The Orange County Register reports that some of the black Americans who live near the sites of race riots in Los Angeles that occurred after the Rodney King verdict from twenty-two years ago feel that in the wake of L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments, society hasn’t changed that much for the better.
The Register asked one man, Johnny Ray Wallace, if the race situation was better now than 22 years ago, and he answered by holding up a finger and a thumb almost touching, then saying, “Things look better. I’m going to say, just by a notch.” His neighbor, Jim Martin, didn’t disagree with Wallace.
The Register quotes USC Law Professor Jody Armour, who railed at the U.S. Supreme Court for its modifications to the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action at colleges. (The Register, wanting to hammer home that racism is not dead, also manages to include “the patriarch on ‘Duck Dynasty'” and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.)
It’s easier for us as a society to focus blame on individuals rather than acknowledge we have social, systemic problems that are causing considerably more marginalization of people. We haven’t mustered the same outrage for every day inequality and every day suffering….We give ourselves an easy pass on addressing outrage on somebody who acts like an Archie Bunker or Bull Connor.
Rusty Kennedy, leader of the Orange County Human Relations Commission, was more optimistic about how society has changed, especially with the general disgust expressed at Sterling. He said, “There is still a spectrum of ignorance on these things. But they see it and hear it, it tends to make people more empathetic.”
In 1992, on April 29, the Clippers were playing in the playoffs against the Utah Jazz. Olden Polynice, starting center on the ’92 Clippers, remembered the race riots that postponed the game and compared 1992 to the present, saying race relations are still “disjointed.” But he also added, “Look at the NBA 15 or 20 years ago. I would’ve told you I could name six racist owners. But, slowly and surely, the league has gotten them out quietly. Sterling has been on the hit list for a long time. The league is a very progressive league. That’s the beauty of the NBA.”