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The Ultimatum Donald Sterling Left Us

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The president called it "ignorant" and "offensive," while Snoop Dogg elected to use slightly stronger language. The Los Angeles Clippers staged a silent protest. And corporate sponsors like Carmax, State Farm, and Virgin America have already cut financial ties.

Regardless of who you are, chances are you've heard the vile, blatantly racist comments allegedly made by Donald Sterling -- the now infamous billionaire owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers. And chances are you're disgusted.

But for a man whose history is lined with repeated issues with race and discrimination, it's remarkable that it took us so long to get here. In fact, it get begs the question: Why now?

Why didn't we care in 2003 when he claimed "black tenants smell and attract vermin" and "Hispanics smoke, drink and just hang around the building," or in 2009 when he paid $2.76 million to settle courtroom cases alleging discrimination against Latino and African-American tenants living in one of his many housing developments?

Why didn't we care in 2009 when former General Manager Elgin Baylor likened his vision for the Clippers to that of "a Southern plantation-type structure" where a team of "poor black boys from the South" would play for a white head coach?

Why didn't we care in 2011 when he brought women into the Clippers locker room while players were still showering and apparently showcased his employees as though they were personal possessions saying, "Look at those beautiful black bodies"?

Donald Sterling's history of bigotry dates back much further than this most recent controversy. In fact, it dates back much further than most of us would care to admit. His well-documented history of -- to use Indiana Pacers forward David West's description -- "plantation politics" reintroduces us to the dark underside of an America many of us would rather not see, let alone acknowledge. It reminds us of an America we wish died away decades ago, an America where race was equated to power and control. And in being forced to acknowledge this very real and very troubling reality, we too are forced to look at our own selves and ask why is it that we did not speak up before.

In the context of the recently released recorded conversations, Donald Sterling's alleged girlfriend can be heard challenging, "Shouldn't we take a stand for what's wrong? And be the change and the difference?"

His response? "I don't want to change."

We too must now ask that same question and come to terms with our own personal answers. Do we stand for what we believe in or do we simply accept racism as a privilege still granted to the rich and the powerful? At its most basic level, that simple question is what this entire controversy is built upon.

And now, the onus is on us as fans, as Americans, and, most importantly, as human beings, to reject racism both when it is blatant as well as when it's implied, to reject racism when it affects us directly as well as when it doesn't, and most assuredly to reject racism most passionately when it begins to feel like an acceptable and unavoidable reality.

In the coming days, Sterling will continue to be criticized, ostracized and quite possibly penalized. But it will be his words that will live on with us for much longer. The pain and the discomfort he leaves behind will take time to recover from. But in reflecting on the history of racial strife both in America and abroad, men like Sterling see things very simply: "It's been [this] way historically and it will always be [this] way."

As we move forward, it will be up to us to decide.

Will we dare to see the world differently or will it always be this way?

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