Sports

Let’s Not Kid Ourselves: Sanctioning Sterling Doesn’t Solve Racism [OPINION]

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(Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Ericface Eric Thomas
Eric Thomas spent most of his career in Flint working as a rock r...
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By: Eric Thomas
@etflint

“It’s a great day in sports,” said my childhood idol, “it’s a great day for society in terms of leadership.”

I love publicly shaming racists. Please don’t get me wrong. It’s an easy stance to take and it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. You can compare them with history’s most nefarious characters without much of a stretch. It makes you feel good; like recycling. But I’m not sure it’s a great day for society. Maybe this will start a conversation where we can discuss institutional racism in America. I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it.

So what did we accomplish? Nothing, probably. Give Silver credit: the mob went home. The crest of moral outrage broke and that was probably the best thing that could have happened. The players were going to boycott; the fans were going to be shamed for attending the game. It’s best to end it, and Sterling is an easy cow to sacrifice.

I’ve ever heard that sometimes it’s necessary for a community to “properly express its outrage.” You got it. Outrage expressed. Evil punished. But let’s not lie to ourselves and say that we did anything to advance ACTUAL society. This wasn’t even a cut on the diamond of racial problems.

“It’s a great day in sports,” said Isiah Thomas to CNN, “it’s a great day for society in terms of leadership.” Zeke feels pretty safe tossing these rocks in his glass house, even though he himself was the target and convicted of a sexual harassment by a former MSG executive. Misogyny is forgivable, I guess.

When it comes to racism, this is all we’re good at anymore. We attack individuals rather than discussing the larger problem of race in America. I get the gloomy feeling that we trade one fired white guy per month for thousands of human beings in prison. Is that where we are? I don’t know anymore. But this seems to be the only kind of racism we can discuss.

Sterling is a bigot, but he’s not the real problem. The only thing more depressing than the slow erosion of rights and freedoms in this country is the sight of people who say things like “this is a great day for society.” This means nothing.

People will simply go back to their corners, shake each other’s hands. Evil is punished. Wait for the boomerang effect on players and coaches, as a thousand girlfriends and mistresses pushed the button to record. Once this stuff starts, it never ends. Racism endures. Sterling will remain a billionaire; some other billionaire will gain another asset; the oligarchs shuffle their decks and the band plays on.

“Good day for society”? I don’t think so.

Ask the kid standing on some corner in Detroit, whose Dad has been locked up for most of his life because of a mandatory minimum sentence, and he’s on the edge of joining the only functioning economy that exists in his neighborhood because he’s got no other options. Ask the man in Flint who lost his job at the plant and had to start selling meth to survive, because no other jobs were available, and he’s sentenced to decades in prison, even though he has no prior offenses. Institutional racism has destroyed thousands of lives, but we are only interested in the comfort of athletes. If you’ve been caught in the teeth of a society where the nonsensical war on drugs has been used to incarcerate generations of human beings from poor backgrounds this society has no interest in helping you. None.

What injustice was righted here? Was there a person wrongly locked away made free? Nope. Who benefited? The media and the lawyers who are set to argue the case. That’s it.

The men and women currently incarcerated away from their family and friends will apparently have to wait a while longer. Maybe forever. We don’t have time to talk about it because someone said something that made someone else sad. Sorry.

“It’s a great day in sports,” said Isiah Thomas to CNN, “it’s a great day for society in terms of leadership.”

Mr. Thomas! Zeke! One question! Eric Thomas from CBS Radio…are you aware that 72% of the people in prison are non-violent offenders with no history of violence, and that most of them are African American? While America has the most citizens in prison per capita of any other country in the world, can any day truly be a great day for society when that problem endures?

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