"[I]n this day and age when you're in the public eye you've got to be damn careful — if that's your position and that's unfortunately where you're at — you better be damn careful what you say, even in the privacy of your own home."
- Photo of Donald Sterling by s_bukley/Shutterstock
This line of thinking accomplishes nothing. The result is—and has been for a long time—the creation of a world of actors. A block like this between backstage behavior and the performance we give the public not only creates a troubling internal duality, but creates a facade that discourages conversation.
Closeted racist millionaires are welcome punching bags (I'm all for kicking Sterling out of the league, by the way) in the rare instances they get caught in the act of…being their horrible selves, but it's the rest of the population that does the bulk of the progress-stifling. Burning a villain like Sterling is satisfying on a social survivalist level, meaning we jump at the opportunity to pawn our current and past transgressions off on a monster like him, in part because by default we land on moral high ground. Our problem is mistaking situational high ground for an absolute marker of morality.
Like the government, everyone should be more transparent with regards to their reasoning. We're mostly all "good people" on a fundamental level, but simply because you weren't recently recorded repeating that new racist joke you laughed at in the break room, doesn't mean you're not deserving of a little scrutiny—if not from the media, then from yourself.
Good people are capable of being assholes in certain situations, just like douchefaces like Sterling are capable of remembering somebody's birthday every now and then. Recognizing our shortcomings early on, and being open about the lessons we learn when dissect our motives, rather than internalizing them and hoping nobody sees them, is what is going to move us forward as a nation as much as banning some old dickhead from some basketball games.
"Let’s use this tawdry incident to remind ourselves of the old saying: “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” Instead of being content to punish Sterling and go back to sleep, we need to be inspired to vigilantly seek out, expose, and eliminate racism at its first signs."