Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Interlude: Love and Basketball

Copyright ABC News
In case you do not live in the US or do not follow sports, there was a very big scandal in the National Basketball Association (NBA) this week.  Here's the latest.  To summarize, a woman posted a picture on Instagram of herself with Earvin "Magic" Johnson, a Hall of Fame NBA player who not only played basketball amazingly well, but has been a huge advocate for AIDS awareness and does a ton of service projects.  He's basically the best.  He is also African-American.

The woman then had a conversation with Donald Sterling, owner of NBA team the LA Clippers, who said to her:
"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you're associating with black people.  Do you have to?  I'm just saying, in your lousy [expletive] Instagrams, you don't have to have yourself with, walking with black people. ... Don't put [Magic] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. And don't bring him to my games."
This is obviously offensive on every possible level, and if you listen to the extended clip, then you will see that it's offensive on levels you didn't previously know existed because you probably live in a happy bubble of a world in which you think people don't think like this or are savvy enough to know not to say anything out loud.

The NBA has suspended Donald Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million, which people pretty universally agree was the right move.  (Though no doubt the same people who were so upset by the Duck Dynasty controversy will start blabbing about the right to free speech, which is separate from the right of a company to choose to completely dissociate itself from you.)  I am just so glad that the league acted swiftly and in such an aggressive manner to show that it stands with its players and its coaches and its fans.

During the Bulls-Wizards halftime report, the reporters (3 of the 4 are African-American, and two are former NBA players) reacted to the news.  And I wanted to give Charles Barkley a massive hug (not a common reaction on my part) because he was so eloquent and articulate and knew exactly why this was important - not for him and Magic Johnson, but for everyone else.  I just want everyone to see it.  It is a VERY recent clip, so this probably wasn't taped in the most orthodox manner, but - well, listen to Sir Charles:



"Any time you're in a position of power and you can hold a minority down, that's a very dangerous thing ... I'm Black, and I don't ever want people to have that type of power over me."

There is so much that is upsetting about this whole situation, but I don't really want to get into it.  I feel like I just keep saying the same things all the time to everyone I know, and it doesn't seem to make any impression.

But here I am again on my soapbox, using this blog to try one more time to change your behavior (not "people's" behavior.  YOURS).  What more can I do to drive home how important it is to read more diversely?  And to read more diversely more often?  We create the world we live in, and if you want to live in a world in which people are treated equally, then you need to do your part to make that world a reality.  And one simple but powerful act is to start with your bookshelf.  No more excuses.

EDITED TO ADD:  There is a fantastic #weneeddiversebooks campaign on Twitter.  Check it out!  Also, this tumblr page.

14 comments:

  1. Yes! Yes! Yes! All of this is connected! Out here in Southern California, where the Clippers are based, the news about Donald Sterling is everywhere. But for people who have been around, Sterling's attitude and this tape isn't surprising. Like Charles Barkley said, Sterling is in that position where he could and was saying that he didn't want people living in his places that were black or Hispanic. Everyone wants to be successful and everyone needs a chance.

    You are so right. ALL of this is connected. Reading is a fantastic way to learn about people who don't look like you or have had your experiences. When you read widely, you look at life with a wider lens. It's just that simple.

    If people can't start with their bookshelves because those books aren't there, they can start with their wallets and BUY those books.

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    1. Yes, an excellent point. With the internet and e-books and library digital loans and all the rest, it's very easy to get books by diverse authors, even if your own bookshelves or those of your library are not particularly well-stocked.

      And I agree - this is not the first time that Sterling has said offensive things. It's a little ridiculous that he says he's not going to sell his share. Seems a little Plantation to me, owning a sports franchise that makes such a vast amount of its money from players and coaches and fans he doesn't even want in his stadium.

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  2. This whole situation has been a lot to process. Most of the time my jaw is dropped in shock because I just read about yet another stupid thing Sterling said or horrid thing he did. Hubby and I are big NBA fans and, sitting watching through season after season, we just don't notice/comment on/judge the players by their race. They are individuals, some with more class than others, some with more talent than others -- none of these things which are related to race. And yet there is a man who INVESTS in this sport and he can't see past the color of someone's skin? It's depressing. Even worse were his comments that he couldn't help his racism because it's just how society is. I don't believe that and I hope that a majority of people don't believe that either.
    On the subject of books, I was talking just the other day to Z's school librarian about seeing if other local librarians would chip in to bring Christopher Paul Curtis up to Seattle for some school visits. I think that the books we put in front of our children are possibly more important than those we read ourselves. Luckily, she thought it seemed like a great idea too.

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    1. That's a really good point! I actually just finished my first Christopher Paul Curtis book and look forward to reading more. I read The Mighty Miss Malone and thought it was very well written. Looking forward to reading more by him.

      And yes, I can only hope that as children grow up in more integrated and diverse neighborhoods, that racism will become a thing of the past. But then, too, a lot of kids grow up in NOT diverse neighborhoods with parents who do NOT prioritize learning diversely, so...

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  3. OK, thanks for this. I will read Silver Sparrow, a book I purchased far too long ago and just need to get to. It will be my next.

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    1. Glad to hear it, Care. Silver Sparrow was a very intense book and very well-written. Looking forward to seeing your thoughts!

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  4. Aarti, thanks once again for bringing these issues forward. There are many people in this world like Donald Sterling. They are everywhere but often they only speak to people who agree with them so we don't hear the conversations, the racism, etc. I'm glad the NBA acted swiftly and I love your suggestion to read more diversely as this is something that we as readers can do. We CAN create a better world and one where people cease to think this way.

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    1. You're right, Kathleen. There are Sterlings all over the place that have horrible misconceptions about people of all stripes. And they tend not to go out of their way to learn about other people and be open to changing their minds. But that's why we just need to do our best to make that population smaller and smaller, in any way we can.

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  5. Thank you Aarti and all the other bloggers who promote diverse reading. I checked out two books by Nalo Hopkinson last week, who I would have never heard of if other bloggers weren't committed to reading diversely. And by reading and reviewing Hopkinson's books and others, hopefully I can help with that effort too.

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    1. You definitely WILL help, Christy, no doubt about that! I have a couple Hopkinson books on my shelf and Kindle as well - hoping to get to her soon!

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  6. Yes yes yes to this. Racism -- prejudice of all kinds -- is such a failure of imagination. We know that reading books and watching TV shows about groups you're not as familiar with makes you more favorably disposed towards them (ie less of a jerk about them). It really does matter to your brain to put in the extra effort and seek out diverse reading/viewing material.

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    1. Yes, the more you see people who look differently but act similarly to you, the more you realize that race is just one characteristic and often not the one people would choose to define themselves.

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  7. Great reminder and great post, Aarti!

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Thank you for taking the time and effort (I know word verification is MISERABLE) to comment here! Unless you are spamming me, in which case, thanks for nothing.

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