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Careful What You Say

I need to talk about Clippers Owner Donald Sterling.  To briefly summarize, Sterling was “bothered” that ex girlfriend Vivian Stiviano wanted to broadcast that she was associated with black people and told her so after seeing a photo of her and Magic Johnson on Instagram.  She is of mixed race, but Sterling believes she can pass for white and that she shouldn’t associate with black people, nor should she bring them to games.  He said these and other racially insensitive words in private, but they were recorded and released to the public.  This has resulted in NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banning Sterling from the NBA for life, fining him $2.5 million, and urging the other team owners to vote to force Sterling to sell the team.  All because of some silly and stupid remarks Sterling made in private.

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Donald Sterling is a royal idiot.  There’s no denying that.  He’s a racist, an ignorant man, and probably a pain in the ass to be around.  What he said was nothing short of moronic and I hope he feels like the complete jackass that he is.  As a person of mixed race, I have very little tolerance for this type of attitude and it sickens me that there are still millions of people out there who think less of others simply because of their skin tone or country or origin.  I’ve been face to face with the KKK and it scared the hell out of me.  I’ve been discriminated against countless times because I’m not light enough or dark enough for certain people.  It never stops hurting and I never stop hoping for change.  But one important lesson I’ve learned over the years is that ignorant minds will not be changed if our only counter attack is telling them they’re wrong, to shut up, and then yelling at and/or penalizing them when they refuse.

The lesson I’ve learned from Sterling’s story is not that racism is wrong, it’s that opinions should be kept to yourselves if they aren’t socially acceptable to share.  For him to be banned for life from the NBA for something he said in private is a very scary thing.  I don’t condone what he said in any way, nor do I support the man, but I’m afraid of this road we’ve begun traveling down.  Something you say in confidence and in private to another person who has nothing to do with your business should not be able to go on to destroy your business and effectively remove you from it.  If my boss heard some of the nonsense I talk about with my husband in our home, he’d probably think I was crazy.  But my private conversations with my husband have nothing to do with my job.  Me putting “Fuck Whitey” on my public Facebook page is very different from me saying it to my husband at home.  I should be free to say what I wish in personal and private settings.  (and no, I’ve never said Fuck Whitey)

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The idea that this type of punishment for having an opinion is not only possible, but praised, is not something we should be happy about.  If I want to dislike black people due to some internal struggle or personal experience, I get to do that.  I get to tell my husband about it, I get to discourage him from having black friends, and I get to complain to my heart’s content.  I commit no crime by having an opinion and voicing that opinion in private.  I understand the frustration felt by the people who must associate with Sterling, and they have a right to be angry about the ridiculous things he said.  What needs to be understood is that their right to be angry is just as important as his right to be a moron.

I feel as though Sterling’s punishment was made due to the strong emotional reaction that came after the recording was released.  It should have been made based on the offense; proper punishment that would fit the crime.  Instead, we get something that is more about appeasing the people who were hurt by the words of a tired old man.  There is no doubt that something should have happened to properly show support to the fans and players while condemning Sterling for what he believes, but this ban and fine seem crazy to me.  Had he said this at a game, I’d totally understand.  Had he said it to a player, I’d also get it.  But as it is, I’m simply unable to accept it as a proper punishment.

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I don’t think Sterling would have felt so much heat from his words if he had made a remark that insulted a smaller group, one that does not make up a large part of the players and fans.  Because he hit a nerve with so many people, this has blown up and gotten out of control.  Take your feelings out of this for a moment and think logically.  Keeping in mind the exact remarks made, should anyone be punished this severely for a private conversation of this nature held with someone they trust?  I’ve had family members say worse things to me about certain races and who I should date.  It’s never acceptable to say, it’s certainly a terribly old-fashioned and ignorant way to think, but the opinion and the words were not a crime.  Saying “don’t bring black people to my games” is equally as wrong on a moral standpoint as saying “keep n—–s away from my games, or else.”  But legally, only one of those statements is wrong due to it sounding like a threat, while the other statement is simply a rude suggestion.

While I am glad that Sterling has been pushed out so that the players and fans can move forward, I worry immensely about what this decision means for the future.  If a player casually sends a text to a family member expressing his discomfort about having a gay teammate in the locker room, does he get fired as well?  If a coach makes an ill-timed joke to a friend about white players being awful at certain plays, should he get fired?  Do we fire refs for calling fouls on certain players because we discover they have no Instagram photos of them with a certain race?  Where do we draw the line now that it has been erased?  We just witnessed a lifetime ban and a $2.5 million dollar fine handed out to someone who privately told his ex to stop bringing black people to basketball games, and more punishment is likely on the way.  Am I the only one who is looking past the racist old man and looking at the fact that we just basically told the world that privacy and discretion don’t mean a damn thing if we don’t agree with what you say?

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Justice For None

It’s been near impossible to avoid hearing about the George Zimmerman trial.  A grown man who pursued a young teenager as part of what he determined was his duty as a member of the neighborhood watch.  A grown man who ended up killing this unarmed teenager.  A black teenager, which angered people even more, as they felt that the teen’s death was no doubt linked to his race.  The trial kept people on the edge of their seats up until the moment that the six person jury, all females, found Zimmerman not guilty of all charges.  Even the lesser charge of manslaughter did not stick, so Zimmerman is now a free man.

