Reject Racism

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Just a few days ago, private audio recordings shone a light on the racism of L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling. This shouldn't have been a surprise - he's been quietly known for years as a discriminatory landlord. But his past actions and lawsuits didn't lead to any change.

What's different this time? The NBA players stood together and worked collectively across the league to say that his attitudes are not acceptable. They were ready to walk out on Tuesday's playoff games if serious action wasn't taken. Players were not going to accept a slap on the wrist and going back to the status quo.

The pressure of that collective action led directly to the NBA Commissioner imposing a lifetime ban on Donald Sterling and a 2.5M fine. This is not over either - the NBA owners will have a vote on whether to revoke his ownership and force him to immediately sell the team.

This story went way beyond the network of sports fans. Everyday people were talking about it this week. This is a teachable moment. How many white people are not aware of the lived experiences of people of color every day? With our world often self-segregating into communities of people of the same ethnicity, we're missing the opportunity to hear and learn from those that are different than ourselves.

I understand that race is a scary conversation to have, when well-meaning people are concerned about saying the wrong thing and offending somebody else. But it's a conversation we need to have, if we want to ever move forward and get beyond the structural inequity in our society. I applaud Alex Johnson for starting that conversation with his new website teachablemomentla.com. Take a moment and share your thoughts there, and we can all move forward together in Los Angeles.


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  • commented 2014-05-01 04:52:44 -0700
    I grew up in a place largely defined by its diversity: south La. Sadly, however, much of New Orleans’ history was characterized by a kind of American apartheid where diversity divided our culture, even as it was a prime source of its richness. It would have been easy for me to have been caught up in this backward-looking pattern of division and divisiveness. Fortunately I didn’t get “stuck on stupid”.

    Another one of my waypoints in life was the chance to experience another unique culture: south LA. I had the opportunity to work on some important social issues with south LA’s finest community leaders – and you know who they are — who make a real difference for the people. They certainly did for me.

    Throughout my growth journey, because of the benefit of engaging with lots of different people in lots of different places, I came to appreciate that all people are far more alike than different regardless of where they are from, what they believe, or what they look like. They all have the same basic hopes, dreams, values, passions and abilities to make the world better. In respect of their basic human rights to life, all people yearn to reach their full potential, free of barriers and other divisions. What a waste it is when people create barriers and divisions that impair and dilute the potential of others.

    But equally important, I came to realize that our differences must be cherished as one of the greatest assets of our society. Aside from the core importance of promoting the character-based dignity of every person – simply because it is the right thing to do — unleashing the diverse talent, life experiences, ingenuity and insights of many different people invariably leads to better outcomes in everything. That is true when you are solving big or small problems, or when capitalizing on opportunities of any scale – in life, in business and in the world at-large. That is the quintessential American story. Our inter-dependence is what makes us great. Variety IS the spice of life.

    So to reach our personal and collective potential, not only do we first need to reject racism and every other evil thing that breeds destructive division and hate, but we need to next proceed to tolerance. And then –to achieve true transformational greatness in all things, we need to embracing, energize and empower diversity and inclusion in everything we do – at the most personal level of inter-relationships and as a society.

    Like so often in the past, we again find ourselves at a crossroads. Let’s use this teachable moment in American history to affirm the lessons of the past and learn we so we can realize all the promise of the future. Let’s continue to correct what is wrong, transcending the barriers that divide and avoiding the risk of getting stuck on stupid. Instead, let’s all do what is right by and for each other. Let’s unite around our differences, and empowering all our potential by leveraging the richness of our diversity as a society.

    Mark Erath