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Race in Modern America: Going After Easy Targets

In my last piece, I tried to unpack a little of what it is that makes Donald Sterling so racist. Although soon it won’t matter, since the NBA is convening a vote to force Sterling to sell the team that one owner believes will be “unanimous.” Thus Sterling becomes yet another feather in the cap of the forces “fighting” against racism, such as Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.

But is Sterling’s ban-for-life really a victory for anyone other than the Clippers (Sterling was voted the “worst owner in sports” on more than one occasion)? That he was recorded in private making racist comments is no surprise to anyone who had heard of him before last week.

In July 2013, Deadspin.com reported that Sterling made racist remarks in a meeting with a potential head coach. In 2010 he was sued by NBA legend Elgin Taylor for wrongful termination, depositions from which revealed very racist remarks. In 2003, Sterling was sued by the Department of Justice for discriminating against blacks, Hispanics, and people with children. Frankly his sad, whiny complaints to his mixed-race girlfriend were possibly the least-racist of his many racism scandals.

For years now in Chicago, black-on-black gun violence has been a huge epidemic. Despite attempts at strict gun laws and freedoms for police, the problem continues to get worse. The recent murder of Leonore Draper almost perfectly encapsulates the “Chicago” problem. Ms. Draper was an activist killed tragically by stray bullets in a presumed drive-by shooting after returning home from an anti-violence event.

Conversely, police maintain many invasive and racist policies in the name of “fighting” this violence, such as New York’s failed “stop and frisk” policy. When one incorporates the effects of the War on Drugs into that as well, what you end up with is a clear message that the “authorities” are at “war” with the black community. No one got to be “non-combatants” in that one.

Is it so hard to see how crime, specifically the drug trade, can look like the only option—short of getting a record-deal or, ironically, getting to the NBA—for folks who have only known poverty? As the American economy totters on its feet after the 2008 financial crisis, the US government cut its food assistance program right before the Holidays at a time when almost a quarter of black homes are food-insecure.

Those with their eyes so intently focused on watching the “culture” for any stray use of racist language, do so because these aforementioned problems are deep, difficult societal battles that aren’t easy to quantify as “wins” as when a purported racist loses his or her job. Perhaps Sharpton has spent so much time chasing media attention that he has forgotten that a real world, with real problems exists outside of television.

Yes, Sterling was an ass and the NBA will be better off without him. Still his example perfectly describes how problems with race are handled in modern America. We don’t have the attention-span or energy to look at the substantive problems, so we focus fleetingly on one person whose “gone viral” and don’t stop until they are destroyed. Go team.

Photo by Timothy Krause via Flickr Creative Commons

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.