Sunday, April 27, 2014

On Racism...

Quick preface: I have returned from Costa Rica! Or should I say, I have returned from Costa Rica :(...which means back to work tomorrow...back to the daily grind.

I know I know, A bit over two weeks off ain't bad. And a wedding with friends and family, loads of thoughtful gifts, and a honeymoon a thousand miles away should be plenty. But I am a capitalist dammit, and I am greedy!  Anyway, Ash took many many photos on our new camera and she has uploaded them onto her laptop so I shall post them this week. I promise. You will see some decent shots of San Jose, Arenal, and Monteverde. And not many shots of us gorging at the all-inclusive our last few days in Guanacaste. Yeah. Weight gain was no bueno. So much that I'm highly skeptical I'll even enter a single triathlon this season...but we shall see where the road takes me. The road did take me on the Saturday Georgetown bike ride yesterday...and I was not the same dude with the flashy green helmet out there I'll tell you that.

Anyway, check back for pics this week, but for now I digress to the pressing topic of the day...racism.

When I was 22, I lived with a black guy. I thought he was black, that is. If you passed him on the street and you were a run-of-the-mill white guy like myself, you would make that assumption. Especially if you were raised in an area as homogenously white as North Scottsdale.

I learned after a few days of living with him that he was Puerto Rican and did not consider himself African-American (or black). He even wore a shirt that said, "Puerto Ricans come in all shades...(below that was varying shades of brown)."

Anyway, 'Tino' (his nickname) and I lived together for a calendar year. We got along fabulously. We laughed at the same jokes, ribbed each other's hairlines and choices of women, and were beyond amicable roommates. We were friends. He even tried to set me up with a colleague of his because he thought I was a 'good dude' and would be good to her. We were buds.

My only hesitation before moving into Tino's apartment initially, had nothing to do with him being 'black (as I then saw it)'. Tino is a marine. And I was skeptical of PTSD, guns, and other sorts of intimidating nuances of behavior. But he rarely expressed anything but kindness and good-natured shit talking so my reluctance dissipated quickly.

One show that we both enjoyed was "Da Ali G Show". I can't even tell you how much I loved this show. **Actually heard it just made a comeback which makes me super stoked.** Ali G is (one) a character played by Sacha Cohen. Ali is a wanna-be white rapper/black guy.

Long story short, many racist jokes were exchanged during the year we lived together. Most of them were inspired from Da Ali G show.  One day, I said a joke that he considered offensive. As a fan of Sarah Silverman (suppose I do have an affinity for Jews??), nothing to me is offensive or out of bounds. Silverman makes jokes about abortion, the Holocaust, rape, all types of shit. Many people hate her. The rest think she's outrageously offensive. And a small sliver respect her, and find her brazen and misunderstood and hilarious. Count me as a part of the minority third group.

What I said WAS racist. If taken at face value it was extremely offensive. My intention was to make Tino laugh, not to enrage him which was the result. Our exchange was something like this over the last  tumultuous weeks of our living tenure.

Me: I don't know why you're so butt hurt man. I said I was sorry. You know I didn't mean it.

Tino: You crossed a line. There is a fine line between offensive and not and you ran right over it. And it wasn't the first time.

Me: So what are you saying?

Tino: That you are racist man. You use the humor as a tool to express your views.

Me: That's bullshit man. Why would a white racist live with a brown skinned person? And why would I apologize if I were a racist? Why would I spend so much time hanging out with you if I were racist?

Tino: I guess you're a cowardly racist. Afraid to stand by your true feelings.

This type of conversation was circulated like the fan on the ceiling. It got to the point that the situation was hostile and I was relieved to move out of his place in La Mesa.

That story sticks with me to this day. I hate that Tino thought or perhaps more accurately 'thinks' - as much as you think about an old roommate that is - that I am a racist. No matter how much I tried to make amends, he said it was futile because he saw who I really was and he didn't like what he saw.

Throws me off just writing it to be honest. Tino was good to me 99% of the time. And I, him. But that racist joke which I regret ever muttering struck a chord and altered the course of our relationship.

Donald Sterling's latest alleged comments are now in question. Truly ugly statements that depict him as a racist. We do not know the context. We only know the quotes. We do not yet know definitively if it was he who said them. Apparently, he has a muddy past riddled with previous accusations of racial insensitivity, so the signs do not look favorable at the moment.

But why would he employ and hire a black coach? Why would he sign a mostly black team if he despises blacks? Why would he date a woman who is half-black? Is he masking his genuine racism by covering it up through these actions? Or was he drunk and/or joking? Does his ugly quotes undermine any positive elements of his past? Wasn't he slated to receive an NAACP lifetime award?

When actions and sentiment clash, we call that hypocrisy. But what everyone truly wants to know is whether or not his deplorable remarks are sincere. Right? Isn't that what we really care about? Is Donald Sterling actually an insufferable racist? Or was he caught with his pants down in a moment of stupidity and anger? Do we call a philanderer a man who one night in a 50 year marriage sleeps with a prostitute? Does one night undo his fidelity completely? Is it more complicated than that?

I don't know if we'll ever know the answer to that. I would hope that if Sterling admits to the quotes and he his contrite, that we can accept his apology - and hope to see him live to apologize to all the people he has hurt in the interim. Maybe he will deny the comments are his. Maybe he'll say they're taken out of context. Maybe he truly is a racist. If so, I hope he has the balls to stand by his comments and stop acting like a pathetic hypocrite. His actions are inconsistent and conflicting. He has a murky past, yet he has sponsored black success at the same time. Who really is Donald Sterling? Can we make blanket statements or is even he unsure himself who he really is?

What say you? 


Anonymous said...

I say execute Sterling. Without a trial. The media has already gone on to bigger stories about Ashton Kuchar's hair gel.So the owner is an arrogant billionare who like most humans sometimes ( often, perhaps)does or says something he may not even mean. Perhaps in a pique of frustration or a lapse of judgement or under the influence....People have gotten off murder trials in our society just because they were temp. insane or lost self-control because he remembered a beating his drunk deadbeat dad once gave him. I mean c'mon, we got bigger things to discuss and what the clippers and the rest of the NBA should worry about is this:, If Shaq falls over yet again on tv he might seriously injure someone. Or who the hell is gonna get in Curry's pants...............

Anonymous said...

Your story is sad, but it is so true that people can be sorely offended by a single comment..It only takes one bullet to kill someone, you know. As for Sterling, he is a sad character. I feel he should be removed from his position asap.Was he sincere? Oh yes. from the tapes there is no other way to hear it.

Anonymous said...

The NBA's stance against Sterling may be too tough, but sometimes strong, powerful messages need to be sent. The players probably would have boycotted the games, if it weren't harsh enough....monies lost...and that's all that really matters, right?

Anonymous said...

There is kidding around and there is crossing a line. I think Sterling is a bit of a scapegoat here, but I guess the NBA wants to send a "no tolerance" message. I think for the numbers of black players and fans, it is okay. I don't think we could ever knows how these remarks really feel unless we are black ourselves.