On the EDge: Some things never change

OPINION – Another old man had his chops busted the other day for spewing racism and hatred.

There were no cattle involved, there was no beef with a federal agency, no cowboys or friendly militia riding in from the hills to bail him out of his jam.

Instead, he had the comfort of his billion-dollar bank account to keep him safe and warm from the ensuing storm he created with his own words.

Donald Sterling, the soon-to-become-former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball team, is the latest to get caught after a tongue wagging diatribe against people of color.

Will it ever end?

As in the case against anti-government rancher Cliven Bundy, who also posted numbers on the racism scoreboard with comments about how African-Americans were perhaps better off living in slavery, Sterling is being written off by some as a stupid old man who simply doesn’t know any better because he was raised during an era when racism was maybe not so much more prevalent, but much less disguised than it is today.

How many times have apologists said about Sterling and Bundy and Paula Deen and the many others who have made insensitive, racist remarks that they are just “old people and that’s how they were brought up?”

That argument doesn’t cut it. Whether the words were uttered in the privacy of one’s home or a luxurious owner’s box in a National Basketball Association arena, they are just as offensive.

In the case of Bundy, his 15 minutes of fame continues to grow as he was mentioned in several news reports of the Sterling incident. His name appeared in numerous stories, most notably a piece published on the ESPN website, a CNN blog, and in a thought-provoking opinion piece written for Time magazine by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a gentle soul and the epitome of class and poise both on and off the basketball court, who worked for Sterling as coach of the Clippers for three months after retiring from the most successful professional basketball career ever.

Some of us lived through the era of the Civil Rights movement. We may have been wee little ones when Rosa Parks made her bold stand on that Montgomery, Ala. bus in 1955, but we were coming of age in later years when we thought true progress was being made to stamp out racism.

We remember watching Ku Klux Klan rallies reported on the evening news; Alabama Gov. George Wallace standing in the doorway to block black students from entering the University of Alabama and then repeating the repugnant gesture at elementary schools in Huntsville.

We remember Dr. Martin Luther King pleading for equality and justice, only to be cut down by an assassin’s bullet; activists like Dick Gregory taking a stand from public oratory to hunger strikes to make his point; and Medgar Evers, a decorated World War II veteran, who took a bullet in the back from a white supremacist for his activism in 1963. Even then, things were so bad in Jackson, Miss. that Evers wasn’t allowed to be brought into the emergency room until hospital officials were told who he was. He died from the wound less than an hour after being admitted.

We remember the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the Freedom Rides, the voter organization drives of the ‘60s, the killing of Dr. King in Memphis, Tenn.

We remember Robert F. Kennedy’s valiant fight for equality that ended tragically when he, too, tasted the assassin’s bullet.

We saw schools become integrated, we saw voting rights instituted, we saw restaurants, hotels, and other public services open their doors to people of color.

But, what we still haven’t seen is the demise of racism in the human heart.

No matter how many lives have been lost or how many pieces of legislation have been passed, racism exists still in the hearts of men and women like Cliven Bundy, who think African-Americans might be better off as slaves, and Donald Sterling, who looked down at his Clippers basketball team from his owner’s box at the Staples Center, much like the plantation owner gazing out upon his cotton fields.

It exists still in the hearts of men and women of regular stripe who are not endowed with homesteads bought and paid for decades ago or money earned off the backs of poor renters and shady real estate deals.

It is often shrugged off as excusable because “that’s how they were raised” or “they don’t know any better,” both tragic and illegitimate responses because, well, many of us learned that how we were raised wasn’t, in the arena of social equity, always proper, and understand that if you simply don’t know any better, you are guilty of ignorance and neglect of our social and cultural responsibility to be unrelenting in our quest for fairness, kindness, and equality. In other words, just because Mommy and Daddy used the “N-word” doesn’t give us license to do so.

But, we here in Southern Utah don’t have much to draw on.

We are an empty desert when it comes to social and cultural diversity and the deck is stacked so tightly that these errors of humanity go largely unchallenged. We are, as one former reporter of mine once said, “a bologna sandwich with mayo on white bread,” unable to discern between the arbitrary ‘politically correct’ and morally absolute ‘correct.’”

Many do not understand that racist remarks and name-calling take a toll. They don’t understand how a word or thought can be devastating.

“Don’t be so sensitive,” I have heard many say.

“Don’t be so insulated from another’s deepest feelings,” I respond.

Unless you have been the target of racism or bigotry on one level or another, you cannot fully comprehend the harm that can come from such offensive words. Remember “Do unto others”? I don’t think many do.

