In the midst of the whole Donald Sterling/NBA Clippers monsoon, I just keep asking myself what justice really looks like in this case. I’m not going sit here and pretend that it’s not tempting to get all riled up and start calling him names and envisioning all sorts of ugly things happening to him. (In fact, I may or may not have already had that moment.) I mean, wouldn’t the world be better off without another wealthy bigot parading around with cheap gold-diggers? Maybe. But, could we not also agree that the world could be even better if we had a few more recovering bigots out there learning and maybe even speaking about the importance of empathy, compassion, and equality?
The NBA is taking steps to impose $2.5 million dollar fines, lifetime bans, and new ownership of the Clippers, but what will this type of punishment actually achieve? It’s not going to change Donald Sterling. In all likelihood, he will pay the fine or challenge it in court, he’ll feel singled out, wronged, victimized, and probably have a chip on his shoulder for the rest of his life. He’s not going to write out a $2.5 million dollar check and have some gross epiphany about life and race and all the time he’s wasted believing he’s better than huge segments of the global population. Get real.
This system of punishing others is archaic, primitive, and often based on our own hatred and judgment. Donald Sterling doesn’t need to be whipped, beaten, fined, or banned. He needs help. He needs to be subjected to a Dalai Lama-approved compassion intensive, which might include being on the receiving end of discrimination, maybe some face-to-face counseling with His Holiness himself, or whatever it takes to crack open Donald Sterling’s cold dead heart. Because the fact is, he would not be acting like this unless he too had some ugly, painful wounds rotting inside of him. Sure, we can still throw fines at him and whatever else if it makes us feel better. But, can you imagine the benefits to our society if we chose to focus our energy on rehabilitation rather than inflicting further hurt and pain? We can start by remembering that People Are Mean Because People Are Hurt.
Have a beautiful week!