If you have been anywhere near a radio, TV or newspaper within the past couple days, you are undoubtedly familiar with the recent allegations toward the NBA’s LA Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling. If you have been off the grid and not familiar with it, let me bring you up to speed in one sentence: Mr. Sterling has been accused of racism after a leaked audio recording circulated where he shared his disdain for African Americans.
Now, we all are entitled to our own opinions and preferences, there is no argument there. However, you need not be a Clippers fan or even a basketball enthusiast to know that the majority of the players on the team are African American (12 out of 14 to be exact) as are at least half of the coaching staff.
I am not sure about your thoughts on it, but this story if true, opens up Pandora’s box – laced with contradiction, audacity, and reality. The contradiction is obvious, but lets take a closer look: according to Forbes, the LA Clippers are valued at $575 million. That means the African American players and coaches who have worked to create that multi-million dollar enterprise…report to someone who would rather not affiliate with them. These men have put millions in Mr. Sterling’s pocket, literally (but I suppose that part is ok with him.) To say the least that is some audacity…and to a certain extent, exploitation and ignorance.
I’d rather not go into the plethora of negative implications and historical contexts that could frame this issue, but would prefer to take a look at the present-day reality of it.
Truth is, we won’t like everyone and everyone won’t like us. Yes, even you! And that’s ok it’s natural. But what is not ok and what is not natural is the inherent and invisible privileges that many of us have adopted – new and old – that have become so ingrained in who we are that we can’t tell them apart from our own shadow. And what’s not ok is that we do not recognize these privileges and instead, allow them to govern our attitudes, behaviors, and relationships (and lack thereof.)
One might look around and say ‘hatred and racism don't exist anymore. We have arrived!’ However, what they fail to see is the hand disguised with mandates and laws, dollar signs and smiles have our society in a choke-hold that doesn't appear to be loosening anytime soon.
The U.S. is an alluring country indeed, overflowing with beautiful people of different ethnicities and skin tones, economic backgrounds and abilities, viewpoints and beliefs. Even still, I often wonder how we can be so ugly and intolerant. Within our own borders we allow the -isms (including capital, race, sex, and even age) to fuel our belief that we are better than ________ (you fill in the blank.) Lets take it one step further, if we treat each other this way intraculturally, how do we really behave interculturally? How do we view and interact with those from other cultures outside of the U.S.?
It might be what we don't see or what we are not acknowledging that is negatively affecting our businesses, relationships, experiences, and communities. No matter our race or economic status, we all have our own sense of invisible privilege that saddle us. Though the oneness lies within us, individually, to peel off the hidden grip - finger by finger - and reflect on our own contributions to the seemingly unending melee.
As employers, managers, neighbors, parents, friends, educators…and global citizens, we are accountable not only to ourselves, but to our communities and the next generation that will take the helm. It is our responsibility to put on the inward-looking x-ray glasses and see the invisible privileges that we carry and seek to understand how they influence our assumptions, attitudes and daily behaviors.
Driven by facilitating change and doing sustainable work with a lasting impact, Ms. Loper is committed to global education, social responsibility, and philanthropy. She has over 10 years of international experiences where she has led education programs in Greece, managed education and grassroots exchange programs between the U.S. and Japan, and taught English both in Japan and on U.S. college campuses. She has traveled extensively through the U.S, Europe, Asia, and South America; enjoys meeting new people, tasting new foods, and taking photos along the way.
Culture Friendly Consulting, wishes to thank J. Renay Loper for her support, insights, professionalism and especially her strong commitment to both inter-cultural and intra-cultural education.