When the comments of Donald Sterling about Black people exploded in the news, many called the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, racist. While the remarks were certainly offensive, Black Americans must not look a “gift horse in the mouth.” This situation is a golden opportunity to bring attention back to the topic of race, to define the word and to extract it from the amorphous concepts under which it has been buried for 50 years. Concepts such as Minority, Diversity, People of Color, and other terms that soften, obscure and diminish the real issues of the Black race in America. While their issues are unique and unlike those of other groups, in a politically correct society, it is unacceptable to even mention racism or Black Americans. Public policies and customs insist that both subjects be avoided and rendered irrelevant and unintelligible.
Sterling’s remarks present a teachable moment. Racism should not be confused with or equated to prejudice, bigotry, discrimination or bias. Racism evolved in the early 1500s as a result of the developing international slave trading. It is a group-based phenomenon and began when nine European nations decided to develop the Western world using Black people as a non-competitive, non-paid, enslaved labor force. Racism is the bastard child of slavery. Racism is a competitive relationship between Blacks and non-Blacks for the ownership and control of wealth, power, and resources. The primary purpose of racism is to maintain the maldistribution of resources and inequities of wealth and power that slavery and Jim Crow segregation bequeathed into the hands of Whites and other slave holding groups. Racism uniquely applies to Blacks and competing White ethnics.
To be a racist, a person must not only be a member of the group that owns and controls the wealth and power resources, but also use that power to marginalize, exploit, exclude or subordinate Blacks. Sterling is a member of the privileged class, but we do not know that he engaged in behaviors that denied Blacks opportunities to own and control wealth and power. Labeling him a racist and focusing the discussion on whether he is one or not, serves no useful purpose. His hateful remarks, in and of themselves, while not racist, expressed what was in his heart and mind. He has a right to express his feelings and actually put into words what many people feel, but have learned not to say until sure of their company. It is his words and the fact that they represent unspoken sentiments about race that run deep in American society that Blacks should keep as the focus of their reaction.
Race is the root of the underclass status to which Blacks are now relegated. Slavery, race and racism are economic issues. And while many prefer to ignore the historical roots, slavery did mal-distribute nearly 100 percent of the ownership and control of the nation’s wealth and power building resources into the hands of Whites, at the very inception of the country. Racism is a cross-generation affirmative action plan for Whites. Control of those resources, and the wealth they generated, have been passed down from White generation to White generation. Blacks, as a group have been excluded. The Black Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s brought critical world focus to race in the United States, the economic and social problems between Blacks and Whites in the United States and the exclusion of Blacks from controlling and owning resources. As a result, the government took steps to take control of and change the public focus. The Nixon administration initiated the public policy of Benign Neglect to purposely obscure and redirect attention from Blacks to Minorities. Sterling’s remarks bring the issue of race back into focus. He did not want his girlfriend seen with Black people. It was Blacks he did not want her to bring to his games. He made no mention of Minorities.
The public reaction of moral outrage is symbolic and superficial and should not be accepted as the appropriate and final resolution to the incident. I would hope that Sterling’s remarks would lead Blacks to conclude that they should become a more competitive and self-sufficient group in American society and announce measurable strategies they can take toward that end, at least in the area of sports. Blacks can change the economic formula in sports. There is a role for players and for fans to flip the script. Black athletes in basketball, baseball, or football could organize and use their collective dominance in sports to become more than simply expendable performers.
Black players could take these steps. They could:
- Leverage dominance in the sports industry to acquire ownership of teams in the leagues;
- Seek to acquire major equity ownership in sports arenas and stadiums;
- Use the PowerNomics® concept of Vertical Integration to maximize the above efforts:
a) Build a vertical chain of Black-owned industrial suppliers of equipment and supplies, and use ownership leverage to be sure a percentage of team purchases are from Black suppliers and manufacturers;
b) Use acquired ownership to secure concession contracts for stadium food, security, and maintenance, promotion, advertising, management and to create other jobs and other businesses for Blacks.
- Create a non-profit organization to match Black businesses with entrepreneurial business opportunities in sports,
to develop oversight and training programs to assure that services delivered by the Black business are of high quality.
It is long past time for Black Americans to connect the dots between economic power and racism. So long as Blacks own
and control practically nothing in the field of sports, they will be viewed and treated as nothing, and hateful speech
will continue in public and private.
Dr. Claud Anderson is president of PowerNomics Corporation of America, Inc., The Harvest Institute and WaterLand Fisheries, Inc. PowerNomics is a company that publishes his books and produces multimedia presentations in which he explains his economic concepts. PowerNomics® is the package of principles and strategies he developed to explain the concept of race and to offer Black America a guide to become a more economically and politically competitive group in America.