By Jineea Butler
The NBA playoffs, the NFL draft, and elevator music with Jay Z and Beyonce are all distractions in the pursuit of occupying our attention. Among them, I found Donald Sterling’s rants to be the most intriguing. Many people want to dismiss him as a racist, disillusioned old man, but if you listened carefully a few of his points were valid. I’m always bothered by people who criticize our culture, but I think I am more bothered that there is room for criticism than I am about the person criticizing.
I assume Donald Sterling refused a PR team to script his message in his interview with Anderson Cooper or he lost focus and went off on a tangent about Magic Johnson and the Black community. Nevertheless, he seemingly dug a deeper hole for himself by referencing Johnson’s HIV status, questioning his influence in South L.A. and outright dismissing Magic’s role in helping the Black community. Sterling says, “What has he done, can you tell me, big Magic Johnson, what has he done?”
Now, I am sure we are very aware of Magic Johnson’s investments in communities of color and I don’t dispute Magic’s sincere commitment to do business in the urban neighborhoods around the country. But what I heard Donald Sterling say is Jewish people have a company for people that want to borrow money at no interest, they want to give their people a fishing pole, they want to help people, if people don’t have the money they will loan it to them and if they don’t have interest one day, they will give it back. Wow!
That is a completely different conversation, one that does not apply in the Black community. Magic Johnson got it right: this whole ordeal really had nothing to do with him. Sterling obviously grasping for straws while trying to lay a foundation for his perspective said something we have got to take a look at.
When the world looks at the state of the Black community, do you think they applaud our position? Donald Sterling is one of I’m sure millions who speak negatively about the Black community on a daily basis.
I believe what he and the rest of America are really saying is why is there so much violence and so much unemployment among Black and Brown folks? Why aren’t they spending every dime of their money to create opportunities for their people? Let’s be honest, most wealthy individuals in our community stick their noses up and walk right by if you’re not in the “in” club or if you are not on the PR agenda. They don’t have time to hear about your bright idea or how they can potentially help you. Is this because they care so much about the less fortunate and just don’t have time to acknowledge your existence? No one would be able to say such grotesque things if we were a group that looked at each other with love and expectancy in their hearts.
Why isn’t there a nationwide program designed by African Americans that helps other African Americans in business? Magic Johnson provides jobs that we undoubtedly need, but we also need more Magic Johnsons who own businesses to provide more jobs.
All of the wealthy African Americans hob knob with one another throughout the year. When are they going to get together and say, “Let’s just spend some money on rebuilding our community. All of them.” We only make up 14 percent of the population. With the right economic empowerment plan we can convince these young brothers and sisters to walk the path to success. The problem with our people is they know they are on their own. They know that if they are going to make it, they cannot depend on people who look like them.
The Hip Hop Union is working to change this. There are people who are willing to work together for a common goal of building wealth and ensuring that wealth continues to build among ourselves. There are so many Hip Hop Citizens who are opening businesses and if we help these businesses grow, we will have jobs to place people in.
We understand the mindset of our people. Our way of life is sometimes out of the ordinary and we cannot blame people for questioning how and why we do what we do. What we need to do is focus on the people who wear the same uniform. Focus on giving a helping hand, no matter the situation, no matter the history. Focus on being selfless instead of selfish. Even if they bite your hand, know that while you heal, you have another hand to keep on giving. What we don’t understand in our community, is you have to give to get, I see everybody wanting to take and keep. Something has to change and it’s not only Donald Sterling.
Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union is a Hip Hop Analyst who investigates the trends and behaviors of the community and delivers programming that solves the Hip Hop Dilemma. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet her at @flygirlladyjay.