[News] Not Donald Sterling But the Washington “Redskins” - Racism in Sports
news at freedomarchives.org
Fri May 2 15:51:46 EDT 2014
Weekend Edition May 2-4, 2014
*Not Donald Sterling But the Washington “Redskins”*
Racism in Sports
by AJAMU BARAKA
The hypocrisy of race discourse in the U.S. is breathtaking. A week
after Cliven Bundy, the white supremacist rancher in Nevada, voiced his
views on slavery and the current plight of urban-based black communities
that many white Americans either believe or have considered, the public
is now collectively outraged by the silly, racist comments of NBA massa
Donald Sterling. We are all supposed to pretend that his views on the
social undesirability of associating with black people were something
that just emerged from his sick imagination and not a sentiment shared
(though not openly spoken) in polite white society.
But what really reveals the superficiality and dishonesty of the
supposed outrage about racism in U.S. society and in sports is the
complete cognitive dissociation between this outrage against black
people and the ongoing degrading assault in the world of sport on the
Indigenous people of this land.
Indigenous people of this territory called the United States have for
years, as a simple matter of dignity, been involved in efforts to remove
the racist names, mascots and other practices in major league and
college sports that have perpetuated their de-humanization, with only
mixed success. In the last few years, a major focus of these efforts was
to change the name of the D.C.-based football team, the Washington
Redskins – something one might think would be completely obvious in
2014. But the campaign has met with fierce resistance. Why?
How is it that people can pretend to be outraged by Sterling’s comments,
while the owners of the Redskins and the Atlanta “Braves” are not
questioned as to why they insist on defending brands that Native peoples
and others have condemned as racially offensive? Not only do the names
remain in place, but they are defended by large cross-sections of
society, including by many African Americans.
Not seeing or making the link between these two issues illustrates for
me that the discourse on anti-racism in the U.S. is not to be taken
seriously. These “conversations,” whether it is Obama’s pathetic appeal
to white vanity and defense of integrationism in his “race speech” or
the current discussion around the meaning of the movie /Twelve Years a
Slave/, reveal themselves as phony, diversionary and racist exercises.
Rather than advancing change, they provide cover for the real element
that must be identified, deconstructed and abolished – the ideology of
white supremacy and the material privileges that come along with it.
When the ideology of white supremacy that permeates all aspects of
culture, politics and social being in the U.S. is reduced to a focus on
the more crude expressions of anti-black racism, it is easy to jump on a
Sterling, Cliven Bundy, or Ted Nugent and completely miss the more
pervasive, and thus insidious, structural and ideological expressions of
white supremacy. I couldn’t care less about the racist rants of Donald
Sterling when the more devastating expressions of white supremacy are
reflected in national and global institutions dedicated to upholding the
power of a racialized, white male, capitalist/colonialist elite.
Those expressions are reflected in the racist NATO assault on Libya;
IMF-imposed structural adjustment to force the “profligate natives” in
the global South to stop wasting state resources on such trivialities as
education, the arts, sports and health; the rationalizations for the
West’s “responsibility to protect;” the accepted racist musings of
Charles Murray on black culture and educational ability; and the racist
obscenity of attempting to wipe out a whole people and then subjecting
their survivors to ridicule and disrespect with sports team names. Is
there really a big leap between being unconcerned about the continued
dehumanization of Native peoples in the U.S. and being similarly
unconcerned about U.S. drone state terrorism that has killed thousands?
The new slogan for the LA Clippers is “we are one.” It is a slogan that
captures the hypocrisy, dishonesty and denial that characterizes the
non-confrontation with the reality of white supremacy and white power in
the U.S. Something that I am sure the originators of the slogan did not
see or intend – but that is precisely the point.
/*Ajamu Baraka* is a long-time human rights activist, writer and veteran
of the Black Liberation, anti-war, anti-apartheid and Central American
solidarity Movements in the United States. He is currently an Associate
fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C./
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