Race in America: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same


“This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society.” – Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Over the last week we have seen the United States Supreme Court uphold Michigan’s band on affirmative action, conservative folk hero Cliven Bundy declare that; “[African Americans] abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton…”, and now, today, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers is on record stating that he does not want African Americans at his basketball games. All of these ugly incidents highlight the ongoing struggle of fairness and equality minorities still face in America today.

On Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on affirmative action. The court’s 6-2 decision upheld a voter-approved change to the Michigan State Constitution that prevents public colleges from using race as a factor in its admissions. The ruling opens the door for other states to enact similar laws that restrict minority participation in higher education. Justice Sotomayor, the lone Hispanic on the Supreme Court, took the unusual step of reading the dissent from the bench, chiding the other justices who ruled to uphold the ban. Justice Sotomayor stated; “But one thing has not changed: to doubt the worth of minority students’ achievement when they succeed is really only to present another face of the prejudice that would deny them a chance even to try.”

A couple weeks ago conservatives from across the country praised the actions of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher in a land dispute with federal government. Conservatives held Bundy as a “patriot” and a “hero”. It did not take long for this conservative folk hero to show his true colors. Bundy said the following regarding African Americans;

  • “They abort their young children; they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton.”
  • I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom,”
  • “Maybe I sinned … and maybe I don’t know what I actually said. … If I say Negro or black or slave … if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be (offended), then Martin Luther King hasn’t got his job done yet. … We need to get over this prejudice stuff,”

Now comes Donald Sterling, the ignorant owner of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Los Angeles Clippers. TMZ released an audio recording of Sterling telling his “girlfriend” not bring “black people to his games”. Sterling, the morally bankrupt owners of the Clippers went on to tell his girlfriend; “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people,” Sterling definitely has an antebellum mind sight when it comes to race, he comfortable making millions off of African American athletes, but not comfortable being around African Americans in a social setting.

After TMZ publish audio of Sterling on Friday, on Sunday, Deadspin released additional audio from the conversation. At the beginning of the new audio excerpt, Sterling’s girlfriend, V. Stiviano, talks about Sterling asking her to remove photos of black people from her Instagram account.

“Honey, if it makes you happy, I will remove all of the black people from my Instagram,” she says, explaining that she removed all photos except of basketball players Matt Kemp and Magic Johnson. “I thought Matt Kemp is mixed and he was okay, just like me. He’s lighter and whiter than me.”

Sterling then attributes his requests to “culture.”

“It’s the world! You got to Israel, the blacks are just treated like dogs,” he says. “We don’t evaluate what’s right and wrong. We live in a society. We live in a culture. We have to live within that culture.”

“Do you know that you have a whole team that’s black, that plays for you?” she asks.

“I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives that to them? Does someone else give that to them? Do I know that I have — Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game?” Sterling responds.

America’s original sin is slavery and this country continues to be plagued institutional racism. While we have come a long ways from the days of slavery and Jim Crow racial attitudes of hate and prejudice still exist. The goal is not to become a post-racial society because no matter how hard we try some individuals will still make judgments based on race and ethnicity. The goal should be to create a fair system of laws that enable all Americans regardless of race to succeed.

It’s troubling that just last year the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, a law that helped millions of minorities access the voting booth, and now they have upheld a law that has the ability to limit the number of African Americans in institutes of higher education. Couple the Supreme Court decision with the attitudes of Mr. Bundy and Sterling and you’ll see that while we have come a long ways as a country on the issue of race, we still have a ways to go.


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