America is struggling in the aftermath of police killings of black men in Ferguson, New York City, Cleveland, Florida, and more…and more. Today Time published an essay by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar entitled “Why I Have Mixed Feelings About MLK Day.” Few celebrities utilize their celebrity status for the well-being of society. Mr. Abdul-Jabbar does.
I reprint the beginning of it below. I encourage you to click through and read the whole thing.
[Full disclosure: I have no interest in the NBA, but I have been a fan of this intelligent and articulate man for years. In fact, I included “Kareem” in Cheesie Mack Is Sort of Freaked Out as the middle name of one of Cheesie’s friends, Glenn Philips…and he, according to Cheesie, is the smartest kid in school.]
Abdul-Jabbar’s essay begins:
I have mixed emotions about Martin Luther King Jr. Day. For me, it’s a time of hopeful celebration — but also of cautionary vigilance. I celebrate an extraordinary man of courage and conviction and his remarkable achievements and hope that I can behave in a manner that honors his sacrifices. And while Dr. King still has his delusional detractors, who have a dream of dismissing his impact on history, it’s not them I worry about.
His legacy may be in more danger from those who admire him.
Why? Because it’s tempting to use this day as a cultural canonization of the man through well-meaning speeches rather than as a call to practice his teachings through direct action.
For some, the fact that we have Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a confirmation that the war has been won, that racism has been eliminated. That we have overcome. But we have to look at the civil rights movement like antibiotics: Just because some of the symptoms of racism are clearing up, you don’t stop taking the medicine or the malady returns even stronger than before. Recent events make clear that the disease of racism is still infecting our culture and that Martin Luther King Jr. Day needs to be a rallying cry to continue fighting the disease rather than…
Please read on.
[Abdul-Jabbar photograph: Esquire magazine]