So James Dolan sent an email to his MSG employees to clarify his position on racism:
“I know how important this topic is to so many, and I do not want there to be any confusion about where I as an individual, or we as a company stand. So let me be clear: we vehemently condemn and reject racism against anyone, period.”
OK that’s a good start for Mr. Dolan. You might ask as a company, what is MSG doing to combat racism? Well:
“My point yesterday was about actions, and the importance of living your values,” Dolan’s Tuesday email continued. “At Madison Square Garden, we have worked hard to build an environment of inclusion and mutual respect and those are the values we try to live every day.
“Racism is born of ignorance and it’s up to each of us to understand the person working beside you is your equal without regard to color, or any of the other qualities that make us diverse. And any injustice to one person is an injustice to everyone.
“This is how we at MSG fight racism. We start with ourselves, and through our actions, we define who we are. That is how we can be an example to the wider world. That was the point of my message yesterday.
“I am proud of the environment you have created here. I know that this is a difficult time, and that we will always need to communicate with one another on hard issues. I will continue to do as much as I can to do as much as I can to help make our community even better. I know you will also.”
No. That’s not how you fight racism. That’s not at all how you fight racism. Dolan clears the lowest bar of anti-racism here with “the person working beside you is your equal without regard to color.” Sure I guess that’s the basic definition of racism so — hooray? From a historical context he’s met the 19th century bar for being woke.
“And any injustice to one person is an injustice to everyone.” Sure thing, but today we’re specifically talking about injustices to people of color. I understand that from some perspectives you could argue that he’s taking a stronger stance on racism, not limiting it to one type. But on the other hand, he’s specifically ignoring the message that black people bare the brunt of legal injustices — from citizens calling 911 on them for normal activities (jogging, being at the gym, etc.), to their unequal treatment by the law including police, prosecutors, judges, and juries. Of course you could add economic racism, with regards to schools, careers, upward mobility, red lining, bank loans, etc. All of this gets lost when you change the mantra from race specific to all of humanity.
Let’s clarify this point with an example. Imagine for a second that you have a family member with (God forbid) larynx cancer. So you decide to raise some money to bring awareness to larynx cancer. After some initial success, you go to your next potential donor and they remark “why are you only raising money for larynx cancer? Don’t we want to defeat all cancer? And why stop at cancer? You should tackle all illnesses!”
Strictly speaking the donor has a point. Raising money to defeat all illness is a much stronger goal. But by taking the stronger stance, your message has gotten diluted. If you raise money for all cancer or all illnesses, little to no money will be used for larynx cancer, because there are more popular things to use that money on. And now larynx cancer is again an afterthought, and the message you’re trying to convey is lost.
That’s exactly what Dolan is doing here. He’s obscuring the message that people of color are being oppressed. He’s lumping in the problems of the African American community with everyone else, so that the problems affecting black people are not as important as the ones we all suffer. People who generalize the message, taking the message from one group and applying it to the whole, are in essence diverting the original ideals and goals. Which means it is in opposition to that movement.
And Dolan continues: “This is how we at MSG fight racism. We start with ourselves, and through our actions, we define who we are.” The underlying theme is that racism can solved by everyone’s personal reflection, ignoring that there is a problem that needs to be tackled from a communal sense.
Now if you’re white, read that last line again, but this time imagine you’re not white. Imagine you’re a black person who has suffered numerous acts of racism in your lifetime. Does his solution seem to fix any of those racist incidents? “This is how we at MSG fight racism. We start with ourselves, and through our actions, we define who we are.”
By starting with an inner journey, could you stop the security guard from following you around in that store? By looking at yourself in the mirror, could you have prevented those taxis from speeding past you when you needed one? Would some self reflection have fixed that interaction with the person in your neighborhood who called the cops on you and your friends who were just hanging out in front of your house? Did the innocent victims of racist police brutality just fail to find their inner self?
People of color know that racism doesn’t get solved by people of color. They know they’re not at fault when people look at their darker skin and make nefarious assumptions. So how do Dolan’s words help them?
This begs the question — who is Dolan’s audience for this line? Surely it’s not black people. So then who? And why? Is it for white people to assuage their culpability? Is it so he can look in the mirror and say he has hired black people to prominent positions and declare he’s not a racist to himself by his own meager definition and not have to feel guilty about what is happening?
By failing to mention systematic racism directly and failing to take in to account the perspective of people of color, Dolan’s attempts at being woke instead reveals his racist convictions. Dolan doesn’t have to say anything blatantly racist, it’s clear from the subtext and the parts he omitted to specifically mention. For any person, these are disagreeable beliefs. But for an owner in a sport where 75% of the players are black, it’s straight up bad for business.