The explosive remarks attributed to Donald Sterling Saturday serve to remind us that discrimination and the racist caricature that has plagued our nation, still exists. It’s important that we acknowledge this and recognize that just because it’s below the surface, doesn’t mean it’s gone away. Out of sight does not mean out of mind.
As a LA Clipper season ticket holder for 14 years, I can’t tell you how disappointed I was upon hearing the diatribe from Mr. Sterling. I felt for sadness the players and sadness for me as a fan and I wondered, “Should I not got the game on Tuesday night?” I’ve concluded that I will go to support the players and because I want my team to win and I want to see it. I tweeted to several players that they are like Jessie Owens in the 1936 Olympics: they are the face of America and need to go out there and win.
I’ve been watching a lot of NBA playoffs lately because my team, the Clippers, are in the playoffs. That also means that I have to watch a lot of commercials. The commercials I am seeing point to the fact that as a nation we are growing more tolerant, more diversified and more aware of this diversity than ever before. If one thing is true in our country, it’s that the mighty dollar trumps all. If businesses see a monetary benefit in racial tolerance, they will embrace it. Remember Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955? The source of change can come from many places. Take for example the current Honda commercials. One shows an African American sales person walk into a showroom and up pops a cardboard character (think a police gauntlet shooting range.) The family that pops up is Asian. In fact the first character is not only Asian, but female. In another commercial, the salesperson is Latino and the customers are of varying races and sexes. Then there’s the Old Spice commercial that comically has an Asian woman saying “Old Spice look what you’ve done, you’ve made a sexy man right out of my son…” and it cuts to the Asian son with an Anglo woman. Or how about the Carmax commercial that focuses on an African American man with a bow tie, who is noticeably effeminate and I have to assume gay? Or the BMW commercial that shows an Anglo man nervously speaking to the father of his Asian girlfriend with her family looking on. The father nervously thinks the young man is going to ask for his daughter’s hand but instead the boy says, “We bought a diesel!” My point is that we are embracing our diversity like never before and yet views like those of Donald Sterling, still persist albeit under the radar. In real estate, we have laws designed to protect people from racial discrimination, but laws are enforced by people and it’s people’s attitudes that have to continue to change. I recently had a landlord say they didn’t want to rent to a family with children and I had to set them straight; that this was discriminatory and illegal. As offensive as Mr. Sterling’s comments are, they will serve a valuable purpose by reminding us that while we as a nation come a long way towards racial acceptance, we’re not there yet. And how do we best respond? With our pocket book. We don’t buy Clippers tickets next year if ownership doesn’t change, just as we boycott restaurants that won’t serve gays. It is incumbent upon all of us to stand up to discrimination, be it of race, color, age, religion, national origin or sexual orientation. This is the law as it pertains to real estate; it is the law of our land and it is the law that we should all strive to keep in our hearts.