The recent news of Donald Sterling is appalling and unacceptable. His initial racist comments are detestable and the subsequent, unapologetic Anderson Cooper interview didn’t help repair his image. This story, which has been running for consecutive weeks reminds us that although this country has made great strides, we still have a long road to hoe regarding discrimination and racism.
Sterling is a rich and powerful man. He owns the Los Angeles Clippers – an NBA franchise. He was in line to receive a lifetime achievement award from the NAACP. Yes, the NAACP was about to give a racist an award. Sterling criticized Magic Johnson in his interview with Cooper. He said he wasn’t a good role model for African-Americans. Sterling told the public he isn’t a racist. Sterling said he was ‘baited’ into his comments. He asked forgiveness. Sterling is a man in denial.
Denial and discrimination work as cohorts. Those who deny a problem, whether a loved one’s or their own, usually practice a form of discrimination. Donald Sterling denies he is a racist but he clearly discriminates against African-Americans. Countless addicts are the same way. They deny there is a problem. They also usually see other other addicts in a negative light. They can’t own up to facts, because they loathe what they have become. It’s unimaginable to be grouped with other addicts. The stigma perpetuates the denial and it is difficult to overcome.
It is also the most necessary thing to do for change. You can’t get help until you admit you have a problem. And not just admission. Acceptance of the problem is critical. It’s ok and it can be helped.
Donald Sterling should admit that he is guilty of racist remarks and apologize. He is 80 years old. He has lived in a time when racism was accepted and socially normal. This isn’t an excuse, it’s an explanation. Just like an addict, Sterling can admit that, due to his environment, his age, his upbringing – that he has a problem. Just like the addicts we help, he can be forgiven and recover from his problem. He can change the way he thinks. But first, he must stop living in denial.
Sterling’s son died of an apparent overdose on New Year’s Day last year. He was 32. The Sterling family thanked everyone for their sympathy and asked for privacy. When asked about their son’s history of addiction, they denied it. They would only discuss his battle with type-1 diabetes. They indicated in a public statement: “Our son Scott has fought a long and valiant battle against Type 1 Diabetes. His death is a terrible tragedy, the effects of which will be felt forever by our family and all those who knew and loved him.”
Denial and a request for privacy was acceptable for the Sterlings then. Parents who have to bury their children are granted that. But this time, Sterling is in danger of losing his NBA franchise. He has already been banned from all NBA activities for the duration of his years.
If there is any chance for him to recover from this, Donald Sterling must face his problem and admit to being a racist, accept this truth, then change. Only then does he have a right to ask forgiveness.
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