Saturday, May 17, 2014

Was Donald Sterling right: African Americans don't give back like Jews?

“History shows that it does not matter who is in power or what revolutionary forces take over the government, those who have not learned to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others never obtain any more rights or privileges in the end than they had in the beginning.”  
― Carter G. Woodson

For sure, file this under:

Even a broken clock is right twice a day...

Donald Sterling, in his clueless rambling state, uttered a strong rebuke of black folks who obtain status and wealth.

As reported:

Sterling also questioned whether Johnson has made a positive contribution to the African American community in Los Angeles. He then pointed to his own charitable work and said that Jewish people--unlike some African Americans who become successful--give back to their community. 

“Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people,” Sterling said.  source

No doubt, Sterling was totally off target for indicting Magic Johnson in his strong accusation. Magic has epitomized how an athlete of any color can make a substantive contribution back to society.

Mr. Johnson's impeccable record of rebuilding communities, developing urban economies, inner city job creation, sponsoring college bound youth, supporting Aids awareness, operating an AIDS charity among many other deeds is legendary.

But similar to the proverbial broken clock being right twice a day, did Mr. Sterling's comments have a kernel of truth? In plain words, was Donald Sterling right?

The Grio blog states: What Donald Sterling got right about blacks

Sterling’s comparison of Jewish and Black giving likely offended many people watching and/or listening to his latest and hopefully his last interview.  But before we rush into a reactionary defense, we must first survey the terrain of successful Black people in business, athletics and entertainment and have an honest assessment of whether or not their contributions to our community are sufficient.

Clearly, for many of the challenges in the African American community in the 21st century, there are only substantive policy-oriented solutions.  However, given the enormous wealth of the most successful Black athletes, entertainers and business moguls, it seems apropos to demand that they do more – including Magic Johnson.

In fact, the challenges of the Black community – eroded public school systems, mass incarceration, and persistent institutional racism – require a concerted effort on the part of policy makers, activists, organizers, educators, etc.  But when we compare our current crop of Black athletes to those from Civil Rights era – Muhammad Ali, Althea Gibson, Bill Russell, etc., wide is the schism between their activism and the activism of those who today have many more resources and platforms at their disposal.

The truth is we need Magic to do even more than what he has done; we need African-American athletes to take more stands on issues that matter to our community – not just the ones that directly affect them or their families.

And although it may be difficult to do so in this defensive moment, we have to demand more from our most economically successful, because their contributions and their voices are sorely needed in these times.

I would include more than the wealthy sports figures and business people in the category of not giving back enough to our community. What about the track record of the black middle-class and upper-middle class?

In my opinion, there are multiple factors to explain why successful blacks fall short in giving back:

1. Whether you call it the inner city, the hood or the ghetto, our under-class environments are designated places to escape from and not to build or look for opportunities (once again, Magic Johnson via his successful Magic theatres and shopping centers has debunked this fallacy).

Consequently, when black families achieve middle-class living status the exodus -- socially and economically -- to better schools, safer communities, better housing begins

2. It is not just Republicans that buy into the stereotype of poor blacks.

Let's face it, a huge percentage of middle-class African Americans share the same level of disdain for the black under-class as middle America.

Middle-class AA have often internalized the great American pastime: looking down on poor minorities. This condition -- internalized self-hatred -- exacerbates the need to never look back.

3. The stubbornness of our ever pervasive slave mentality. ESPN reporter Jason Whitlock stated:

There are kernels of truth in Sterling's rant. I've written about black people's indifference to supporting the black institutions, particularly historically black colleges and universities, that have supported us. The reason Sterling was twice selected to receive lifetime achievement awards from the NAACP is because white Jewish people are the longtime financial supporters of the organization.

What Sterling fails to comprehend -- and many people black and white fail to understand -- is the uniqueness of our struggle in America. We were systematically pitted against each other in slavery. Our individual survival was predicated on our willingness to betray each other. We are subliminally trained to see ourselves as inferior to white people. We are socialized to hate ourselves.

I transitioned from past tense to present tense because the training and socializing have never stopped. They've taken new forms -- mass incarceration through an immoral, pointless drug war and popular culture that profits from, celebrates and mainstreams the degradation and dehumanization of black people.

It's how we went from Dr. King's generation demanding to be treated as men to a generation demanding to call itself and be treated as n-----s. It's why Doc Rivers, David Stern and everyone else were quite comfortable ignoring Sterling's documented history of housing discrimination and reprehensible treatment of Elgin Baylor.

We drink from the same polluted well of bigotry as Sterling.

I get why the NBA wants Donald Sterling to go away. His transparency is overshadowing the games. I hope he sticks around until we're forced to address the elephants he keeps putting center court. source

To gain a fuller perspective on this topic, I strongly recommend The Mis-education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson. It may have been published in 1933, but the theme still rings true today.

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