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Saturday, Aug 23, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Old evils still persist in the digital age

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Published:   |   Updated: April 30, 2014 at 06:27 AM

It was reported this week that “To Kill A Mockingbird” is going digital. I was surprised Harper Lee's great novel already had not found its way into the digital world where everything else seems to have gone. According to the story more than 30 million copies have been sold since the book's release in 1960, and millions more people have seen the movie version with Gregory Peck.

The New York Times quoted Lee, who is now 88, as saying, “I'm still old-fashioned; I love dusty old books and libraries.” There will be an e-book release marking the 54th anniversary as well as an audio release.

I suppose all of this is progress and there probably will be a video game released next year or an HBO sequel called “Boo Radley Returns.” But I'm with Ms. Lee. There is nothing like curling up with a book to slip into that small southern town for the first time.

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The fictional town of Maycomb, Ala., was set in the rural South of the 1930s — in the middle of the Great Depression and at a time when segregation was a racial divide seemingly set in stone.

This week that divide was revived in comments made by the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association.

By now you're aware the racist comments attributed to Clippers' owner Donald Sterling were so offensive that the guy is toast — banned from the league, although now the lawyers surely will move in.

Los Angeles is a far cry from Maycomb, and this is 2014 and a world apart from the rural South of the Great Depression. There has been a loud outcry about Sterling's remarks, and people demanded something be done.

Sterling apparently has a track record of these sorts of things, much of it washed away by settlements.

But it doesn't cover up the ugly truth: Despite all the legislation, all the affirmative action programs and all the sincere efforts of blacks and whites, this is one struggle that remains a long way from being over.

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I've seen it in our community; felt it in disgusting emails and phone calls though the years. We're getting there, but buried not too deeply in our slick and technical world, the effort still is a work in progress.

The disappointing part of all of this, at least for me, is not Sterling so much as that he apparently was able not only to survive but to thrive in an environment which accommodated him because of his money.

Even the local branch of the NAACP was about to hand him an award based on contributions he made to the organization.

Sterling is hardly the only person of power and influence who has managed to flourish in a society that ignores the darker side of people and organizations.

Are their racists in this city? Know any? Do you let it slide because they are otherwise reputable or have influence?

Do you know any politicians or bosses or even friends who say one thing in public and have a different standard in private? Are those comments different from the ignorant mutterings of a Donald Sterling?

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