Oddly enough, one man’s bigotry has the power to unite many others.
Los Angeles Clippers fans Tuesday night chanted “We are one!” and displayed the same unity on signs and T-shirts – just hours after the team’s owner was banned for life from team and league activities and ordered to sell the franchise for his racist views.
We hope that beautiful sentiment – that we are one – wafts throughout the nation.
Indeed, even in the midst of the ignorant, ugly, archaic, naked racism on the part of Clippers owner Donald Sterling – who bizarrely told a female friend not to bring blacks to his team’s games – all of us who hope and pray for continued racial progress and reconciliation should be buoyed by the aftermath of this hideous episode.
For one thing, we applaud National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver for quick and decisive action – including a maximum $2.5 million fine levied against Sterling. As investigations go, this one was lightning quick. As punishments go, it fit the crime – though the full sentence, of course, won’t be carried out until Sterling sells the team, or is forced to by a three-quarter vote of other NBA owners.
But it’s also clear that a powerful swath of outrage has swept across the plains like a spring storm. Almost everyone agrees this was reprehensible and in no way acceptable.
We should take heart from that. We stood as one this day.
When, in recent memory, has a racially tinged episode ever been so rapidly, forcefully and broadly swatted down? Usually there are nuances to debate, high-profile holdouts hanging on to bygone bigotry. There are a few now, of course – but consider how quietly and sheepishly they’ve had to try to disagree.
The racists haven’t just lost. They’ve been thoroughly routed.
Part of it is that there’s no wiggle room in this incident. Nothing in Sterling’s hateful words was subject to subtlety or mitigation. Nothing could’ve been taken out of context or explained away. There’s no way he could’ve claimed to have misspoken.
Rarely has a national racial outrage been more black and white.
Still, issues of race will never be a no-brainer in America; not in our lifetimes. This is a milestone. And not, as it appeared at first, a bad one. We made it a good one – by deciding to be one.
That feels good.