The conversation about race in the United States has become all too familiar. The Celebrity Makes Offensive Statement, Everyone Objects, Media Firestorm, Shame/Resignation cycle seems endless. It’s a continuous loop.
Our most recent conversation involving Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was mercifully brief. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver decisively ended the conversation by expeditiously rising to the moment and ejecting this pathetic sybarite from the NBA.
One thing Silver wasn’t able to do was eject racism from the fiber of America.
Since the civil rights movement of the 1960s, American society has grown increasingly intolerant of Sterlingesque sentiments. Racial intolerence, even in this incident, hasn’t been restricted to Sterling’s bizarre and disturbing rant. In 2010, Floyd Mayweather Jr., the boxer, delivered a YouTube soliloquy about Manny Pacquiao, his opponent, in which he called him a “little yellow chump.”
Now Mayweather says he’s very interested in purchasing the Clippers. Go figure.
The race conversation isn’t a white-black chat, either. It’s Asian, Native American, Latino. It’s everyone who isn’t you. With the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008, there was a national sigh of relief in many quarters because maybe, just maybe, the volume of the race conversation would be toned down. Instead, it seems to have gotten worse.
The more we talk about race, the more we talk about race. The Fox News Hero of the Moment, the range-fee-dodging rancher Cliven Bundy, noted that perhaps slavery wasn’t such a bad thing after all, as it kept “Negroes” from drinking on the stoop all day. Huh. News Hero of the Moment crashes and burns.
Except in the eyes of the people who agree with him. Disturbingly, there are millions of them, still.
Some of them, like Sterling, are dependent on their (mostly) black employees. Oh, and their mixed-race girlfriends. But let’s not let ourselves be photographed with them, darling, shall we? It might give certain people the wrong idea that they are Sterling’s equal.
In some cases, money talks its way into buying silence about race. The NAACP was about to give Sterling an award for his contributions to the loving understanding of the need for everyone to just get along.
Just in the past year or so, we’ve had several loud national conversations about race: George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, Bundy and Sterling, to name a few. No doubt, the conversations are useful. Sometimes there is no talk at all. Just a violent ending.
At some point, you would think that we could change the subject.