Standing for Something

29 04 2014

LA Clippers

As a kid, my parents liked to impart certain bits and pieces of wisdom into me all the time. They’d tell me things like, “Honesty is always the best policy,” and “It’s important to pick your battles wisely,” “Our words have power,” and “Never let anyone define who you are.” And while none of those statements are unique to my parents, they stuck with me as a kid because a) I love quotes, and b) they said them so often!

Well, recently one of their wise sayings has been ringing over and over in my head. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. Now, full disclosure — my parents were born in the 1960s so they grew up with a very keen sense of what the consequences were of not standing up for your beliefs, but I can still remember the first time one of them said those words to me like it was yesterday. At first it seemed contradictory to their statement about picking your battles, but they soon explained to me that while it was important to pick your battles, the whole idea of picking meant that at some point you had to stand up and fight for one of them.

I was reminded of this lesson twice this past week. Once as I began reading about Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s 58 page dissent on the Supreme Court’s 6-2 decision to uphold Michigan’s voter-approved ban on affirmative action for public universities. There was something about her dissent that struck me. It probably had something to do with the number of pages or the fact that she decided it was important that she read the  dissent from the bench. But it was also the language she used. She was emphatic, unapologetic, spoke to precedence and willful neglect of the nation. She was precise and calculated, and it stood out to me mostly because it signaled to me that this was her picking her battle.

It was important enough to her to stand up and say on that day, the Court was wrong. And as expected she has been ridiculed for it by certain parts of our nation and media. She has been called emotional and her dissent reduced to a personal attack, rather than a logical, well thought-out, reasoned explanation against what the majority voted for. Now, to be clear, it’s not like she can be removed from the Supreme Court for her statements, but I appreciated the fact that she used her eloquent words to step out and attempt to impact change for the future.

A second instance occurred after the now infamous recording of Donald Sterling was released by TMZ Friday night. Immediately, I began wondering how the Clipper players and the NBA in general would respond to the matter. Would they choose to pick this battle? If you follow basketball, then you know that the video above represents what at least the Clipper players decided. During their warm-ups, they took off their Clipper gear at half court and proceeded to warm up in their suits turned on the other side so the logo was not shown. They also chose to wear black wrist bands in solidarity.

Now, there were some people (admittedly me included initially) who wanted them to do a bit more. There were suggestions that the players boycott the game or not wear their Clipper uniforms during the game, but the more I looked at the video of what they did, the more my parents words convicted me. I remembered the word they emphasized when speaking about standing for something I believed in and choosing how to make that stand, and that word was I. I would be the one to have to pick my battles. I would be the one to have to choose wisely and determine that this time, in this place, I was fighting back. I would be the one to have to determine how my stand looked when I decided to do it.

And when I remembered that, I appreciated their stand much more. Regardless of how we feel about Donald Sterling or what we think the Clipper players should have done or should do in the future, the reality is that it was their choice. Their stand. And to many it was a pretty powerful one.

What do you guys think? Have you had a chance to read any of Justice Sotomayor’s dissent and have you been following the fall-out from Donald Sterling’s racist comments? Let’s discuss.





2 responses

29 04 2014

People have been asking me to comment on this stuff, and I am weary. i simply posted Justice Sotomayor’s dissent on twitter saying Read, Sonia, Read! She wasn’t about to let the history books say she stood by silently especially when that good for nothing Clarence Thomas wasn’t going to say or do anything, and not after having to fight for her life and dignity during her confirmation hearings. Big ups to the Bronx. Good for her. I’m mad that she had to even write that dissent, I’m mad as you said that responses said she was emotional. People in this country put their heads in the sand and I mean all races at this point.

As far as the basketball players, you are right. They had to pick their battles. There’s another article going around talking about the cowardice of the modern black person and how we aren’t as revolutionary. I think that as a race we have become very individualized. What affects us and our families. If I’m a wealthy basketball player, it’s very easy to say… I’m playing for the love, I’m playing because I’ve always wanted the championship I’m not going to let one person stand in my way, this is about the game.

It is unfortunate, but until every black person feels threatened financially (educated, musicians, athletes) we won’t have the strong reaction.

Look at the 50s and 60s. Motown artists were beloved by everyone, but couldn’t eat at certain restaurants. Actors like Sidney Potier or Sammy Davis Jr. their money and prestige couldn’t erase their color. Rich people of color think they are a protected class now, they don’t have the same struggles as the greater group, and this is why now there is such a divide in thinking. This is why some people are arguing, hey Mr. Sterling can think what he wants. I’m still getting paid. So it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.

I’m kind of pissed that we are arguing about rich black basketball players and how demeaning it is to work for this dude, when black men make up the highest rates of unemployment and the highest rates of incarceration, and little black boys are more likely to be placed in special education and suspended from class. And everyone, rich poor and everything else has an opinion, but are silent on these other issues. Just great. Our voting rights are being quietly erased in certain states, access to education… silent.

And we’ve made the fucking world stand still because of basketball. Where is Dap Dunlap. It’s time to wake the hell up. This is why people like Sterling feels the way he feels. Throw money at them to play ball and entertain us they don’t even need to think for themselves because they can’t see the bigger picture. They don’t want to.

29 04 2014

It’s really all so much, right? I completely understand not wanting to unpack it all. And just being weary. I am that way too, very very often. But I am in full agreement with you about the dissent. While I love that she did it, I hate that she had to. I won’t even get into Clarence Thomas because he makes me want to pluck my eyes out.

As for the basketball players, I can admit I was a bit torn too. But I also think it’s so easy to say what someone else should do or what we would do when it’s not us, right? And it seems like, at least for now, they were working pretty furiously behind the scenes to get a change done even without having to boycott.

You bring up a great point about what the conversation should be about instead of this. And I agree to some extent. We absolutely need to speak out more about what’s going on with the voting rights in America, the access to education, the high rates of incarceration, etc… (and I would emphatically add taking a real look at the high rates of suicide occurring in black women). But I don’t think that takes away from the significance of what’s happening here either.

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