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Sterling: Sad, but true

Two days ago, Donald Sterling was the longest standing owner in the NBA, was scheduled to receive his second Lifetime Achievement Award from the NAACP, and looked forward to cheering his LA Clippers in the playoffs.  Today, everyone from President Barack Obama to NBA players—past and present, seek to make sense of recorded statements of Sterling that paint him as…honest.

The recorded conversation allegedly between the married 79-year old Sterling and his 21 year old girlfriend, V. Stiviano—who is African-American and Mexican, by the way—has Sterling reprimanding Stiviano for taking and posting to Instagram, a picture with NBA legend, Earvin “Magic” Johnson. His concern is that Stiviano is “broadcasting” her association with African-Americans, whom Sterling clearly has issues with…publicly. Listen to the extended conversation here: http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2014/4/27/5658286/donald-sterling-second-recording-racist-holocaust

It has justifiably created conversation and concern that a league owner—who undeniably makes his money from the talents of African-American players (76% of whom in the NBA are African-American), coaches and fans—embraces “plantation politics.” For Sterling personally, he has had his run in for racially discriminatory issues before, resulting in a $2.7 million dollar Department of Justice payout for unfair housing practices towards African-Americans and Latinos. He was also sued by Elgin Baylor for racial discrimination, as well as had earlier issues with a woman he admitted to paying for sex.

How he feels about minorities is clearly no secret; at least it isn’t now. But, if this is how he feels, who should be mad? Some have come out to denounce his comments, while others do the politically correct dance as not to damage their relationship with him or those who support or even think like him.  Clippers’ players turned their jerseys inside out (to hide the logo) as they prepared for their playoff game. Yet, they still played.

Unlike decades ago, racial discrimination is not public or legal, and is instead confined to the privacy of homes and conversations (until they are taped and leaked) and the comment sections of web posts. Even as the KKK seeks to re-brand itself, if this is how a person really feels, shouldn’t or wouldn’t we want to know?

We as a nation don’t talk about race candidly or enough, choosing instead to pretend we are in a post-racial society where we all get along as a result of unconditional acceptance. Or, that economic control continues right where it left off post-slavery. When African-Americans speak of discriminatory encounters, they are accused of playing the race card. To avoid such, many stay quiet and pretend those acts don’t exist. Whites (publicly, and some sincerely) take themselves out of the equation of intentionally or even inadvertently contributing to any preferential practices. Yet, they happen.

But, while discrimination and hate are hurtful to those on the receiving end, so are lies, social cloaks and pre-packaged images that are cover ups for reality. Many have known or suspected Sterling’s discriminatory feelings about minorities for longer than this tape has been public. He joins the ranks of many others and an ever growing list of public figures whose true feelings are outted by technology.

I don’t support or condone discrimination against anyone or anything on any level; And, I cringe when I think about unknowingly contributing to the economic success of those who are prejudice. But, while we will talk, criticize and lambaste those who have been exposed, we should more seriously wonder about those who haven’t been.

We must remove our racially tinted glasses

Detroit’s most recent black eye is the beating of a man who accidentally hit a child, and then did the right thing by stopping. For some incomprehensible reason, several people began beating Steven Utesh. The attack put him in critical condition, where he remains today.

The issue of Utash being white, and his attackers being black continues to overshadow the fact that we as a society are just more violent and increasingly desensitized as a result; race remains a factor because it is unfortunately the first thing we see. And, it sadly defines who, what and how we interpret what we see, as well.

I thought about a recent drive down Woodward Avenue, where I saw four or five young black men beating another young black man on the ground. Blows and kicks flew as heavily and as quickly as the traffic passing the attack. It was a hard image to get out of my head, because I can’t imagine the level of hate or anger that would drive such attacks. When an update about Utash aired, it was followed by another story about a man from Westland; a white man who had been beaten by other white men. And, these stories are interwoven with daily reports of similar incidents, all of which are inhuman, race notwithstanding.

Yet, many of the social media and internet comments, including those on the site set up to raise funds for his medical bills, are rooted in race. It was because he was white; it was because the attackers were black. Everything is racial, yet no one claims to be a racist.

We live in a society that is angry and violent and where the fact that economics shape behaviors is too often ignored. It has to be about race. And, it is.

