The Hot Corner: Outrage is justified, but doesn't solve much

Yet again, a wealthy, privileged white American male has crossed the line of what, thankfully, a vast majority consider acceptable speech and thought.

And we are outraged. Rightfully, but predictably outraged.

We do outrage well in this country, albeit selectively. Thanks in part to the 24-hour news cycle and a generation or two of evolved wisdom, we strike down hate with our love of decency.

Good for us, although sometimes I wonder if the outrage is driven by larger forces with an agenda, to distract us from other societal ills that might be easier to fix.

Or worse, I worry that we are so focused on our outrage at the perpetrator that it steers away from addressing the twisted thinking that fueled his diatribe in the first place.

That's where I am with the despicable words of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Not outraged, because outrage by definition is directed at something so absurd as to be unbelievable.

Rather, I'm utterly unsurprised, and also anxious to see what we as a country, a culture, and a sports world really do about it.

Because the answer to that question is typically nothing.

The televised media that drive much of the conversation in this country will host a bunch of town hall meetings, chaired by people with advanced degrees who frankly are isolated from the real world in which most of us live.

They will talk about — of course — how outraged they are. They will preach to the choir about sensitivity and other buzzwords that mean next-to-nothing. They will close the show by congratulating each other on being enlightened ones. We will pat ourselves on the back for watching.

Sterling will be suspended and shamed into wealthy, privileged, white anonymity, and all of us will breathe a sigh of relief. Until, of course, the next ignorant buffoon goes on what the majority deems an unforgivable tirade, and we begin the cycle again.

Nothing changes, because the culture stays the same. We'll still live in a country that draws distinctions along lines of race, sex, gender, status and other things that don't equate to character.

We will remain intent upon policing words, without realizing that they are merely a symptom. "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks," the Good Book reads.

Hearts change slowly, because they're naturally hardened by our frail humanity and further calcified by life.

Why are we so flabbergasted by the words of a fool who clearly had the disadvantage of growing up in a different generation? If you want to strike a real blow for decency, work on the fertile minds in your own neighborhood. The ones that still can be changed. The ones that are young enough to be Donald Sterling's grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

We don't even do that properly. Again, we punish words instead looking beneath the surface.

The real, my-corner-of-the-world example is every high school sports event I attend. Our administrators have so sanctified and sanitized these games that few kids attend them any longer, in part because they worry about being punished for breathing. God help them if they chant at the officials or cough during a free-throw attempt.

If you're wondering how this crackdown has improved the environment at sporting events, let's just say the thought police need to work harder. I still hear racist and sexist comments, every season.

Surprised? Not me. It falls in line with our success at instructing kids in other social behaviors. We've taken a stance on bullying like no generation before us, yet bullying and even violence run rampant with a more troubling intensity than ever.

Outrage for outrage's sake and bandaid solutions get us nowhere. Banishing the Donald Sterlings of the world to their own hell of hate and misery might be the right thing to do, and it might even make us feel better. But it doesn't make the NBA or the world we're leaving for our kids a cleaner, happier, safer place. The sickness lingers, and it isn't going to be fixed by rendering every racist or homophobe in the world unemployable, one doofus at a time.

It's too big a job, folks. If we want to fix this country, let's all forget that Donald Sterling exists and start weighing our own thoughts and actions.

Then be decent to everyone, regardless of how little they may seem to have in common with you, whether they deserve it or not.

Forty-some years I've lived, and I've yet to figure out why that's so difficult for us.

That, my friends, is what's outrageous.

Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is Follow him on Twitter @Oaksie72.

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FRANK EARLEY's picture

Privileged, or not privileged............

I think the privileged part of this guy's description is the reason we are even hearing anything this guy has to say. I would point out his biggest and most obvious distinction is his total lack of any trace of intelligence. I have always felt that racism is a huge side affect of ignorance. When you think about it, what else could it be? Unfortunately black folks have for decades been targets of ignorant white men. It has nothing to do with wealth, it's all about being able to try and put someone else down to make them look and feel better about themselves. I have always believed that had the slaves been Asian, they would have been subjected to the same horrendous treatment at the hands of ignorant white men. As long as ignorant white men need to find someone or something to put down to feel better about themselves, we will have racism. I think the only true solution to this age old problem is education. The next time you see some ignorant fool shooting off his mouth at a KKK rally on the National Geographic Channel, listen to what he's actually saying. If nothing else you will soon realize one thing. Just how stupid he sounds. Then you will have to wonder if he realizes how stupid he sounds. Then you'll agree, education wouldn't be such a bad idea for this guy................


The writer may be surprised

The writer may be surprised that someone considers him a racist also; why does he begin by describing the subject as a privileged white American male. Are there not other privileged people in this country and world? Being a dolt is not limited to any one class of people, it is a human trait that at some time or other many fall into.

KALLE OAKES's picture

Mr. Frechette, we agree completely ...

... on your second statement. "Being a dolt is not limited to any one class of people, it is a human trait that at some time or other many fall into." Right on the money.

As Mr. Theriault noted, no connection was implied between the adjectives I used to describe Sterling.

Thank you for taking the time to comment.


You infer a message that was never implied

Raymond, Mr. Oakes described Donald Sterling that way because Sterling is in fact white, American, male and very privileged. He never stated or even implied that white American males are the only privileged class in the world.

If somehow your reading of this article leads you to conclude that Mr. Oakes is racist, then I would suggest that you are reading something that simply isn't there.


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