

Previously, Stirling had received a Life Time Achievement award from the NBA; that's been stripped.  And this whole thing is really nasty business.  What the man said to his 'girlfriend' is terrible.  But, not unexpected from an 80 year old man.  Let me remind you, this is an 80 year old gazillionaire dealing with a 30 year old girlfriend who, like most of her generation, puts all her life on Instagram and other social media sites.  Like most of her generation, she seems to have no concept of the difference between personal/private vs. public life.  What started the fight was Stirling, getting all sorts of communications and gibes from his friends asking if he was aware of what she was posting.  He insisted that she stop posting pictures of herself with men all over her pages. The fight turned truly ugly when he made reference to her taking pictures with men of color and posting them. One of the black men in the photos is Magic Johnson.  Let me just say, that if I had a chance to post a picture of myself with Magic Johnson who is adorable, I'd do it in a heartbeat regardless of who did or didn't like it. 

But, I am not the kept woman of an 80 year old gazillionaire whose money, in all probability, supports her lavish and large L.A. Lifestyle.  Nor am I the 80 year old man who most likely thought he was having an argument in private with his 'livin' la vida loca,' girl-child-friend.  More than being worked up over her having lots of photos with men of color on her walls, I really think that Stirling was too proud to simply tell her that he's totally jealous and doesn't want the public and his friends to see pictures of her with any guys- period!  He wasn't willing to come clean and say that he's not happy with her having pictures with other men or bringing them to his Clipper games, or any of it.  After all, he is supporting her. Sadly, he didn't say his truth. It became about being in pictures with black guys.  His awful words got him in a world of hurt.  Does he deserve to be sanctioned for it?  What do you think?

What he said in the recording is pretty awful, unfortunate and makes one cringe.  But, I'm going to go on record to say that, it's not out of the norm for Stirling to think or feel as he does.  His generation did not live with inter-racial dating, marriage, or significant association or friendships with other races as part of their cultural norm.  In fact, it was pretty much frowned upon and kept secret.  And, while as a business man Stirling has been wise enough to keep his personal biases to himself, this time, those biases have become so public as to really be a case of how, "Racism ruins lives."  It sure has ruined his.  I don't condone what he feels or said, I'm simply saying it is reasonable to expect he might feel as he does.

I certainly don't know the man, but my guess is that he isn't one of those warm, fuzzy, and gentle men. I don't think I'd like to spend time with him, and when he was an attorney, I'm betting he was a total shark.  As an 80 year old with all kinds of stupid, "F You Money," who is used to being powerful and obeyed, his tolerance for his 30 year old girlfriend's behavior and her unwillingness to comply with his directives, had come to an end.  So, they had a fight. The brat recorded it, which, if she didn't tell him she was doing it is against the law in California.  Somehow it ends up being released to the media.  Racism rears its ugly head again.  This time the response and action taken to counteract it is swift and serious. This time, it couldn't be ignored or hidden and was swiftly addressed.  

However, no matter how swift, racism will die a slow death in tiny, incremental steps. Slower than any of us hope.  I will come clean here:  just the other day, before all this mess with Stirling, I happened to be watching television when a gorgeous black man came on the screen.  I immediately identified him as very handsome and appealing.  I'm not sure why, but the next thought that came was being a bit disappointed in mySelf because I am fairly certain when I was young and dating, I would not have had the courage to date a man of color.  I'd like to think I would attempt it if the opportunity had presented itself, but I honestly don't know if I would.  Now that I'm older- comfortable with who I am, and my father and family gone, I believe it would be a none-issue, but I'm not certain.  As much as I never judge my interactions with another Human Being on something as weak or unimportant as the color of skin or race; as much as treating anyone as fairly and respectfully as I can... I am still a child of the 50s.  I grew up in the race riots, civil unrest and fear in the 60s.  I am blessed to have formed my moral compass during the turbulent 70s...but I am who I am, and I find that I can only stretch so far until....  well, until, I have consciously question mySelf, "Holly are you doing all you can to accept each Human Being you meet?"

Like it or not, we are hard wired to stay within our own clans.  To stay with those who most think, act, look as we do and be suspicious or hostile to those who don't.  It's our old reptilian brain, the part that deals with survival, unconsciously driving our comfort levels in terms of race, culture, and norms.  Since it's old brain stuff, it's constantly, subtly running in the background, and it's only when we have new experiences that we get to consciously weigh them against that old brain thinking.  It's through those experiences that we begin to  change our thoughts and comfort zones. For many of us of a certain age and arc of history, we have learned the rightness of being color blind, but we cannot totally close of our life experiences.

CNN recently released an article that shares how black children cement their racist ideas about white people about the time they are 13.  Why is the story of interest?  Because it's about black, not white children. Yes, racism is not just a white man's burden.  All races have racism issues.  ALL of us.  Racism may not be overtly taught like it was when I was a child, but trust me, it's still being taught and it's the subtle ways that it is taught that can be the most difficult to identify and halt. What frustrates me is that, in our current ridiculously politically correct world view, the only form most often broadcast seems to be the examples of white racism and that's just wrong. The only way we will continue to make progress is if all of us, not just white folk, admit it's a Human challenge and stay on guard.

The only thing I can think of that might solve the problem is for everyone to stay vigilant.  For everyone to constantly check ourSelves to make sure we're stretching as far as we can in the right direction while we wait for older generations, including my own, to die off.  Because, thankfully, with each generation that follows, racism should become less, and less, and less of an issue until it is finally all but gone. Bill Maher, talk show host said it best, "Donald Sterling is 81. You know what will cure this type of racism? The flu."  He also contends that he shouldn't be forced to sell his team, "Calm down, being an asshole is still legal in America."  I don't agree with Bill Maher on much but I do agree with him on this topic.

Will racism ever be gone totally?  One can hope.  And pray.  But not unless we have open and honest discussions about it, and not until everyone, not only white people are held accountable for racist behavior.  And as far as kept young women behaving like brats while putting their stuff out in public and being sneaky and going public with things that are said in private?  Along with the discussion of 80 year old men thinking having a 30 year old girlfriend is a great idea-  Those topics will have to be taken up in subsequent posts.  But, then again, I'll probably leave those topics alone because we all know, even though I am Queen of the Universe, even I-  can't fix stupid.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka She Who Fights The Good Fight With HerSelf.
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