By now, many have voiced confusion and/or anger about comments made by NBA superstar Lebron James in regards to the “n” word being spray-painted on the gate of his off-season home in California. While he and his family were not present at the time of the incident, he was visibly shaken by the event. You can read his response here.
“I think back to Emmett Till’s mom, actually,” James said. “That’s one of the first things I thought of. The reason she had an open casket was that she wanted to show the world what her son went through as far as a hate crime, and being black in America. No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough. We’ve got a long way to go, for us as a society and for us as African-Americans, until we feel equal in America.”
- Why did Lebron bring Emmett Till into this incident? A graffiti message spray-painted on a house is not comparable to being beaten to death and hung from a tree. I understand that he was coming from the perspective of the mother who refused to let the death of her son be swept under the rug but James’s celebrity precludes that from happening in this particular case. TMZ and other outlets are more than willing to highlight the hateful incident.
- We have to be careful not to generalize “the struggle”. There are a myriad of factors that affect how a person is perceived and treated by others. Race and skin color do play a significant role in one’s life experience. However, the way in which one carries themselves and treats others is equally as important.
- His reaction is a reflection of the pain that he feels as a parent. Most parents want to shield their child from maltreatment. Most fathers want to protect their families from harm. Realizing that one is not immune from hardship, regardless of wealth or status, is sobering. Being called out of one’s name and having property damaged is tough for anyone. Celebrities are human too.
- I feel that parents have a duty to shield their children from adult issues when possible. Racism is ugly and will continue to be a problem as long as there are differences in this world. As Martin Luther King Jr. said “hate is too great a burden to bear”. If something happens directly to a child, the parent should strive to work through it with them but telling them about racist incidents only serves to breed fear and resentment.
- While some may disagree with sports figures giving their opinion on political matters or cultural issues, it is their First Amendment right to do so. He was asked a question about a personal incident and he had every right to voice his opinion.
Final Thought: Is it tough to be Black in America? Many would point to affirmative action, racial progress, or having a Black president as signs that things are significantly better now than in the past. While things have dramatically improved (I can’t stress that point enough), racism does still exist. As this situation illustrates, wealth and status can never completely insulate one from stereotypes, hurtful comments, or ignorant people.