The news has been abuzz with the pathetic racist comments by the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling. His prejudice has cost him not just in monetary terms but also the privilege of ownership in the world of sports. It will be left now to the lawyers to fight it out, settle and walk away with probably more than it would have cost him to pay off the blackmailer. We live in a strange world of dollars and nonsense.
What a tragedy that a man of his stature and wealth not only believes such things but verbalized them, making matters worse by voicing them in front of those whose only interest in him was his stature and his wealth. Prejudice and bigotry is a cancer within and when the wound is opened, it is even more deadly because the “physicians” who expose the cancer want it to be terminal.
I come from a land where there were and are equally such prejudices. Those from the north of India tend to have lighter complexions and different habits to those from the south. I hail from the south of India but was raised in the north. On more than one occasion I remember as a youngster being derided because I was from the south with words that don’t belong in respectable articles. But even now, as I travel back there often, I see bumper stickers on rickshaw drivers that are shocking, including pronouncing curses upon people who “look” upon them the wrong way. I thought of quoting at least one of them here but they are frankly so crass that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I have, though, translated them for friends when we see one in front of us, and they are aghast.
I look at such a man driving an auto-rickshaw for a living, sun-burnt himself but pronouncing curses upon others because of their complexion. I pity him. I pity him because he is uninformed, uneducated, socially marginalized, weak in his thinking capacity, and apparently the only way he can flex any muscle is by cursing others. He can almost be pardoned because he lives in a dark world with no light to help him see any better. He is inherently weak and the bumper stickers are his only strength.
But a billionaire with all the knowledge of hate from the past and the need to look towards a future of civility and law, and yes, love for our fellow human beings…how did he get trapped in a dungeon of prejudice? Incomprehensible! Except when we put the human heart under a microscope can we see why. I remember once talking to the famed Joe Gibbs when he moved from being the iconic coach of an NFL team to owning a NASCAR team. I asked him how he made the switch from one sport to another one so drastically different in the skills needed. His answer was quite instructive. “They both have one thing in common—the depravity of man,” he said.
He was right. Right from the beginning of creation, hate and segregation came into the first family. A brother hating his brother. Why? Because he seemed more sensitive to God. Imagine that! You see, hate and eviction come not just because of race. They can come because of race or place or face or grace. Racism is not just a white versus black issue. We make a cardinal mistake pitting two colors against each other. Go to Asia and see the regional hate and discrimination, the religious hate and discrimination, the social/economic hate and discrimination. It is ultimately the passion that seeks to bring down somebody else and justifies its self-superiority by finding a reason to do just that.
This very week, an African American politician referred to Justice Clarence Thomas as an “Uncle Tom.” When a news reporter questioned this characterization, his justification for using it was his race. I respectfully disagree. Few abuses of the soul are more dangerous than those that legitimize hate by grabbing a twig of history and thinking they have grasped the root of revenge. You do not right a terrible wrong with an insatiable spirit of perpetuating vengeance. So he was dead wrong.
I remember being in Sidon, Lebanon, some years ago. I was introduced to a man who had a daily habit. Every day he would take his little boy up a hill. He would point over the border and tell his son, “Your duty in life is to kill as many of them on the other side as you can.” I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. He could never shut the gate on the past and so dragged the carcass of historical prejudice and draped that corpse over the shoulders of the next generation as a reminder to continue the carnage. What chance for peace does a young boy like that have? He will grow up killing and slaughtering, all the while thinking that he is solving history’s problem. He isn’t. He is adding to it. The logic of hate and unforgiveness perpetuates a lie and will destroy the possessor more than it destroys the victim.
Donald Sterling needs help. Being fined and banned from the NBA is not the biggest price he’s paid. The biggest price he has paid is within his own soul that thinks he is superior to other human beings. That lie has eternal consequences. Color is no respecter of such inner deceptions.
I have one more thing to say on this. The same media that despises and castigates and vilifies Donald Sterling because of his prejudice is the very media that bullied and mocked Tim Tebow because of his faith in God. They are the Cains of the day who despise Abel. They doggedly derided Tebow and may have cost him his career because of their relentless prejudice. How ironic. They cling to a vicious bigotry of their own, which belies their sanctimonious pronouncements that castigate others. That is the masquerade that relativism continues to play, not realizing that hypocrisy is the unwitting compliment vice pays to virtue. Our present political climate has thrived on hate. The short-term gains are long-term losses for our country. We have lived morally and spiritually the same way we have lived fiscally. But the moral cliff is more perilous than the fiscal cliff because producing moral currency requires having truth on its side—not just a printing press.
So it is that we must ask the question, what kind of future do we want? Do we want one where we penalize those that are prejudiced while retaining a selective sovereignty over our own prejudices? Or do we want a future where our children can learn to live and let live with civility, and remind ourselves that the love of God must be the impetus that drives us to love our neighbor and that the real scourge of a sinful heart must drive us to submit to the Savior. Only in that forgiveness is there hope and the promise of a better day. Banning Sterling from the NBA is putting a Band-Aid on a shattered bone. The solution may work well for the cosmetic side of the game, but life is bigger than a game.
I find it ironic that as Jesus headed to the cross and was quizzed by Pontius Pilate, Pilate pitted every major prejudice the human heart exploits against Jesus: political, ethnic, and religious. Is it any wonder that though Pilate asked the question “What is truth,” he never waited for the answer? The truth was discomfiting to him, as it is in our time. The truth is that Sterling needs a Savior, as we all do. And so do all those who sit in judgment over him while being themselves the possessors of prejudice against the sacred. In heaven, every race and tongue and tribe is seen in their beauty and splendor because we will see them through God’s eyes!