There’s been a lot of talk about the recorded conversation, released last weekend, of Clipper’s owner Donald Sterling pleading with his girlfriend V. Stiviano not to associate with black people in public or have pictures taken with them, among other racist comments. (Ironically, she is mixed race, half black and half Latina, and she has apparently told him this before.) In the three days since the recording’s release, Sterling has been banned for life by the NBA and fined $2.5 million, and the organization is pushing for a forced sale of the Clippers. It’s such an awful situation for a team that has been rapidly rising in the ranks after decades of being L.A.’s “other team.”
Commentators all over the country accuse Stiviano of being the ultimate betrayer who framed Sterling — even former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said the creator of the tape should be sent to prison. Though this story is extraordinarily juicy, full of shocking and at the same time unsurprising details of greed and scandal, it shines a light on the reality that racism and bigotry is alive and well. Unfortunately, such poor character traits aren’t relegated just to the über-rich. The famously infamous Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy also recently revealed his true colors with his comments questioning whether blacks were better off now or as slaves. But even right here in Ventura County, it’s shamelessly being touted by the not-so-famous, rich or otherwise.
In the midst of the Sterling scandal, one Ventura resident argued that Californians don’t know real racism, that if we lived in the South where the KKK still exists, then we would really know, but that argument falls short. Months ago, one local writer and blogger condoned racism because, as long as one is being funny, it’s OK. Discrimination, racism, bigotry are so boorish and just plain stupid, it’s hard to believe anyone living in this day and age gets away with it.
On the other side of the issue — one much less talked about — is when minority organizations claim racism when there is very little evidence such a thing has occurred. Enter the NAACP in early April, accusing Oxnard City Council of racism when passing over Interim City Manager Karen Burnham, who is black, for an interview for city manager. The two finalists — a white man from Modesto and a white woman formerly of Santa Barbara — had apparently been selected by a recruiting firm, not the council, because of their qualifications and experience. We understand the need to stand strong against discrimination and racism, but due diligence is of the utmost importance. Six of Oxnard’s 13 top managers are black.
Reflecting on the last month, we can understand why the NAACP may generally be a bit trigger-happy. Just last week, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld Michigan’s ban on affirmative action when considering higher education applications, though statistics from all over the country show blacks and Hispanics still fall behind in rates of acceptance into universities and graduation rates. Such a decision may be perceived as a setback, but hope is still alive.
While we can’t force people to change their way of thinking, we can keep moving forward with our words and our actions in a way that racism won’t have a way to survive. Surely, it won’t be quashed any time soon, but we can work together to shut it down. When such a thing occurs, don’t condone or ignore it. Make it known to whomever the perpetrator is that racism will not be tolerated. We have a long ways to go to become a truly civilized society, but in the wise words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”