I would like to state for the record that I think most of the people who are vocally professing their “disgust” for Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling are being overly dramatic.
Unless I’m to believe that his comments are sincerely shocking to most rather than just irritating and sad? Unless it is truly outside the realm of comprehension for a wealthy and privileged man with power to secretly harbor feelings that proved hurtful to others? I’m sorry, but I can’t even get behind that idea.
I mean, too many people are appalled, shocked, distancing themselves from his racist stink as fast as a corporate sponsor can pull its funding. But are they really that surprised? How could they be? I wasn’t.
Yes, my perspective is perhaps a little more nuanced. I tend to notice matters of race or gender more than some. But this wasn’t the first time Sterling’s been in this kind of jam. He already had a reputation for not renting property to minorities, for saying inappropriate things and making off-color jokes to or about black players.
For all ostensible purposes, there is nothing new in his behavior. He just got caught, which means his behavior is new to us. It could be I’m too cynical. I’m certainly not excusing Sterling. He was way out of line, to put it mildly. But the public’s reaction to his behavior is suspect.
Some celebrities were prominent with their eye rolling, and they were appropriately dismissive, but the public feeling of shock and upset seems almost feigned. For those who were only acting disgusted because you felt you had to in order to be politically correct, I’m calling you out — don’t feed into the distractions.
Whatever good, inclusive work might have been underway in companies everywhere stopped abruptly as diversity executives had to pause in their work to address the silliness that is Sterling. Minorities who were making progress being seen as their name first and gender and color second were instantly transported back several steps because they will now be called on to address this foolishness rather than highlight their work or contributions.
People say crazy, racist things all the time — not on tapes released by alleged love interests — but however much we want things to be different, bigotry, discrimination and racism aren’t new. It’s silly to be so upset.
Diversity is a fact of life. That includes diversity of opinion. We know this because of shifting global demographics and consumer buying patterns, talent recruiting needs and the Sterlings of the world who wreak havoc on company reputations, brands and bottom lines even as they are photographed with diverse people who can enhance their marketability.
There will always be outliers. Those who don’t believe, deep down where it counts, that diversity is the natural order of things. That’s OK. These figures have their place. But let’s save our excitement for something worthwhile. At the end of the day, this little drama is really just a distraction.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver levied a $2.5 million fine on Sterling and banned him from all NBA activities for life. That kind of fabulous, all-encompassing punishment makes its own very eloquent statement about tolerance, acceptable behavior and organizational commitment to diversity and inclusion.
So, let’s open our eyes, let out one big “Really, Sterling? Is that how you feel? Good to know,” and move on to something worthwhile.
This piece also appeared in Diversity Executive magazine online.