In the Donald Sterling audiotape story, the three typical excuses for a racist telephone rant went missing: a denial it was him, a confession of being impaired, and a heartfelt apology.
Now, what’s NOT missing from this mess is immediate outrage and swift punishment. Good for the NBA for calling the intentional foul and ejecting this guy. Even my second-grader says it makes him sad because everybody knows we don’t judge people based on the color of their skin.
I don’t know if it’s what he said, or the way he said it, but coming out of his little mouth, it struck me as so emphatic for someone so young. I ask my fifth-grader what he thinks about it all, and he just shakes his head and says it’s funny, since Sterling owns an NBA basketball team. That it just doesn’t make any sense.
It then dawns on me that I’ve been watching this story all week as my children wander in and out of rooms with the TV reporting every aspect of the scandal, and I haven’t even asked what exactly they know or understand about all this. And so I ask – what is their first memory of hearing about racism? And they both say they heard it in elementary school, from their teachers, around Martin Luther King Day.
They talk about the books about slavery. The videos of riots in the streets. The pictures of sit-ins. Each year learning more than the one before it. Just recently, my fifth-grader was assigned to study The Charlotte Observer’s series on Jimmie Lee Kirkpatrick, Myers Park High School’s first black football player in 1965, who last year along with one of his white Myers Park classmates discovered their families are linked in Mecklenburg County’s slave era.
Let me just say: Thank goodness for our teachers. They not only teach about racism, but continue to educate our children about our segregated past – the intolerance, fear and abuse that was inflicted – and the evolution of the civil rights movement. As a parent, I probably don’t address this topic nearly enough; thankfully my teachers continue the conversation about what we were as a society, who was responsible for change, and why it’s so important to understand.
And so my kids shake their heads. They don’t get racism. They don’t get a person of a different color requiring different treatment. They don’t get a team owner talking crazy about the very athletes he’s supposed to support, and they don’t get how anyone thinks Magic Johnson is anything but a basketball superstar you’d love to have a picture with.
Rant into your phone all you want, Mr. Sterling. There’s a whole new generation of informed children. And they all just hung up on you.