On the basketball court he is king – LeBron James is arguably the best player in the history of the National Basketball Association. While some people will talk about the accomplishments of Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, LeBron rises above them and the rest in his ability to guide a team to victory through the power of his performance and personality. Currently, he is perhaps the greatest athlete in American sports and one of the most recognizable persons in the world.
Sadly, despite all his success and fame, there are some who will not appreciate him because of his race. The vandalism of LeBron’s Los Angeles home was bad enough, but the perpetrators also painted the N-word on his front gate. This reprehensible act rises to the level of a hate crime, and the LAPD is investigating it as such. This may seem inconceivable to some in 2017, but many people realize that race is a factor in their daily lives and that prejudice is something that has not gone away.
For the sports fans who idolize LeBron, this may seem impossible to rationalize or understand. More importantly, for the children who are basketball fans and follow their favorite basketball player, they are left wondering what is wrong with the world. That is why this situation cannot be allowed to be just let go – it is a teachable moment for us all, but especially for the kids.
LeBron has reacted with the dignity and honesty to what happened to his home, which is not his primary residence. While explaining that his family is safe and that is most important, LeBron said, “But it just goes to show that racism will always be a part of the world, a part of America. Hate in America, especially for African-Americans is living every day. Even though that it's concealed most of the time, even though people hide their faces and will say things about you, and then when they see you they smile in your face. It's alive every single day."
Coming from one of the greatest sports figures this country has ever known, this is a powerful indictment of a society that has not evolved as much as many of us wanted to believe. With all the efforts of educators to teach the darkness of slavery and its ugly legacy, we have still not done enough. The lessons of the Civil Rights Movement and the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. echo across the decades, but they are still not enough. Even the election of an African-American as President of the United States has not been enough – and Barack Obama was certainly also a target of hate due to the color of his skin. Racism keeps rearing its hideous head, and this time as we witness it once again in the attack on LeBron James’s home.
LeBron went on to say, “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. And 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.”
Although he spoke eloquently, LeBron’s words will not be enough, but they should be heeded. By speaking out before the NBA Finals, LeBron is using one of the biggest sporting events of the year to highlight the disparity that still exists in our country. The social inequity that he has cited must be condemned and all Americans must rise to the challenge to make every effort to bring about necessary and compelling change to our nation.
So, yes, this is a teachable moment for us all – teachers, parents, and their children. Instead of ignoring the matter as it often has been ignored because it makes people uncomfortable, we must address the issue of race in America and maybe experience a good deal of discomfort along the way until significant progress is achieved.
Dr. King once said he looked forward to the day when his children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. 54 years after he uttered those words on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, it is obvious we have not reached that place Dr. King sought – at least not yet. We owe it to our children and our children’s children to make Dr. King’s dream a reality, and we can only procure such a world for them through a concerted effort that does not begin tomorrow or next week but today!