Wednesday, May 31, 2017, someone spray painted the N-word on LeBron James’ California home.
These reports were confirmed by the Los Angeles Police Department and–assuming they are true–we should question the effectiveness of our response to racism and inequality. We frequently hear that money is the great equalizer.
Many of us idolize professional athletes. Because their life experiences seem other-worldly, we don’t think their problems are real problems. We assume they don’t ever deal with the vicissitudes of the common man. In our (sometimes jealous) minds, all of their pain is champagne.
So, it is easy for our eyes to glaze over when we see these entertainers suffer. How many people felt bad for Thabo Sefolosha when the New York Police Department broke his leg in 2015? Who is weeping for Colin Kaepernick and his free agency struggles? How long will this LeBron story be front of mind? We use these players for our pleasure and scoff at their pain. Why? Because we see money as a panacea.
Speaking about the incident, LeBron said, “…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…And even though that it’s concealed most of the time, we know people hide their faces and will say things about you, when they see you they smile at your face, it’s alive every single day.”
He continued, “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 got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African-Americans until we feel equal in America.”
The human condition does not require us to operate with jealousy or spite. As sports fans, we should be better at treating our heroes (and opponents) with empathy. Whoever committed this heinous act was racist. It would be easy to ignore this incident because the victim is wealthy. Instead, we should use this moment to better recognize and stamp out racism. We should remember that racism is not always as direct as this, but is subtle and will sneak upon those who refuse diligence. Money can buy lots of things, but equality is not on anybody’s shopping list. Those of us that live with privilege–whether it be by race, gender, or ability–would do well to practice empathy.