“(Racism is) something that’s still part of our culture and people hold on to some of these ideas and practices just out of habit and saying that, ‘Well, that’s the way it always was.’ But things have to change,” Abdul-Jabbar said during a visit with ABC-TV’s George Stephanopoulos Sunday morning.

Indeed, things have to change. But, haven’t we said that for decades now to no avail?

Besides, how can we expect a man who hides his own heritage – Sterling was born Donald Tokowitz – to show respect for another?

No bad days!

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

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Email: edkociela.mx@gmail.com

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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16 Comments

  • Donovan Bock May 6, 2014 at 11:27 am

    I’m tired of all you whiners, personally. Yeah, racists are jerks. So what, there’s tons of jerks out there. You all scream your head off about some guy being a racist jerk, but when your jerk president murders two American citizens without trial, none of you give a …. Americans really need to get their priorities straight. You’ve descended into fascism, you’re ruled by elitist warmongers, some guy saying the N word really isn’t that big of a … deal.
    Ed. ellipses.

  • Donovan Bock May 6, 2014 at 11:28 am

    And …, could you make more retarded comparisons?

    “who looked down at his Clippers basketball team from his owner’s box at the Staples Center, much like the plantation owner gazing out upon his cotton fields.”

    Yeah, I didn’t know the cotton picking slaves made more money per year than some impoverished countries. Comparing him to a plantation owner? That is flat out retarded.
    Ed. ellipsis.

  • stan May 6, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    What about all the racist comments and remarks Pres Obama has made, the derogatory comments by Se, Reid, all made in the public forum, to take an illegal recording of a private conversation and rail over it this way is despicable.

  • Rachel May 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Ed, I think that you would be very interested in more of Mr. Abdul-Jabbar’s statements on the matter. http://nypost.com/2014/05/02/kareem-abdul-jabbar-criticizes-nba-for-blind-eye-to-sterlings-racist-history/ I think that he outlines the underlying issue better. I particularly like this quote: He concluded: “In our quest for social justice, we shouldn’t lose sight that racism is the true enemy. He’s just another jerk with more money than brains.”

    Your article seems to assume that no one in Southern Utah has experience bigotry and hatred. I think that your over-generalization is highly insensitive and offensive. You do not know that some if not many of the citizens of Southern Utah have experienced bigotry or hatred, whether by those doing it purposefully or ignorantly.

    I want it on the record that I am not defending racism or bigotry or hatred, however your attempt to “fix” the problem is just as bad as the actual problem.

  • Brian May 6, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Correction: Sterling was spewing racism and hatred (drenched in hypocrisy). Bundy was mad ~at~ racist policies and culture, and their devastating, needless consequences.. He was ~labeled~ a racist because of his poor choice of words. But if you listen to his entire statement, he wasn’t being racist, he was lamenting racism. Let’s be clear: racism is basing something solely on race (or skin color). True examples of racism are everywhere (lack of capitalization intentional): the congressional black caucus, the naacp, the black panthers, everything about al sharpton, affirmative action, margaret sanger’s eugenic “negro project” and the organization it spawned (planned parenthood, do some research), many “welfare” policies, and yes, many individuals of every color and stripe. But instead of acknowledging these, so we can truly confront them, the label “racism” is wielded as a political weapon, very effectively. There are brave soldiers battling the “new plantation”, including Bill Cosby and Reverend C.L. Bryant. They deserve our respect and support, and the topic deserves knowledge and understanding, not rhetoric and label wielding. The “new plantation” will easily do a billion times more damage than Sterling ever will, but what’s the fun in discussing that when there is money to be made and elections to be won?

  • My Evil Twin May 6, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    And of course bigotry is not limited to racism, nor is racism limited to black/white. I would venture to say that we have more than our share of bigots here in Dixie. Whether it be race, religion or politics, there are bigots among us. (I’m probably one of them myself. . .) 🙁

  • JJ May 6, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    When people respond to charges of bigotry by spewing their own bigotry, or by trying to deflect it to another issue, then you’re pretty much proving their point.

  • JAR May 6, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Ed,
    I know you mean well and maybe you’re short on a good topic to talk about this week,
    but dig a little deeper for examples of people being led to the bigot train or hatred pool. Your coming off as be a little lazy man. Why not wait for a crazy man killing dozens of innocent folks with a Uzi, yelling ‘glory to Muslim folks’. Then you would have a opportunity to say ‘Guns are evil’. Or talk about the fifty gang banger (people of color) who were shot in Chicago last weekend. Then you would have a new story-line about the need to abolish the 2nd amendment.
    Bottom line Ed, your a pro at coming up with provocative subjects to talk about. Don’t get lazy on us.