It’s about race because it shapes who we see and how we see them. It makes a Florida man feel intimidated enough by “black” music to kill a teen; it defines large group of black people as gangs, but an equal number of white as celebrants; it means sagging pants and hoodies are an indication of a violent person, unless they are worn by Justin Bieber.

Our perceptions—or misperceptions—are more dangerous than any reality. They fuel a prejudice that sits subcutaneously, like a week old zit just waiting for the first opportunity—or excuse—to pop.

You can look into the eyes of a person and truly see their soul. Looking at the pictures of Utash, you can see a calm and compassion long gone for too many of us. Yet, in one photo he has two fingers from each hand up. I interpreted it as a peace sign. Heck, I have even taken a similar shot. However, these are the same gestures when in Instagram or Facebook pics of young African-Americans, are dubbed “thuggish” or “gang signs” and somehow indicate that they lead a life of violence and societal insubordination.

The variance in complexion was a reason why blacks were targeted as slaves; they would be quickly and easily identifiable if they tried to flee. And, today that is the same reason —or is interpreted as such—for everything done, from both sides.

African-Americans are forced to decipher whether ill behavior is rooted in rudeness or racism. Just like their white counterparts, the assumption is always the latter. Sometimes it is true, and other times it is not. Yet, without confirmation from the accuser each party walks away with an assumption, for better or worse.

White people don’t understand what it is like to be black; ignored in a store, overlooked in a restaurant, or being on the receiving end of rude behavior and believing—even if never admitting—that it has to do with race. Blacks are plagued with a veil of sensitivity most other races never know.

And, black people don’t understand what it is like to be white; to have a society build around accommodation, and the feeling of entitlement that comes with it.

Yet, each and every human being knows what it is like to hurt. We are all built with a compassion that was part of the package of being human. Those who beat Steve Utash—a well as the attackers of the man in Westland, the party store owner who was shot, the old man who was beaten in a gas station and those seemingly endless aggressors against victims whose faces and stories never make it to the news—do not represent every black person or human being any more than Utash is the lone representative of every white male in society. It is just a fair inaccuracy on both sides.

Until we remove our racially tinted glasses through which we choose to see each and every thing, we will always find ourselves behind the race ball, and the accusations, connotations and social tensions that come with it.

Right is right, and wrong is wrong regardless of who is doing it and to whom it is being done. No hue can ever change that. And, sometimes it is not black or white; it’s just ignorance, which comes in all colors.

My CTS Experience

I was flattered to receive a message asking if I would be willing to drive a 2014 Cadillac CTS, and participate in a survey about my experience. Having been a former but longtime customer of the GM Cadillac (Escalade) brand, I agreed knowing it would at least be nice. I asked if I could publicly share my experience–for better or worse. They agreed.

The car was delivered to my home—clean and with a full tank. At first glance, you can’t help but notice and like the sleek lines in the design and exterior lighting. Entering the interior of the vehicle, one will either be impressed or intimidated by the technology at every turn. And, the attention to detail in the leather, console, doors, etc. didn’t disappoint.

Being height challenged at 5’ 2”, I needed to make sure that the seat, pedals and steering wheel offered enough options for me to be comfortable and still see over the dash; they did. The heated steering wheel was always a favorite on my Escaldes, and I appreciated it here as well, along with the heated and cooled seats.

So, for a week I traded my foreign coupe. The ride was great—smooth, easy to navigate, with comfortable seating, and a roomy back seat and trunk. Safety? Clearly a top priority, with signals and vibrating seats indicating even the slightest appearance of driver distraction; and an in-window display of speed and the indication of vehicles in the perimeter indicating the growing need to keep distracted or fatigued drivers focused and aware.

I loved the detail inside the vehicle, especially the back window shades as well as those for the rear passenger seating. This eliminates those self-installed window shades that drivers stick to windows to block the sun for passengers, especially when transporting children.

It was also great on gas, and garnered plenty of stares and compliments—a Motor City validation of a nice vehicle. If there was one thing that wasn’t as functional for me as it was pretty, it was the radio operations. Being a “button pusher, station flipper” I need to be able to easily navigate from AM to FM to Satellite with minimal ease and eye contact. The touch screen looked great, but wasn’t as cooperative as I would have liked.

At the end of the week, I had the car cleaned, refilled the tank and the GM team picked it up. The survey, interestingly, only asked one question: would I recommend this vehicle to a friend. My answer? Yes. For $50k, it was a luxurious deal that I would not only recommend, but may even personally consider.