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I’ve heard many comparisons between this case and the Casey Anthony trial.  Two Florida cases where a presumed guilty killer got off scot-free and the family of the lost loved one is left feeling that justice was not served.  Some have compared it to the OJ Simpson trial as well; another case where a man who the general public viewed as guilty was allowed to walk free at the expense of lost lives and devastated family.  The only comparison I feel comfortable in making with the Zimmerman trial and any other trial is that the prosecution didn’t do their jobs to their fullest extent and didn’t provide the jury with enough ammunition for a verdict.

This opinion is coming from someone who did not follow every letter of the Zimmerman trial, mind you.  I read the updates in the news, I saw clips of the trial on TV, but I didn’t go above and beyond in obtaining information and immersing myself in the case.  The defense claimed that Martin “viciously attacked” Zimmerman, which caused him to shoot in self-defense.  Prosecutors claimed that Zimmerman profiled the teenager as a criminal, pursued him, and shot him because he wanted to.  Zimmerman did call the non-emergency police line and stated that he was following Martin, and the defense states that there was no suggestion from police that Zimmerman stop the pursuit.  One juror has come out to say that Zimmerman’s heart was in the right place and that things just went terribly wrong.

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Florida’s Stand Your Ground law allows someone to use deadly force if they are in fear for their life.  The confusion came from whether Martin was simply just walking home after buying some candy and afraid because a strange man was following him or if  Zimmerman was attacked by Martin and simply doing what he thought was his duty to protect the neighborhood.  There was no doubt that Zimmerman had injuries, but the question is did Zimmerman put himself in a bad situation by pursuing an unarmed teen and provoking an attack or was Zimmerman honestly in fear for himself and his neighborhood?

I personally cannot see how Zimmerman can say that he felt threatened.  If there is a suspicious person nearby, call the police and have them deal with it.  Keep an eye on the person from a distance and DO NOT FOLLOW THEM AROUND.  Martin wasn’t a large adult with weapons, he was a kid with candy.  Kids have big mouths, sure, but I have a hard time believing that Martin was a threat.  I have a hard time believing that the Stand Your Ground law was meant to allow people to pursue and antagonize others in order to provoke an altercation that would allow them to stand their ground and harm that person.  I firmly believe that Zimmerman got carried away with his neighborhood watch duties and the end result was a young life was needlessly lost.

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Legally though, my opinion (and yours) does not matter.  What matters is what the prosecution can prove and what the defense can counter with.  The prosecution did not do enough to show that Martin was innocent and that Zimmerman acted outside the bounds of the Stand Your Ground law.  They did not do enough to show that Martin was pursued for no reason other than having a suspicious appearance.  They failed to even prove that Zimmerman was guilty of manslaughter.  Whether or not Zimmerman racially profiled Martin is not the issue here.  The issue is that the legal system failed because the people we trust to put guilty people behind bars aren’t living up to their responsibilities and aren’t working hard enough to prove their case.

We can be angry with the jury, but it will do no good.  We can hate Zimmerman and riot and protest, but it won’t fix anything.  We can cry racism until we’re blue in the face, but the only result will be tiring ourselves out.  Look at Casey Anthony for a minute; most people see her as guilty, but the prosecution couldn’t prove it and that is why she is free.  Don’t believe for a second that people on her jury didn’t believe 100% that she killed her daughter.  Don’t believe for a second that one or more jurors on the Zimmerman trial didn’t believe that he killed Martin out of spite, racism, or to be some sort of vigilante.  But belief and personal opinion is not what matters in a trial.  It’s what can be proved and disproved.

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Zimmerman is now said to need to look over his shoulder for the rest of his life.  It’s made worse by the fact that he will be able to retrieve the gun used to kill Martin.  And while I fully believe that this man should suffer with what he did, I do not feel that it’s the public’s responsibility to make him suffer.  What is being fixed by going outside the justice system and harassing or harming a man who was cleared of guilt by the court?  I’m disgusted by the fact that Zimmerman is “not guilty,” but I’m also disgusted by the people who are now saying they’ll attack him on the streets if they see him.  How does that make you any better than him?  How is that helping?  We do not live in a society that accepts eye for an eye justice.  We have to be better than the people who anger us.

What I do hope is that Zimmerman suffers emotionally for what happened, learns from it, and that people learn from his experience.  I hope that Martin’s family is able to find peace and able to move on.  I hope that the focus shifts from racism and onto what seems to be a broken judicial system.  The fact that Zimmerman is a free man is a clear sign that there is a serious problem with the prosecution teams in Florida (and probably elsewhere) and that needs to be repaired.  We need prosecutors to do their job and make people accountable for their crimes.  If you’re riled up about this case, please put your focus in the proper place.  Focus on the people who can make a difference and who can keep something like this from happening again.

