Less than Sterling: Racism in 'Post-Racial' America

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8:  The Los Angeles Clippers logo is shown at midcourt before a game between the Phoenix Suns and
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 8: The Los Angeles Clippers logo is shown at midcourt before a game between the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on December 8, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

In the wake of alleged comments made by L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, there is yet another discussion on race taking place within American society. I wasn't planning to wade into the frigid waters of this debate, but here we are facing yet another attack on America's racial minority. With other ongoing major news events -- Russia and Ukraine, the South Korean Ferry disaster, a Congressman being indicted on 20 federal charges, Midwestern tornadoes taking lives, and the hyperbolic call of "terrorist baptism by waterboarding" -- America has plenty of issues on its plate for discussion. However, debates on race and equality continue to make their way to the forefront of American discourse.

Let's consider the fact that the Supreme Court recently announced to the world that the 21st century is home to a post-racial America via its ruling of race consideration for college applications. It is a fact, given these and other circumstances, that seems utterly farcical. In discussing the ramifications of Sterling's alleged statements, we must evaluate the content of the recording which was obviously racist and held extremely offensive notions. The only question I can see thereafter is how are we -- as Americans generally and as the black American community specifically -- going to react or take action in the wake of it all? What does a proper response look like in this modern society of ours? And why should we expect someone else to take a stand at greater personal and professional risk than one we are willing to take ourselves?

Some people are upset over the silent protest made by the Clippers team this past weekend during warmups at their game against the Warriors. Personally, I wasn't surprised by some of the outcry against the players' decision, but I don't truly agree with it. The team is now in an impossible position in which no matter what they do A) some group will be negatively impacted by the action and B) some group will likely think the team didn't go far enough if they don't quit or boycott the playoffs. I believe it's important to remember that these men are professional athletes contracted to represent an organization, a fan base and a city. That's their job, and being a professional athlete is not typical of many other professions in the world. To say that they make millions and can afford to take a step back in any regard glosses over the fact that they shouldn't have to feel as though they are doing wrong by their race because they choose to continue to represent their city and fans -- their contractual obligation, mind you -- in the face of an owner's hateful remarks. We expect them to be role models, we expect them to be standard bearers for those young ones that look up to them, but what about their own personal expectations? And maybe we even expect them to take a greater stand than the one we would take ourselves. But, what would we ask them to do as professional adults?

Let's review a short hypothetical and say that this was not a professional sports team, but the remarks of a CEO of a major corporation. And instead of athletes, let's say the majority of the employees of this corporation are of a race the CEO has provided a racially charged diatribe. What are our expectations of those employees? Are they expected to walk out and quit because their boss is racist? Millions of Americans deal with this struggle each and everyday and perhaps the Clippers' players should not be held to a different standard than we would hold the employees of the hypothetical corporation. Should the situation change if the employees were all millionaires? How do we square away standing up for what is right for the greater good but at your own expense? Civil rights leaders often said do whatever is necessary for the fight, but at what point do we do ourselves a disservice through our fight against injustice? Stepping aside from that, consider this: it is estimated that the chances of a player making it onto an NCAA basketball team are approximately one in 31. The chances of those players making it into the NBA are approximately one in 365. So given the effort, determination and skill needed simply to make a team, for a player to take a political action that could adversely affect his career is not a decision to be made lightly. With all of this acknowledged, we cannot overlook the importance of this situation and its societal effects.

We are a society just barely two generations removed from segregation. We live in a country in which stop-and-frisk programs still exists. We are a nation in which voting rights and one's ability to cast a ballot -- a constitutionally protected, fundamental right -- has been reduced, if not infringed upon, without an abundance of evidence of fraudulent activity. So does it take a man with a history of accusations of bigotry to suddenly remind us that this is not the post-racial Utopia our greatest legal minds would have us believe? And in light of his actions, how would we expect these athletes to respond? I believe something must be done in this situation, and I do believe that silent protests and press releases will not be enough. These young men -- with an average age of 29 years old across this team -- have been placed in an incredibly difficult if not all-out impossible position. We all need to take this opportunity to come to the realization that we have yet to breathe in that fantasy air of a post-racial United States and that we cannot sit in judgment of these young men for making whatever decisions they might based on their personal needs in a situation this difficult.