image taken from designtrend.com
Several months ago Donald Sterling, a Jewish billionaire and owner of the NBA franchise, the Los Angeles Clippers, was caught on audio tape saying various racist and bigoted things about African Americans and other races and ethnic groups. It’s particularly ironic that he would speak so condescendingly and belittling about African Americans because the majority of his team is comprised of African Americans, and he was in the throes of an extramarital affair with a much younger woman that appears to be African American or, at the very least, bi-racial. Never the less, this old man with a “Plantation paradigm” appears to believe that blacks are his inferior to him, and it’s apparent that his dying paradigm hasn’t modernized much at all even though beliefs and perceptions on the subject of race have changed dramatically since the Civil War.
Although Donald Sterling’s comments were indeed repugnant, I believe that in many ways they reflect the beliefs and perceptions of countless other people throughout America and the world who merely choose to repress their own racist feelings because they fear the consequences that will surely come if they truly speak their minds. These consequences usually include being fired from one’s job, being shunned by more progressive friends, and being silenced by the politically correct who are everywhere among us. As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Master NLP Practitioner, Certified Hypnotherapist, and Sports Psychology Consultant, I can attest to this fact because I have personally worked with clients that have suffered irreparable damage to their reputations and careers as a result of saying the wrong, or politically incorrect, thing at the wrong time.
Sadly for Donald Sterling, his comments were so outdated and so incendiary that he morphed into a walking caricature or cartoon figure of the racists and bigots that walk more inconspicuously among us right before out very eyes. If there was a tall, bloated balloon at the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving parade that represented what a racist looks like, it would don the face of Donald Sterling himself. Although it’s easy to castigate Donald Sterling, I prefer to see his bigoted remarks as a gift to all of us; his words are a reminder to all of us that are humble, courageous, and self-aware enough to admit it that we also have our own prejudices against all kinds of races, ethnic groups, sexual orientations, religious groups, the rich, the poor, Republicans, Democrats, the homeless, lawyers, professional athletes, reality TV stars, rappers, country singers, misogynists, short men, handicapped people, overweight people, powerful women, beautiful women, homemakers, drug addicts, people who are on anti-depressant medication, the mentally ill, illegal immigrants, those who live in America and don’t speak English yet, those without college degrees, laborers, rape victims, etc. We all have our own shadows that we try to repress, deny, and/or disown, and these shadows darken the light that reflects our soul’s loving and compassionate nature; we all have our own conscious or unconscious prejudices, but we have been conditioned to wear a social mask and lie to ourselves and others that our thoughts are as pure as the white driven snow. When we deny or disown our shadows, though, we actually give them more life. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I often share with my clients that “what we resist persists.”
I will confess to you that I have my own prejudices, and I work daily to own them so that I can eventually transcend them. One prejudice I have is against those who lie to themselves and others and claim that they actually have no prejudices!! I’ve grown so weary of radio and T.V. personalities who say something that is clearly racist or bigoted and then adamantly deny having ever had a racist, homophobic, or other impure thought by saying things like, ”some of my best friends are black” or “I gave money to an AIDS charity that supports gays and lesbians” or “I grew up around bigotry and always vowed that I would never allow myself to think those kinds of thoughts.” The sad truth is that all of their attempts to rationalize away what they have said are merely hollow and disingenuous attempts to deny to themselves and to the public that their minds, like the rest of us, are actually impure and vulnerable to falling prey to having prejudices, biases, etc. These very people “protest too much” and they are therefore either hypocrites, in grave denial, or actively trying to pull the wool over their eyes and our eyes too. There are countless examples of such hypocrites in our midst that immediately come to mind. Take, for example, Michael Jordan, Jesse Jackson, Joe Biden, Al Sharpton, Spike Lee, Marion Barry, and Dan Rather.
Michael Jordan, who is widely regarded as the greatest professional basketball player ever to play the game, grew up in North Carolina during a time when there were more KluKluxKlan members in his state than there were in all of the other Southern States combined. He once said, ” I considered myself a racist at the time. Basically, I was against all white people.” Jordan later said, however, that his Mother told him that he could not live a life consumed by racial hatred. Jordan added that he finally began to understand more about race relations after watching the miniseries, Roots. Although Jordan has conceded that he was once a full blown racist against white people while adding that he’s since worked on owning this shadow, I highly doubt that there is not a trace of racism left anywhere in his mind, body, heart, and soul.