Well Hey Y’all

Everyone has heard about Paula Deen’s latest dilemma.  According to CNN.com, “accusations against Deen stem from a lawsuit filed by a former manager of Deen’s restaurants in Savannah, Georgia. Lisa T. Jackson’s lawsuit alleges that Deen and her brother, Bubba Hier, committed numerous acts of violence, discrimination and racism that resulted in the end of Jackson’s five-year tenure at Deen’s Lady & Sons and Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House eateries in Savannah.”  She is also accused of using the dreaded n-word and of being a racist.  Deen has been very vocal about denying these allegations, claiming that she used the n-word when being held at gunpoint by an African American male about 30 years ago.  She admitted that she has used the n-word, but it was a long time ago and during a time that our country viewed other races very differently.  She also stated that she may have also said the n-word while repeating a conversation that took place between black people.

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As a result of the lawsuit and the fact that Deen has admitted to using the n-word, she has been dropped by the Food Network, by Caesars Entertainment (she has restaurants at four casinos), by Wal-Mart, by Smithfield Foods, and other sponsors are considering cutting ties as well.  Lucky for her, her cruise has gained so much popularity that a second voyage was added.  As damage control, Deen went on NBC’s Today Show for an interview with Matt Lauer.  This was her first appearance that did not involve smiles and cooking up some of her famous dishes.  She stated the following:

[In reference to the sponsors who have let her go]  “Would I have fired me? Knowing me? No.  I am so very thankful for the partners I have who believe in me.”

[In response to being asked if she is a racist]  “No, I am not.  The day I used that word it was a world ago.  It was 30 years ago.  It’s very distressing for me to go in my kitchens and I hear what these young people are calling each other…It’s very distressing for me.  Because I think for this problem to be worked on, that these young people are going to have to take control and start showing respect for each other and not throwing that word at each other. It makes my skin crawl.”

“If there’s anyone out there that has never said something that they wish they could take back, if you’re out there, please pick up that stone and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me.  Please — I want to meet you.”

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Some say the apology was decent, or at least well coached, but others think it did more damage than good.  David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, a public relations and branding agency based in Suwanee, Ga., called it “the worst celebrity apology in history” and says that she “totally bombed.”  He went on to say that “by referring to “hurtful lies” and “someone evil” out to get her, as Deen did, “it’s obvious she thinks she’s the victim of this entire situation. This is a bigger issue than just her.  Instead, there were crocodile tears.”  Mark Pasetsky, CEO of public relations and marketing firm Mark Allen & CO stated  that “it was really by far the most uncomfortable celebrity interview I have watched in a very long time.  She really needed to take full responsibility for what she said, and it appeared to me that the strategy for this interview was to be pointing the fingers rather than to take responsibility.”

I fully understand that Deen grew up in a different era than I, a time that was still heavy with resentment, anger, and hatred towards other races.  I get that the n-word was once considered an acceptable term.  What I cannot accept is that during her younger years, the n-word was okay to say.  She is close to my parents in age and they sure as hell knew that there were certain words you do not say unless you’re racist and insensitive.  I won’t speculate on her level of racism, but I feel confident in saying that this beloved southern cook is most definitely a racist person, whether she will admit to it or not.

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But let us not forget that Deen is not in hot water simply for using the n-word a few times in her life.  Lisa Jackson’s lawsuit, filed last year, claims that Deen’s brother, Bubba Hiers, stated they should send President Obama to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico so he could n***er-rig it and that Deen used the n-word frequently in front of employees.  Jackson says she was appointed by Deen to handle the catering and staff for Bubba’s wedding in 2007, and upon asking what the servers should wear, Deen told her “well what I would really like is a bunch of little n***ers to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around.  Now, that would be a true Southern wedding wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that.”  The allegations go on, including sexual harassment allegations against Hiers, but you get the jist of it.  Jackson left the restaurant in 2010 after management did nothing to assist against her claims.

Deen has already admitted to using the n-word at the restaurant in her deposition, although she insists that it was only in recalling conversations that others had.  She insists that the use was not derogatory.  Now, I have recalled conversations that others have had and I state “n-word” and not “n***er.”  I do not see how her reasoning is a valid excuse for the language.  I do not see how “well he said it, so I can say it too” is an excuse that a grown woman should be using.  I don’t understand why her defense is that everyone screws up, that people are out to get her, saying that the person trying to ruin her with allegations is an “evil opportunist.”  She said, point blank, “there’s someone evil out there that saw what I had worked for, and they wanted it.”

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I’ve heard a lot of people getting extremely worked up over these allegations.  Their defense of Deen has been that she’s just a sweet old lady, that she grew up when it was okay to say the n-word, that it’s not a big deal, that people are jealous, and so on.  If this was simply a case of jealousy, why would her sponsors be dropping her?  Why would this lawsuit have gone so far?  Why would Deen make those admissions?  The bottom line is that Deen screwed up.  The extent of the screw up has yet to be determined, but her fans need to quit feeding her innocent victim act.  Part of being an adult (and especially a public figure) is accepting responsibility for the things you have done.  Unless she does so, her empire could very well be destroyed and millions of fans will have to get their butter fix elsewhere.

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