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04 May 2014

No Freedom of Speech for Donald Sterling

04 May 2014

Donald Sterling NBA racism bigotryIn a country which boasts Freedom of Speech how is it possible to be punished for Bigotry? Maybe it’s time we gave up policing private opinions and took a closer look at our reactions.

I am amazed at the media circus that surrounded this subject in the USA news this week. Donald Sterling, supposedly caught out in a private conversation recorded without his knowledge, making racist remarks. Yes, I know he’s been charged with a racist comment along these lines a few years ago but, if he was truly a racist, do you think he would be financially supporting an NBA Basketball team, the majority of which are black? Would he pay their wages, buy their uniforms, provide coaches, support teams and resources; and turn these guys into celebrities? Would he attend their games himself if he had a problem being near them?

Why has no one in the media asked these questions? Or is it just a whole lot more fun (and profit) to make an example of someone who touches a sensitive nerve in a country filled with racist thoughts? (Yep, I know, it’s a global problem.)

The movie Crash was a beautiful example of how racism is in all levels of society among many races. The USA likes to count themselves the best country in the World because it has Freedom of Speech. Yet, this man didn’t even stand on a soapbox in the street with this remark. It was made privately. If each person who was offended by Sterling’s comment stopped and had a think about it, how many could truthfully say they never had a racist thought pass through their heads or amongst friends and family in private? How many?

The Hypocrisy is stunning to me and reminds me of the saying that one who points his finger in accusation at someone else has 3 fingers on that same hand pointing back at himself.

What will the punishment do in the end?

  • For Sterling it will probably make him trust less people with his private remarks. If he is a racist I doubt it would curb his opinion.
  • For the team, they are losing an owner. This fiasco may hinder a successful season ahead as their mindset has been disturbed, focus removed from the game. There will be physical disturbances as Management scramble to find a suitable buyer and execute a changeover.
  • For other high profile people I believe you’d get the same result. They see what humiliation has been lumped on Sterling and would share their opinions less but I doubt it would change the racist opinions of even one person.
  • What about for the public? Has the discussion in the media got deep enough for people to question their own biased opinions? Because this news item could certainly be used for that benefit.

When Freedom of Speech is the ideal we all reach for, that means tolerating other opinions whether you agree with them or not. Like I said earlier, I’m not even sure this man is as racist as they say, so let’s use a more general example to continue.

In theory, each of us should be able to take responsibility for our own thoughts and judgements. How we get to those thoughts/judgements can vary. It may be from

  1. influence of others where we held no previous judgement,
  2. from past experience we remember
  3. or from past experience we don’t remember, either earlier in this life or in another life.

As Human Evolution progresses and our psychic instincts develop, each of us will be able to “see” how a person came to his opinions, thoughts or judgements which will lead to greater understanding.

Even with criminals who act on those thoughts and judgements. Consequences must happen, of course, but our greater understanding – the type of thing criminologists strive for these days – will allow us to rehabilitate rather than just punish. When we learn how to do that there will be less re-offending. Imagine that for serial rapists and pedophiles?

When the thought just becomes words rather than actions which harm another, it’s a whole lot easier for the person in the firing line to recover. Here is area we can improve where we don’t even need to wait for Human Evolution.

If we can teach people to be responsible for their reactions, then we will work towards a world where Freedom of Speech becomes a reality.

Take this example.

An Aboriginal mother was telling me how a car of white boys drove past her son and yelled abuse out the window at him. Here she was over a week later still stewing about it, angry and smarting. She had been discussing it with her son all this time about how to watch out for racist white boys.

I pointed out to her how the white boy – yes only one was yelling – may have completely forgotten about it by now. He may have been drunk, drugged or just angry at the world. Yet, here she was with her own son on a gentle simmer in a poisoned pot for over a week, fostering fear, anger and racism in their own minds.

I suggested she could have talked to her boy about simply not reacting. That white boy didn’t know her son from a bar of soap so it wasn’t a personal comment. (It rarely is.) Her son could have chosen to not react. He could have watched them drive past like a car of clowns and say to himself “Well, he’s having a bad day. He looks angry. I wonder what his problem is. I hope he sorts it out.” and continue on his way bouncing straight back into happiness enjoying the sunshine and the fresh air.

Yeh, you can imagine how well this went down. She was mortally offended and immediately called me a racist for defending the white boy leaving me wondering exactly what I’d said to defend his behaviour. Hmm.

Nope, I never said the white boy’s behaviour was acceptable. But I did say she had control over how she and her son reacted.

In fact, her son may choose to react differently to her anyway and it was her alone who fostered these angry feelings.

Look at a larger example of the two guys in the USA who posted a Youtube video questioning the purity of Mohammed. (Purity? Integrity? I didn’t see the video so can’t report exactly what they said.) Youtube refused to take it down citing Freedom of Speech and, just quietly, profiting from the worldwide attention boost.

Imagine if each of the Muslims who heard about it – I bet most of them didn’t watch it either – just shrugged and said “Well, I don’t agree with those two guys. I think Mohammed is great. He is my spiritual inspiration, from which I’ve learnt great lessons in how to live my life so I’m going to keep following him .”

No police would have been called out. No cars and property burnt or damaged by protestors. No terrified bystanders. This is in Sydney too, I must add. The OTT reaction spread right across the world.

If you’ve read this far I would ask one thing of you now. We can’t force people to change their reactions overnight but we can model a better reaction. Next time you feel offended by an opinion be it in person, news you heard second hand or in the media, check in and see how you can react in a way that allows you to remain positive and pro-active.

Remember, even when someone throws an insult at another, it is rarely about the person they are targeting. It is about their own internal world.

True Freedom of Speech is possible in our lifetime. We just have to demonstrate a more evolved reaction for one person at a time.

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