WASHINGTON, May 4, 2014 — Donald Sterling’s ignorance provides still another learning opportunity.
When the average person says something racist, relatively few will learn of the comments, and consequences are usually limited.
In today’s media and Internet world, when a public figure says something racist, or sexist, or homophobic, others with the same ignorance, fear or hatred become fueled, children are adversely influenced, and there is usually public outrage that doesn’t last long enough.
Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream of equality in our country is closer now than when he lived. We must however act collectively and sustain condemnation when hatred, fear or ignorance surfaces.
Racism still exists. Now, at least, bigots are routinely reprimanded.
Fear of and ignorance about sexual differences are very widespread. Progress is being seen nonetheless by those intelligent communities that have enacted laws eliminating gender discrimination and by court decisions in the same direction.
The response to the most recent example of racism was absolutely needed. Donald Sterling, the ignorant owner of the professional basketball Los Angeles Clippers, has been fined and banned from everything related to professional basketball for life. Whether he is forced to sell the team remains a question, but is not relevant to the sanctioning message that was delivered by the Commissioner Alan Silver. Sterling’s racial comments provide evidence that there is still much more learning that is needed.
Banning him was the perfect and only response to serve education.
Last year Paula Deen’s cooking show was taken from her because highly racially insensitive comments she made decades ago surfaced, and the Food Network couldn’t tolerate the association with someone who had racist beliefs.
Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson was initially booted “indefinitely” for comments about the lesbian and gay community, but the A&E network caved under massive pressure from fans as ignorant as Robertson and reinstated him after a few weeks.
Other public figures were not appropriately “punished.”
Serial sexist Rush Limbaugh’s big mouth continues to alienate. He recently said single mothers are “male sperm receptacles”, and he once declared that “the larger the bra size the smaller the IQ.” Limbaugh and the radio station took a major financial hit after they lost dozens of sponsors following his calling Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” when she testified on Capitol Hill about women’s access to contraception.
Don Imus, another talk radio host, and arguably a true gem in the world, having created a foundation for children with cancer and another for war veterans in need of rehabilitation, was ultimately fired after referring to the women’s basketball team at Rutgers University as “nappy-headed ho’s.” The Rutgers comments were not his first sexist comments; the station said his firing was about moving in a new direction.
Jay Severin, still another talk radio host, had a disgraceful history of racist and sexist remarks that finally got him fired. In 2004 he commented on Muslims: “you think we should befriend them. I think we should kill them.” In 2009 Severin said Mexicans were “the world’s lowest of primitives,” and, “it’s millions of leeches from a primitive country come here to leech off you and, with it, they are ruining the schools, the hospitals, and a lot of life in America.”
His firing came in 2011 after he commented about women plaintiffs in a workplace sexual harassment lawsuit, calling them “whores and liars.” He continued stating that he slept with interns. “Those girls that got to sleep with me got to know their boss better, they got to go on trips, they got to travel in some cases to various parts of the world, to see things and meet people that they never would have seen or done.”
Media are not the only public forums. Sports, politics and entertainment have provided lessons.
The most racist statement in the history of sport belongs to television reporter Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder. His firing, even in 1988, was the only possibility for the network.
“The black is a better athlete to begin with because he’s been bred to be that way — because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs. This goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trading, the owner — the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid.”
Shaquile O’Neal, regarded as one of the best centers ever to have played the game of basketball, provided evidence that racism does not limit itself. Shaq was interviewed in 2002 about the league’s new up and coming Chinese center Yao Ming. Shaq said “Tell Yao Ming, ‘Ching-chong-yang-wah-ah-so.” Shaq’s comment tarnished his image and enraged Asian groups.
John McCain, Senator from Arizona, during the 2004 election, on Asians, told a group of reporters on his campaign bus “I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live.” McCain’s career didn’t suffer.
Alaska Representative Don Young referred to Latinos as “wetbacks” in 2013. He should be voted out of office.
Actor Mel Gibson’s career dipped after his anti-Semitic comments years ago. His sexist and racist recording to Oksana Grigoreva (his child’s mother) also hurt him, but attendance at his movies didn’t suffer much. He said he hoped Oksana would be raped by a “pack of n*ggers.”
Deer in the headlights: singer John Mayer went on the record explaining that he had no attraction to black women. He told Playboy magazine that his “d*ck is a white supremacist.” His career has not suffered much.
Media Matters, a Washington, D.C. watch-dog organization said, in response to sponsors eventually returning to Limbaugh’s show after his tirade against Sandra Fluke, that outrage is hard to sustain. Indeed.
Get mad. Boycott. Pull advertisements. Vote bigots and racists out of office. Applaud actions of punishment.
We are not born with racist or sexist ideas. There are still parents who teach their children hatred and fear. Sometimes children learn by watching their parents or teachers, and they are influenced by their peers and by the reactions of “the crowd.”
Teach your children acceptance and concepts of equality.
If Sterling is forced to sell the Clippers, is there a way to force him to donate the money to an organization that promotes equality?
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website.
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