Old mindsets haunt modern progress

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Matt Murphy

I don’t think about racism.

That probably doesn’t carry much weight coming from a white male, the least discriminated-against of any demographic.

I do, however, think that it is the prevailing attitude of people my age. Overt racism isn’t something I grew up with. The largest racially-charged event of my life was the Rodney King riots, and I was only a few years old.

As little as my generation may care about a person’s skin color or sexual orientation, it seems there are always stark reminders that not everyone feels the same way.

It was in such a fashion that Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, sprang forth from a bygone era spewing some of the most racist and hateful rhetoric I have ever heard in a recorded argument with his, ironically, biracial girlfriend.

In a country that elected its first black president six years ago, and then reelected him four years later, here is a man who is genuinely confused as to why his girlfriend would want to associate with a person of color.

Magic Johnson, the person of color whom Sterling did not want his girlfriend associating with, appeared on ESPN, visibly distraught from what he’d heard.

The backlash against Sterling has been swift and direct.

Within days of the leaked conversation, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that Sterling was banned from involvement in the NBA in all forms for life and was fined $2.5 million, the maximum amount allowed under the NBA constitution. Silver also said that he will try to force Sterling to sell the team, an action that requires a 75 percent majority vote among the 29 other NBA owners.

Perhaps Sterling stands alone. I’m certainly not insinuating that everyone from his generation is as unenlightened and despicable as he is.

But it only takes one person, just one ignorant voice, to set society back two steps after it just took one forward.

Whether Sterling is the Clippers owner for the rest of the week or the rest of his life, the damage his comments have caused is done.

It matters not the beliefs of this generation when the previous one perpetuates old-world thinking.

Matt Murphy can be reached at [email protected] or @matthewcharlesz on Twitter.