Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Is Donald Sterling Right? By Johnetta G. Paye, Esq.


For the past few weeks, former LA Clipper’s owner, Donald Sterling’s derogatory comments have been heatedly discussed in the news and on social media. Sterling attempted to clarify his comments in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper. During the interview, he stated, “That's one problem I have. Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people. And some of the African Americans, maybe I'll get in trouble again, they don't want to help anybody.” Donald Sterling's comments implied that African Americans do not give back to their community and lift each other up.


Sterling's musings on African Americans has played out in my own life. My father emigrated from the West African nation of Liberia to pursue higher education. He eventually settled in Minnesota because there is a large Liberian community in the Twin Cities.  My mother joined my father in the U.S. about a year later.  My father wanted to expand his network and made the conscience choice to attend a predominantly white church.

Eventually, the members of the church came to learn that my parents had two small daughters who were still in Liberia. My parents did not have the financial resources to send for my older sister and me. The members of the church came together and raised enough money to purchase plane tickets for my sister and me, so that we could be reunited with our parents in Minnesota.

All too often, within my community many children are never reunited with their parents, because Liberians rarely band together to provide financial assistance to parents seeking to bring their children to America.

It was the graciousness of Caucasian individuals, who I did not know that open the door for me to come to the U.S. and pursue educational and career opportunities that changed the whole course of my life.  I became the first person in my immediate family to graduate from a four-year college and only one to obtain a Juris Doctor.

Donald Sterling’s remarks touches on broader issues that African Americans have discussed behind closed doors for years.  Why are there a limited number of African American professional mentors who are willing to be rainmakers for their mentees? Why is it that African Americans do not refer business to each other in larger numbers?  How many African Americans financially support or volunteer for non-profit organizations that give back to the community? How frequently do African Americans help each other secure a job? How many African Americans are active in professional organizations?


Sterling’s comments should serve as motivation to change the perception of African Americans.  There are organizations that give back to the community, such as the BOSS Network.  We can discredit the Sterling perception by supporting each other in larger numbers, holding each other accountable and being involved in organizations that enhance our community.

I want to thank Cameka Smith for having the vision and tenacity to start the BOSS Network.  BOSS is truly a sisterhood of successful women who help, encourage, and lift each other up. I am sincerely humbled and honor to have been granted the opportunity to be a 2nd quarter blogger for the BOSS Network. I look forward to reading all of the insightful post by the 3rd quarter bloggers. Most importantly, I am proud to be a member of an organization that discredits individuals like Donald Sterling and shows African Americans DO help to pull each other up on a professional and personal level. 

Johnetta G. Paye, Esq.

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