Natural Hair Mag

This is a Cultural Problem. Not a Don Sterling One.

Don Sterling

The Clippers team protests by wearing their uniforms inside out.

I have previously written a post detailing the events that have now led up to Donald Sterling’s lifetime ban from the NBA. In all actuality, I really don’t care too much for him because I don’t usually watch sports. While I’m glad Sterling has been getting all of this negative media attention [reminding me of the Paula Deen incident], I am suspicious as to why America is so quick to point out INDIVIDUALs who are racist, while not discussing the racism that is inherent in the American system itself. I mean, we live in a Post-Trayvon Martin culture where certain people are profiled daily because of the color of their skin and a lot of these incidences are rarely publicized or discussed.

In a brilliant article from Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. on the Root:

Now, though, Sterling’s mistress apparently releases a tape of him attaching famous names to his disdain for black folks and people want to be in a frenzy? I find it perplexing that so many people are upset by Sterling’s words, as if they haven’t heard such venom spewed in life before. Have they not been paying attention to the rampant racism against blacks on full display by members of Congress? Did they not pay attention to the verdict in the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis murder trials?

Have they already forgotten the circumstances surrounding the killings of Renisha McBride and Jonathan Ferrell? Did they miss the abhorrent treatment of Marissa Alexander and Kelley Williams Bolar by the justice system? Have they bumped their heads and omitted the Marcus Smart debacle and racist taunts lobbed at AC Milan soccer player Mario Ballotelli from memory?

It serves the American government’s interest to spotlight INDIVIDUALS who say overtly racist things, while systemic racism continues unchecked. No, this doesn’t mean I in ANY way sympathize with Sterling, but people are beginning to question why this particular incident is getting so much attention. Half of our politicians are racist. Our education system is racist. Our justice system is racist. This isn’t exactly breaking news.

I don’t like to take cues from a racist mainstream media culture about which particular acts of racism I should be offended by. I think individual acts of sexism and racism [which are super overt] are given more visibility than more subtle, systemic forms of racism and sexism. This is a very strategic move. It gives the illusion that progress is occurring because individuals are being held accountable, while a whole system continues unchecked.

This Sterling event provides us with a false sense of unity, like the U.S. cares so much about punishing racists even though we regularly send brown folks to prison to serve as free laborers. Why isn’t the mainstream media reporting that?


Mainstream sports culture itself is pretty problematic generally. Let’s be honest here. Most of our football heroes and basketball stars are young black men. Sports culture [with an exception of baseball, lol] fetishizes black male strong bodies. Someone on my facebook posted a brilliant status about these black men being framed as livestock or chattel. People talk about these sports figures through an ownership rhetoric, like they’re non-human animals. Hmm…for some reason white America has a problem with Barack Obama in office, but adores black male youth who prance around on stages doing physical activities.

Don Sterling 2

This is a cultural problem: not a sterling one. Remember that, no matter what the media says.

This same type of faux-outrage occurred when Paula Deen admitted to saying the “n-word” previously. Everyone and their brother flipped out as if we were all really surprised. We’re wasting precious energy on individuals who we already KNOW are racist, rather than targeting systems of violence.

Focusing on Paula Deen and Don Sterling offer very safe ways of talking about racism because there’s no real risk involved. Also, it distorts the ways in which racism ACTUALLY manifests, which is usually through more subtle means. These recent events are conditioning our postracial nation to only recognize racism through very overt forms, like when someone says the “n-word” or when someone overtly says they do not like Black people. Racism can be much more insidious and subtle than that.

Publicly banning Sterling makes it seem as if the system is working when it’s not. It tricks us into thinking the system ACTUALLY cares about racism when it doesn’t. Perpetuating racism is part of the fabric of this nation. Part of the activism is realizing this so you don’t get bamboozled into thinking that our racist system actually wants to correct systems of violence and oppression.

Nsegna states:

I find America’s selective historical memory mind-boggling…Forgive me for not giving a hoot about Don Sterling, his racially ambiguous mistress, the L.A. Clippers or the NBA. I don’t take my cues on addressing racism and inequality from an organization like the NBA, whose very foundation was built upon inequality and an ownership model that perpetuates it. I’ll just continue to exist in the real world, where racism rears its ugly head in macro and micro expressions every day.

Suggested Videos