By Jacob Eckeberger on May 02 2014
#YSRealTalk is a series of interviews by Fred Oduyoye that tackle difficult cultural issues. This week, Fred and James White discuss the bigger systemic issues behind Donald Sterling's remarks and reveal that the problem is much deeper than the actions of one man.
(Fred) So James, if I were to ask my mom’s response to Donald Sterling, she would highlight the same sentiments of most African-Americans and the general public….and probably remind me again of the historical challenges our culture faced during the 1940’s and 1950’s. But Doc, this is an 80 year old white man that didn’t grow up in the current “let’s all get along and friend me era!”
(James) When individuals mention that he is an 80-year-old white man therefore somehow it is expected that he would be racist, that is the embodiment of a generational stereotype that is unfortunate. We tend to forget the number of White leaders during the 30’s and 40’s that supported the causes of African Americans. We often erase the contributions of these white leaders because they represented a political ideology that was the enemy of democracy; they were branded as communist or socialist.
We have focused our attention on the punishment of the individual Donald Sterling, which is important; however, we miss the philosophical systematic structure that created a Donald Sterling. It is an interesting picture of the problem of race in pro sports. A wealthy white man who is an “owner” is frustrated that his mistress is cavorting with, or relating to individuals who are the property of, or should I say under contract to perform as entertainment for the NBA. He even used language of what he provided for them because he purchased cars and other material things to keep his property happy. Is it really ironic that his mistress is half black and yet she is his mistress? Sounds strangely similar to the presidential slaveholder Thomas Jefferson and his relationship with Sally Hemings.
Unfortunately, this situation is nothing new and many of those who are outraged now (i.e. Clippers, Doc Rivers etc.) I am sure knew of the racist beliefs of Donald Sterling. However, when you have the economic power to purchase people for a game, we tend to look the other way. We now live in a world where the speed of social media delivers messages to the masses that will force those of us who benefit from injustice to stand up and even speak up.
Yes, the penalty that was delivered by the NBA commissioner Adam Silver was a good start and hopefully it will send a message. We must not celebrate prematurely, because it does not eradicate the system. Making sure that one plantation (team) owner is out of business does not end a system that produced an individual with ideals that go all the way back to slavery.
TO BE CONTINUED...
We'll post the follow up to this #YSRealTalk interview on Monday. In the meantime, let us know your thoughts. How do you think this perspective is communicated to our students through obvious and not so obvious cultural influences?
James White currently serves as the executive vice president of organizational relations for the YMCA of the Triangle Area and is the senior pastor of Christ Our King Community Church located in Raleigh, NC. James is also a member of the National Training and Leadership Development Advisory Board for the YMCA of the USA. Hear James this fall at NYWC.com.
Fred Oduyoye is the Director of Community Relations for Youth Specialties. After a successful corporate career, Fred was led into full-time ministry at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis TN, where he oversaw neighborhood gang communities as the Youth Outreach Director.