Kareem Abdul Jabbar

“White Americans feel like they are being singled out because of the color of their skin rather than any actions they’ve taken. That’s how black people feel. Every. Single. Day.”

I hope the chanting of “Ferguson! Ferguson!” and the symbolic upraised arms of surrender will become a new cry of outrage over social injustice that will embed itself in our popular culture as deeply as Attica did.

As always, there will be blacklash.

Many white people think that these cries of outrage over racism by African Americans are directed at them, which makes them frightened, defensive, and equally outraged. They feel like they are being blamed for a problem that’s been going on for many decades, even centuries. They feel they are being singled out because of the color of their skin rather than any actions they’ve taken. They are angry at the injustice. And rightfully so. Why should they be attacked and blamed for something they didn’t do?

Which is exactly how black people feel.

The difference is that when the media frenzy dies down, and columnists, pundits, and newscasters take a break from examining the causes of social evils, white people get to go back to their lives in relative freedom and security. But blacks still have to worry about being harassed or shot by police. About having their right to vote curtailed by hidden poll taxes. Of facing a biased judicial system.

Every. Single. Day. …

The Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson is troubling, not just for the sake of Michael Brown, but for our faith in legal institutions. Ben Casselman’s recent article in FiveThirtyEight.com concluded that it was extremely rare for a grand jury not to indict. He cited statistics that showed U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, with grand juries refusing to indict in only 11 of those cases. Given those odds, why wasn’t Officer Wilson indicted? Not because he’s white, but because he’s a cop. Casselman reviewed various studies involving officer-related shootings and concluded that grand juries rarely indict police officers in on-duty killings. …

The people of Ferguson, and across the country, are not protesting against white people or police officers, they are protesting against the kind of racism that is so embedded in various social institutions that it’s invisible to all except those it affects. They are protesting a blind faith in any institution when the facts don’t warrant that faith.

Perhaps this quote has some resonance today:

"Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.…[T]his much is clear; violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul. For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter. This is the breaking of a man’s spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all.”

Those words are from a speech by Robert F. Kennedy—in 1968, the year he was assassinated. He wanted things to change, and he recognized that meaningful social and political change always originates among the people, not the politicians; it originates among individuals, not institutions. When enough people are frustrated about an injustice, they will raise their voices until they are heard in the courthouse, the statehouse, and the White House.“

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Welcome to Our World


Harlem was an incredible place, the center of black culture, but we moved in 1950 to Inwood, where we were among the first black people. I remember my mom got harassed at the supermarket, the manager insisting that she was shoplifting—he wanted to inspect her bags, and she wouldn’t let him and caused a scene. She dragged me out of there and, in doing that, knocked over a display. I was waist high in loaves of bread.

The Irish kids didn’t want us up there. The northern side of Dyckman Street was Irish, and the southern side was Jewish. I would walk from where I lived in the Dyckman projects up to P.S. 52—my mom decided that I could walk to school alone, but I had to walk right through the Irish section of the neighborhood. Later on, as an adult, I found out that she used to follow me, from a half-block behind, to make sure that nothing happened.


Billy Lo vs. Hakim

After playing in Milwaukee to start his NBA career Kareem Abdul-Jabbar requested a trade to either New York or Los Angeles. Kareem got his wish and was acquired by the Lakers in 1974. Upon returning to California Kareem wanted to get back into martial arts. Bruce Lee was living in LA at the time and the two of them started to train together Talk about an underwhelming sentence, Bruce Lee and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar hanging out together!

“Bruce, more or less, backed up what I had learned from John Wooden. The whole thing about being prepared and understanding your own skills. What you have to offer and what you don’t have to offer. Channeling to your approach to everything specific. It was just an echo of John Wooden, from Hong Kong as opposed to Indiana. You have to be committed. You have to be prepared. You have to be willing to sacrifice to be totally prepared. To be in shape and understand the nature of competition. And he wanted to do that.”

It would be difficult to find two more popular athletes in the 1970’s than Bruce Lee and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Put them in a movie where they’re fighting in Jeet Kune Do, a martial arts system founded by Bruce Lee himself, and the cool factor is raised to near life threatening levels. The two were pitted against each other in a scene for Game of Death. Tragically, Bruce Lee died before the film was completed, it’s easy to notice stand-ins and repeated shots throughout the movie. In Game of Death Bruce Lee meets an athletic and shaded Kareem. Lee is only able to defeat him when he realizes his weakness — a high sensitivity to light. On and off the court Kareem always did know the importance of proper eye protection.


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s statue outside STAPLES Center was unveiled tonight. An overdue honor for one of the great basketball legends.

When you start playing, you do it because you love the game. I did, anyway. To be able to come this far and be recognized this way is really special.” –Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the honor

Kareem Abdul Jabbar's children's book making headlines for it's highlight of Black Achievement

In his spare time, when he isn’t assisting the Lakers as a part time coach and trainer, Kareem Abdul Jabbar writes children books. In his book, What Color is My World: The Lost-History of African American Inventors, Jabbar discusses black achievement and the unheralded heroes who shaped our world, and who are often forgotten in the textbooks. This is what we need! 

Click here to read more. 

And also, more pictures below…

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