NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar believes that the situation with the LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling, which resulted in him getting a lifetime ban from the NBA, shows that society today is dealing with a different kind of racism.
“Racism today isn’t like the racism pre-Martin Luther King, Jr. Today we are faced with situational racism,” Abdul-Jabbar said in his article on Time.com.
Reminding that on April 25, 2014, TMZ Sports released what it said is an April 9, 2014 audio recording of a conversation between Sterling and his girlfriend or former girlfriend. Sterling was recorded making racist and outrageous statements in the conversation. An NBA investigation, which included an interview with Sterling, determined the voice to be authentic.
Following the investigation, NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million after a firestorm of controversy. The move was praised by many former NBA players, including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kevin Johnson and Charles Barkley.
“This is similar to situational ethics, a philosophical and theological movement that argues that rather than having fixed, one-size-fits-all ethical rules of behavior, the context of each situation must be considered before determining the correct moral choice,” former NBA star said.
“Situational racism applies this flexible principle by declaring we must act according to a realistic analysis of race as it is in our society right now, not as we wish it were,” he explained.
Then Abdul-Jabbar brought up an example: You’re walking down a dark, deserted street and a bunch of black teens adorned with dagger tattoos and carrying bongs made from human skulls are walking toward you. If you cross the street, are you being a racist or a realist?
“That’s what Sterling meant when he said on the tape. Basically, he’s saying, It’s not me. It’s Society! It’s the Man! I’m just a helpless pawn, a clump of toilet paper caught in the swirling toilet bowl of history. The housing discrimination he was convicted of wasn’t racism, it was just practical business sense. After all, he’s in business to make money, not history,” Abdul-Jabbar said.
He went on to add that the worst racism of all is denying it exists, “because that keeps us from repairing the damage.”
“This country needs a social colonoscopy to look for the hidden racist polyps. And we aren’t doing ourselves any good by saying, I feel fine. Everything’s fine. Nothing to see here,” he said.
Abdul-Jabbar said that in truth, everyone has racism in his or her heart.
“We feel more comfortable around people of similar appearance, backgrounds, and experiences. But, as intelligent, educated and civilized humans, we fight our knee-jerk reactions because we recognize that those reactions are often wrong and ultimately harmful,” he said.
“The finish line is when racism no longer exists, not when people claim it doesn’t exist because they personally don’t notice it,” he said.
He then brought up some statistics.
“Why is it that the people who are declaring racism dead are mostly white? Because if you’re not a targeted group, you don’t notice it. A 2006 CNN poll showed 49 percent of blacks saying racism is a “very serious” problem, while only 18 percent of whites agreed. A 2012 Associated Press poll showed that 51 percent of Americans expressed anti-black attitudes, up from 48 percent in a 2008 survey. Also, 52 percent displayed anti-Hispanic biases,” he said.
Former NBA star believes that the best way to combat racism in the face of selective attention and situational racism “is to seek it out every minute of every day and expose every instance we find.”
“And not just racism, but also sexism, homophobia and every other kind of injustice that lessens the principles of inclusion that define this country,” he added.
Abdul-Jabbar has set history by remaining the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, perfecting the unstoppable skyhook and becoming the lone NBA player to compile both six NBA championships and six MVPs through a 20-year span with the Milwaukee Bucks and Lakers.
Jabbar was a record 19-time NBA All-Star, a 15-time All-NBA selection, and an 11-time NBA All-Defensive Team member.
In 1996, he was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. Abdul-Jabbar played 1560 games in the NBA, averaging 24.6 ppg, 11.2 rpg in 36.8 mpg.Follow @exnbadotcom
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