NBA legend writes 'The Coming Race War Won't Be About Race'
Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul Jabbar has, in recent years, penned some of the most thoughtful and balanced op-eds about race, class, and other cultural issues I've read.
Jabbar takes aim in Time Magazine at both sides in the Ferguson story and points out that the issue isn't race - it's class, and the helplessness felt by the poor and angst ridden Middle Class is a deliberate attempt by a corrupt power structure to remain in control.
By focusing on just the racial aspect, the discussion becomes about whether Michael Brown’s death—or that of the other three unarmed black men who were killed by police in the U.S. within that month—is about discrimination or about police justification. Then we’ll argue about whether there isn’t just as much black-against-white racism in the U.S. as there is white-against-black. (Yes, there is. But, in general, white-against-black economically impacts the future of the black community. Black-against-white has almost no measurable social impact.)
Then we’ll start debating whether or not the police in America are themselves an endangered minority who are also discriminated against based on their color—blue. (Yes, they are. There are many factors to consider before condemning police, including political pressures, inadequate training, and arcane policies.) Then we’ll question whether blacks are more often shot because they more often commit crimes. (In fact, studies show that blacks are targeted more often in some cities, like New York City. It’s difficult to get a bigger national picture because studies are woefully inadequate. The Department of Justice study shows that in the U.S. between 2003 and 2009, among arrest-related deaths there’s very little difference among blacks, whites, or Latinos. However, the study doesn’t tell us how many were unarmed.)
This fist-shaking of everyone’s racial agenda distracts America from the larger issue that the targets of police overreaction are based less on skin color and more on an even worse Ebola-level affliction: being poor. Of course, to many in America, being a person of color is synonymous with being poor, and being poor is synonymous with being a criminal. Ironically, this misperception is true even among the poor.
And that’s how the status quo wants it.
I don't think episodes like Ferguson are the result of an effort by the 1% to keep us all on the plantation. That's too simple an explanation. Ferguson, like many similar incidents, has been hijacked by whites and blacks to try and make a larger political point that they believe will advance a self-aggrandizing agenda.
Despite what the racialists are screaming - that Ferguson is a microcosm of America - there don't appear to be any national implications to the story. One bitterly divided town does not reflect what's regular or normal in America - no matter what Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton say. If that were true, we'd have another "long, hot, summer" on our hands and riots would be tearing up our cities.
But neither are there any national lessons to drawn from the rioters and looters currently in control of the streets of Ferguson. This sort of nihilism is the result of opportunity and giving into a mob mentality and is not a reflection on the character of any race, white or black.
Jabbar tries to balance his finger pointing, but ultimately misses the point. What's missing has nothing to do with "inequality" and everything to do with a dearth of economic opportunity. The blame for that can be traced directly to an oppressive government that overreaches, over regulates, and oversteps its role as a facilitator of economic growth to become a drag on innovation and entrepreneurship.
A worthwhile read by the former NBA great anyway.