Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that really matter (Martin Luther)
The tense emotions roiling the black community of Cleveland following the business as usual legal decision to not file charges against the cop who shot Tamir Rice to death has drifted into the LeBron James’ orbit. James has refused to talk about it, going to the I don’t know enough information card. James, a gifted athlete, a human being, a father, a son and a husband, is also a millionaire who can shape his reality in a way the rest of us can’t, particularly the black community of Cleveland who has to live with the day to day fear of their sons leaving the house and coming home in body bags. James lack of empathy for that bit of truth has struck some as tone deaf and hypocritical, a disconnect.
“For me, I’ve always been a guy who’s took pride in knowledge of every situation that I’ve ever spoken on. And to be honest, I haven’t really been on top of this issue. So it’s hard for me to comment.” (LeBron James)
At the heart of the Tamir Rice case is the death of a child, of which LeBron James has three. It was his two sons that propelled LeBron to speak out when Trayvon Martin was murdered. I imagine it was those same sons (and his baby girl) that made LeBron emote on Twitter after the death of five month old Aavielle Wakefield in a drive-by shooting in October. Then, his response was swift, and at the same time, horrified at the crime.
“Like seriously man!!!! A baby shot in the chest in Cleveland. It’s been out of control but it’s really OOC. Y’all need to chill the F out. C’mon Man let’s do and be better! Don’t fall into the trap. This can’t be the only way. Accept more from yourselves. #TheLand #TheNation
What was it about the Tamir Rice no charges filed that made LeBron disinterested? Tamir Rice wasn’t a baby? He was playing with a toy gun, something LeBron has told his own sons not to do outside of the house anymore? There are some social tragedies LeBron has no problem discussing and others he walks away from. It’s why some are upset with his skirting around the issue.
Fearing negative consequences, it’s political correctness. LeBron could have aligned himself with the sadness of the decision, with the family’s lingering grief and with the community’s pain without directly answering the boycott question.
I wanted to hear LeBron say something to comfort the city that feels torn in half but he shouldn’t sit out games to express his outrage and sadness. He should protest in front of a camera. He should look in the lens and speak to those of us in Cleveland. A boycott is an instrument of power but so is the human voice. When you speak, even if it is in a whisper, you are making a commitment to not be silent about those things that matter. That is more powerful than missing game checks and staying at home from your job. LeBron speaks for Nike. He speaks for Samsung. He can speak for the black families of Cleveland (if he wanted to). He doesn’t.
Nor does he want to walk in the footprints of Jim Brown-Muhummad Ali, a social activist athlete. Just as Michael Jordan refused to endorse a black candidate for the U.S. Senate because as Jordan stated, “Republicans wear Nikes too”, LeBron James is refusing to get in the middle of a political policy that identifies black children as everything but innocent; their lives are not as valuable.
Yes, I would have liked LeBron James to have said something about Tamir Rice. I would have liked him to acknowledge the parents raising children, boys in particular, black boys especially, who feel a sense of anxiety, day and night. There are people in pain that he could affirm. He is a father. There are fathers who have lost their children. There are fathers who are afraid for their children, who believe black lives don’t matter to the Cleveland police. Cleveland, by and large, is not a celebrity culture. LeBron’s impact is enormous.
Sometimes I think he forgets that.
photo via llananba