Never the less, as soon as the Donald Sterling scandal broke out, it was Michael Jordan who chose to say the following: ”I am completely disgusted that a fellow team owner could hold such sickening and offensive views…There is no room in the NBA- or anywhere else, for the kind of racism and hatred Mr. Sterling expressed. I am appalled that this type of ignorance still exists within our country, and at the highest level of our sport…In a league where the majority of our players are African-American, we cannot and must not tolerate discrimination at any level.” Although I wholeheartedly agree with Michael Jordan’s sentiments, I simply don’t buy the idea that he has truly transcended his own ethnic and racial prejudices so thoroughly that he’s in a position to stand on a pulpit and denounce others for the very same prejudices and hatred he has acknowledged having had at one time for white people. If I were a betting man, I would bet my house that Michael Jordan still harbors racist feelings towards whites, Jews, and countless other racial and ethnic groups as well. I commend him if has made great strides towards overcoming his prejudices. I cannot in good conscience, however, stand up, applaud him, and make pretend that I believe that his heart and mind is entirely cleansed of all racism and bigotry.
Other public figures and celebrities that have allowed their politically correct, social masks to accidentally slip off include African-American Reverend Jesse Jackson, our Caucasian Vice President Joe Biden, famous African-American movie producer, Spike Lee, famous Caucasian news anchor, Dan Rather, and former African-American governor Marion Barry. During his 1984 presidential campaign, Jesse Jackson derisively spoke of New York City as a place teeming with “Hymies”, and he even went so far as to call New York City “Hymietown.” For those of you who don’t know, the word “Hymie” is a racist term used to disparage Jews. Our very own Vice President, Joe Biden, said a few years ago, “You cannot go to a 7 11 or Dunkin Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.” Regarding his own running mate, Barack Obama, Joe Biden said, “I mean you just got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate, bright, clean, and a nice-looking guy; I mean, that’s a storybook, man.” As for African-American movie producer, Spike Lee, he once said, ” I give interracial couples a look. Daggers…They get uncomfortable when they see me on the street.”
As for Dan Rather, he said of Barack Obama, “He’s a nice person. He’s very articulate and this is what’s been used against him, but he couldn’t sell watermelons if you gave him the state troopers to flag down the traffic.” Former governor, Marion Barry, once said, “We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops. They ought to go.” Although each of the politicians, public figures, and celebrities that I have just mentioned clearly have racist thoughts percolating around in the recesses of their minds, I guarantee you that none of them would cop to it. On the contrary, they would allude to friends of theirs that are Jewish, Indian, African-American, or in a romantic partnership with someone of the opposite race. Or perhaps they would talk of charity work they have done on behalf of the very people they have openly degraded, or they would talk of extended family members that are married to someone who is Jewish, Indian, African-American, etc. Their attempts to deny their own prejudices never end because they want to maintain their squeaky clean image. What’s paradoxical and ironic, though, is that the more someone deflects and denies his or her own prejudices, the less trustworthy they become. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have been facilitating a Men’s group for over 7 years now. I’ve noticed that the men that are most honest about their shortcomings and take ownership of their shadows are the men that the other group members trusts the most. On the contrary, the men who deny their shadows and repress their darker thoughts are the ones that are trusted least.
Since the Donald Sterling story broke awhile back, there has only been one public figure that I have grown to respect and trust as it pertains to the topic of racism, bigotry, and prejudice. His name is Mark Cuban, who is the billionaire owner of the NBA franchise, the Dallas Mavericks. As everyone was clamoring to have Sterling banned from the NBA, Mark Cuban shared his thoughts on the matter in a self-reflective, honest, and forthcoming manner. He said, ” I know that I’m prejudiced, and I know that I’m bigoted in a lot of different ways…None of us have pure thoughts; we all live in glass houses.”
My sentiments exactly…
I want to invite all the self-righteous hypocrites out there who claim to be enlightened and pure of thought to kindly consider the possibility that perhaps the feelings of outrage that you openly express about Donald Sterling has just as much to do with you as they do with him. I wonder if his blatant racism and bigotry awakens in you the realization that you have a little bit of him inside of you. After all, it takes one to know one or “if you spot it, you got it.” Marriage and Family Therapists and anyone else that works in the field of psychology call this phenomena “Projection.” Whenever we have a strong “charge” with someone else and want to judge or condemn them, the chances are extraordinarily high that you’re seeing traits in that person that mirrors similar traits inside of yourself that you’d rather not acknowledge or take ownership of; you’d prefer to project the traits that you don’t like in yourself onto someone else. For this very reason, I propose that Donald Sterling is a living and breathing mirror and/or gift for all of us; he gives all of us an opportunity to go inside ourselves and explore our “charge” with him so that we can take ownership of the prejudices that live inside of us and do the personal growth work it will take to make our prejudices smaller and smaller over the course of time.
Thank you for taking your time to read my blog on racism, prejudice, and the phenomena of projection. I hope you found my blog thought-provoking and enlightening.
John Boesky, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist/NLP Practitioner/Certified Hypnotherapist/& Sports Psychology Consultant