If You’re Gonna Rip Guys For Being Racist, Think About Why

Donald Sterling and some guys tweeting at PK Subban have brought racism in sports to the forefront of the public consciousness this week, and while I do not condone it, the public shaming of either Boston Bruins fans or Donald Sterling is ridiculous and hypocritical.

Don’t get me wrong: this is not me defending those guys. Rather, this is me asking the public to actually think about the things they choose to criticize. I know ripping on strangers who have committed atrocious verbal acts of ignorance makes you feel better, but perhaps this is a perfect time to ask why.  Why does taking five seconds out of your day to condemn an idiot with the safety of knowing you’re going along with the mob make you feel so good?

Twitter and the internet in general has created a giant pulpit from which the sanctimonious majority can shame anyone they deem has broken the tacit agreement to be politically correct at all times. This wouldn’t be a problem if it less overt instances of racism, intolerance, greed and neglect were not routinely ignored.

Of course a racist 80 year old billionaire is offensive.

Of course it’s offensive to tweet racially inappropriate things at one of the only black players in the NHL.  But it is also racist to think the first black President might not be a citizen of the country he leads.  Nearly every thing Donald Trump or Sheldon Adelson do can in some way be interpreted as racist. And whether intentional or not, the results of what we do to help the poor, to fight crime, to fight the war on drugs etc. etc. etc. are racist.

Donald Sterling has a history of racist actions. Yet, the only time anyone cares is when he says something racist. Interesting since I grew up, as I am sure we all did, with the “actions speak louder than words” cliche bandied about daily. We teach our kids this without thinking, but in practice, actions don’t mean anything and we only care about words.

If you don’t believe me, just read the stories dominating the news right now. Are any of them about child poverty, homelessness, food banks or incarceration rates?

It’s a documented fact that minorities live in poverty and go to jail at a rate that far exceeds the percentage that they make up of the general population. This also holds true with poverty and addiction.

These are problems that might not be caused by hate, but the results are the same as if they were. They are problems that are  inherently racist: whether they created by ignorance, stupidity, hate or laziness is not for me to say, but it seems obvious that something is causing this, because the only alternative is that white people just work hard and obey the law better than any other race, and that is a flat-out ridiculous notion.

To focus so heavily on what amounts to sad, hurtful, but ultimately innocuous comments is hypocritical at best. At worst it’s an over reaction to something minor based on our collective guilt about things we think are perhaps too big to fix. There are other problems in society related to race that we just completely ignore. Sure, it’s fun to collectively gang up on a racist 80-year-old billionaire, because let’s face it, no one is less deserving of your sympathy. In doing so, however, we ignore the fact that across North America the rates of child poverty are estimated to be as high as 20%.  That means one in five kids currently alive and living somewhere close to you are unlikely to eat three meals today. Most of them eat once and then do not know where or when their next meal will come from.

I’d also be willing to bet that the vast majority of white, 80-year-old billionaires are racist. And even if they aren’t, unless they actively give away most of their money, their actions contribute — and this is a scientific fact — to problems that very much affect minorities in a disproportionate way.

But Brutus is an honourable man and Donald Sterling is the devil.

So my question is: Why do we think that Donald Sterling is such a terrible person when we collectively allow children to starve? When we send minorities to prison at a rate that surely must constitute a human rights violation? The guy is a dirt bag, but the fact that he doesn’t share his wealth and is allowed to hoard billions of dollars in resources is far more of a real problem than the fact that he is racist and apparently doesn’t understand irony.

What about the charities that sanctimoniously refused to take the money of this racist? They have literally hurt more people by doing so than his comments ever did. I mean, sticks and stones and all that, right?

So please don’t take this as a defense of people who are obviously indefensible. All I am saying is that we face a lot of racism in our society on a day-to-day basis. If anyone needs shaming, it’s not a guy who’s so old he is never going to change his ways, it’s us because we call out people for things that, in the big picture, do not matter; while we ignore real, actual problems.

We deserve shame for allowing as many as 20% of the kids in our country to starve while we fret over nothing.

We deserve shame for only caring about the racist things people say, and not the things they do.

That is all.

James Tanner

James Tanner

Writing for The Hockey Writers and elsewhere. Covering the Leafs and the Coyotes.
James Tanner
James Tanner

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4 Comments

  1. Its me: the author.

    For the record, I did not say that all minorities live in poverty. I said that more minorities live in poverty than their percentage of the total population suggests should be.

    I think its fine to call out racists, that is not my point. I just think if you’re going to do that, you should acknowledge other less overt racism. It shouldn’t take words to piss you off. Actions supposedly speak louder, so why does the NBA ignore the fact that Sterling is a racist for 30 years and only cares when the media shames them into it? That is a bigger problem than what he said.

    And, if you think that poverty rates and child poverty have nothing to do with racism, you are deluded. Thanks

  2. Pat Timmins says:

    Your argument “We deserve shame for allowing as many as 20% of the kids in our country to starve while we fret over nothing” is the most basic of false arguments. Children starving has absolutely nothing to do with racism, and within our society there is absolutely no reason we cannot work many issues simultaneously.

    There is no place in our society for racism. It’s so far past acceptable that shame is becoming an acceptable tactic in the minds of many. You hear public outrage the loudest on this issue because it is so very simple to understand: literally black and white in most cases.

    I’m not certain that what we’re seeing on twitter is the old racists, so let’s take some of the heat off the octogenarians. It’s logical that racist views are more likely to exist in older generations, however it is the younger generations who will influence the future and hold the most influence.

  3. Great column and I couldn’t agree more. Race hysteria is out of control and it ignores the reality of what is going on in the world as you point out. My question is why the Donald Sterling thing was reported in the first place? Are we better as a society for knowing this about him? NO! All it does is create media hype and give people a reason to rip him. Why though? Who cares what this guy thinks. Yes, I am aware of his actions as well but if anything his actions make the case more confusing. He gives millions to black people whom he supposedly dislikes? Who cares. People need to relax about what people “think.” Actions can be debated, altered, or even litigated but a person’s mind is their own. As long as their actions don’t negatively affect others, think whatever you want.

  4. Evan Moore says:

    I get what you are trying to say. However, not all minorities live in poverty as you suggested. People were outraged because racism is still a thing.

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