It is not an accident that we become the people we become. We grow up a certain way. We grow up in a certain house. In a certain neighborhood. In a certain state. In a certain part of the country. In a certain country in the world. We’re influenced by our parents. And by our neighbors. We’re influenced by the kids we go to grade school with. By friends we go to college with. By early bosses and work colleagues. We’re influenced by our own experiences. And influenced by the media. And maybe just a bit, from a blog that we read regularly.
I know this from my own personality. I can point to specific traits of mine. And can match them with people and experiences that shaped me to be who I am.
And I also know this, because I see it in my kids. I watch them mimic what I do. What my wife does. I watch them mimic what other kids from school do. And what their cousins do. What an older kid in the neighborhood does.
When my kids’ friends come over, I watch their friends do the same thing. The mimicking. The kids do all the same things. And say all the same things.
Even the leaders are followers.
So imagine you grew up in a house full of racists…in a school full of racists…in a neighborhood of racists…what are you going to become?
Odds are…you become a racist.
I’m not saying it’s right. I’m definitely not saying it’s good. It’s not. Being a racist is gross. And wrong. And illogical. And toxic. And hateful. And the worst of all…being a racist is contagious.
If I could get my kids to be one thing in this world, it would be that they are accepting of all people of all races of all creeds of all shapes of all nations.
I think this alone speaks volumes about a person. So much that goes along with that. A goodness. Empathy. A strong sense of logic. And a strong and sound mind.
And I hate racism. For those who know me personally, they already know that racism doesn’t play in my space. Not obviously with discrimination of any kind. Not with fear of other races. Not in jokes. Not even in generalizations. I hate it. For any race. For any religion.
But I too, have not been above it my whole life. Sadly…even me.
I was living in New York for 9/11. I was there before. During. And after. And for that time after, I felt hatred and/or fear towards Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent. I know it was wrong. I know it was illogical. I know it was gross. And toxic. But at the time, I felt what I felt. I was fearful getting on planes with people that I thought ‘might be terrorists’ by the color of their skin. I felt a hate for what people were wearing on their heads.
I’m embarrassed now. Of course. But it was real at the time. And it was definitely racist.
Now, I didn’t go shouting racial slurs at people. I didn’t not hire a guy because he was a certain color. I didn’t deny anyone anything because of their religion or skin color. I didn’t even talk about it out loud with people. With anyone. But I lived with racist thoughts in my mind. And racist feelings in my heart. Blaming hundreds of millions of people for a ‘terrorist’ population that was only in the thousands.
Gross. Wrong. Illogical. Toxic. Hateful.
No more racist thoughts are in me. Only empathy for those who are discriminated against for this, and any other reason.
I was smart enough, thank God, not to talk about my feelings. Not to bring it up. The spreading of racism, to me, is worse than being a racist. Much. Much worse. We become who we become, because of a lot of factors out of our control. But we can control whether or not we spread hate. Whether or not we are truly toxic to the greater good in this world.
I don’t know Donald Sterling other than the one tape I heard. Maybe he’s a terrible person. Maybe he’s been discriminating against blacks for his whole life. Maybe he walked into those meetings with NBA officials and said something that was so appallingly racist, that they had to ban him. I don’t know.
But…here’s where the NBA’s decision gets tricky…are we faulting people for thinking something? Are we faulting people because they believe something? Even if it’s terrible. He didn’t go shout this from the rooftops.
If I was faulted for every bad I had thought in my life. If I was tried for every private conversation I had. With loved ones mind you. Who I trust. Who I didn’t know were recording conversations. I would be hung.
I am pretty sure we all would be hung.
Maybe except for a few of you.
So many people in all races, have racist feelings. And thoughts. It doesn’t matter if you’re white or black or Asian or whatever. It’s unfortunate. But it’s true. It’s really, really out there. In a really, really bad way.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a diverse area. Raised by parents didn’t think racist jokes were funny. And did not tolerate them. And didn’t tolerate racism of any kind. Not for a second.
Maybe Donald Sterling grew up in the wrong place. Around the wrong neighbor. In the wrong school. I don’t know. But if he is a racist, which he obviously seems to be, and he’s kept it quiet for this long…it’s more than I can say for a lot of people in this world.
Do I excuse racism? No. I don’t. Am I at home saying racist remarks? No I am not. I don’t even think them.
If Sterling is banned for that tape alone, I would think this decision by the NBA is garbage. Those were private thoughts. In a private place. To someone he trusted. Still gross? Still terrible? Yes. But banned for life for saying something to a private person? No.
But if Sterling is banned because he has spread racism. Because racism is oozing from his pores. If he’s banned because the league wants to stop racist owners, some of the richest, most powerful, most influential people in this country, from ever saying anything racist again…then great decision.
Hats off to Adam Silver. Hats off to the NBA.
And if you have become who you have become. For any and all factors in your development as a human being. And that has led you to have racist feelings. Or racial fears. Even if you have a racist joke. No matter how ‘hilarious’ you may think it is. Just keep it all to yourself. Every day you don’t say these toxic things out loud, to your friends, to your loved ones, to your kids. You will be doing the world some good.
And this world can always use more good.