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The attention that Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers National Basketball Association team, got during the week of April 28 over publicized racist comments he made to his girlfriend really tried my patience with this American fetish. American culture pushes its obsession with race to distract its citizenry from other, more important social divisions — like wealth distribution, for one.

This whole race thing in America is largely theater. Heroes and villains play their roles with Shakespearean scope. But now it looks like theater of the absurd. It’s Harold Pinter.

Sterling made some heinous-sounding racist comments about black athletes. Corporate sponsors, politicians, media commentators, the White House and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver reacted swiftly and severely. Yet, American and international law allow Sterling freedom of conscience, which means freedom to think anything he wants, even if it is wrong, stupid and illegal. Despite attempts by government to shape our thoughts through schemes of cognitive dissonance and reward and punishment in school and in the workforce, it remains true that we are all free to think wrong, stupid and illegal thoughts to our hearts content. And American freedom-of-speech laws protect his opportunity for voicing his opinions much more than in many other countries.

Sterling is not a public official. He is a private citizen who happens to be wealthy and owns a professional sports franchise governed by American corporate law and by the rules of the league. He has not been charged with any crime. Now, if Sterling had voiced wrong, stupid, immoral and illegal thoughts about something that really mattered, then I might be upset. But there is nothing at all important about sports.

There is outrage all around. People’s outrage is their own business. But I resent how outrage is used as an excuse to bring the American drama into our homes every day.

grant piper
tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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