  • Estela May 6, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    My family have experience racisim first hand, here in st george. God made us a beautiful color, with latino blood running through our veins. We were spit on ,told to go back where we came from , wash that color off its ugly, wet back, stupid mexican, don’t speak with that accent, ect….and this being LDS members, teachers, police and top officials. But my parents said ” you have nothing to be ashamed of, be ashamed of killing, robbery or lying.” They said we need educate them, be respectful, tolerant and above all truthful. Thank the lord st george has made its progress Slowly but surely. I have faith that my grandkids will see that day. But for now im grateful my children have not felt or seen what we suffered.

  • Maggie May 6, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    Gosh Ed, you opened a bag of bad beans for sure. Racism goes many ways ,and it is wrong when directed at anyone by anyone. However many before me on here have pointed out to you that as disgusting as racism is ,at times there is a fine line between true racism and the poor use of words to answer a baited question as was the case with Cliven Bundy.
    Now the one that bothers me the most, and ALL race baiters appear to love, is Donald Sperling. Most, it appears, already knew he was a racist, and regardless of skin colors worked for him ,took his money and smiled all the way to the bank. UNTIL, his little mistress was shunned and then and only when the rest of us discovered he was a somewhat repulsive human being and racist to boot. I personally would not work, befriend or stand on a street corner and wait for a bus with someone like Donald Sperling ,but I do think those that chose to do so have a bit of a character flaw also. People of good character tend to hang together as do people of skanky character . Why oh why are you all upset about a bunch of low life people using each other?
    In this country today we are fractured in so many different ways that we may never recover . Racism is just one element of that separation. I thought we were doing pretty well until liberals decided that because some of us thought Obama was not Presidential material we were labeled as racists. Because I lived through the same time in history that you did , I too witnessed REAL racism and I did not like it at all, but this manufactured rage for words uttered incorrectly or in the privacy of ones home by a wealthy idiot are not even close to what we left behind us and manufacturing rage to say it is will not help us to continue to grow and leave fools like Sperling in the dust of history.

    I am hoping when you see bigotry , aimed at any group , I will see you on here as passionate as you are about race, for bigotry appears to be the bigger problem in our society and encompasses people from all races and sexes.

  • Burton May 6, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Sorry, I got caught up reading the “Affordable care act” bill. What did I miss? And what do you mean JAR? Guns are banned in Chicago, so no one could have gotten killed there last weekend by a gun you silly goose!

    • Jacer May 7, 2014 at 10:13 am

      Ha ha, nailed it! Thank you Burton!

  • RACISM DWELLS HERE May 7, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Being an American of hispanic descent, and living in southern Utah for the better part of 20 years, I will be the first to tell you that racism DOES indeed exist here. I have experienced it quite a few times in many various business’ located here. The most recent at one of the former St. George Mayor’s welding supply business’.
    It needs to be stated that the “treatment” I experienced was NOT by the Mayor nor any of his employees, but by other customers who were present. Being a retired LEO and a Vietnam vet, I calmly explained to the offender that I felt sorry for him for having such feelings. He stated to me that he had the “right” to express his feelings in any way he desired, and that he was not sorry for what he had told me. I simply informed this customer that I had honorably my country so that people such as himself could have such rights. Racism will never be erased in this country. Now had this customer been an avowed white supremist skin head with the swastika tattooed on his neck and he intended on inflicting harm,…..it would have ended with entirely different circumstances. Racism is not exclusive to southern Utah It is everywhere. We just need to learn how to deal with it. Some of us deal with it better than others.

  • eddantes May 8, 2014 at 9:41 am

    “We are an empty desert when it comes to social and cultural diversity ”

    “We are, as one former reporter of mine once said, “a bologna sandwich with mayo on white bread,” unable to discern between the arbitrary ‘politically correct’ and morally absolute ‘correct.’”

    Talk about bigotry

  • eddantes May 8, 2014 at 9:48 am

    This article is the typical kind of generalization that race hustlers use on a daily basis. A couple of generalized allegations are made with no evidence that the bigotry or rascism claimed exists. One or two anecdotes in the comment section do not make southern Utah a bigoted place.

    There are no institutional barriers today for any American, regardless of race or ethnicity, to enjoy the academic and economic benefits of a semi-free market system.

    Today, the default position is to assign “blame” if a person runs into a “bump in the road” or doesn’t achieve what he/she believes they should achieve.

    When is the last time this author or any of the other race hustlers in the United States examined the behavior of individuals to determine if a large part of the lack of achievement is due to their own personal decisions.

    The real rub is the proverbial “clash of civilizations”; Every culture in our “multi-cultural” salad bowl wants their culture to dominate. That sentiment will never go away

  • BSMETER May 8, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Tolerance. Understanding. Humility. Start with that. Then write/comment on an article.

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