On a recent episode of the podcast, “The Shop”, LeBron James was asked, “Why do you hate Boston?” And he replied, “Because they racist as f***.” So, the entire city of Boston is racist because of the actions of one or a few people. That statement is reminiscent of people claiming all police officers are racist because of the actions of Dereck Chauvin.
Racism is a form of prejudice, and prejudice is pre-judging someone without knowing them; it is also grouping people together and painting them with a broad brush. LeBron James grouped the entire city of Boston together, and made a sweeping judgement, thus judging hundreds of thousands of people without ever meeting them, without ever knowing them.
One person in the stands of 25,000 may have made one racist remark, and LeBron James used that one person and that one incident to declare that Boston, the entire city, everyone who lives there, is “racist as f***”. That statement is the height of prejudice; maligning tens of thousands of people because of the actions of one person; disparaging an entire city based on one or a few incidences. LeBron was decrying racism with prejudice, unable to look beyond himself and his situation to understand what those words actually mean.
What you’ll find is when you make these types of sweeping generalizations about groups of people, you end up being wrong about the individuals within the group far more often than you are right. So, making these sweeping types of judgments simply make you wrong and ignorant most of the time.
It’s easy to look at LeBron James, the statements he makes, his tweets, and conclude that he is all bad, that he is racist or anti-American. It’s hard for me to hate him, though, because I have never met him. I’ve never seen or gotten to know the person LeBron James. My exposure to him is very limited based solely on what he does on the basketball court and what he posts on Twitter.
Over the years I have criticized many of LeBron James’ public statements, but I will not reduce someone down to their Twitter account. That is a form of prejudiced as well. No matter how tempting, I try to fight against it. I’m not going to judge someone based on their tweets. I can criticize his tweets or agree with his tweets, but I won’t judge him entirely because of them.
That is what cancel culture does, and that is a form of prejudice that has become far too pervasive in our country. A person says one thing “wrong” or that the mob disagrees with, and he is completely canceled from our society. He is labeled bad, unworthy to be part of the conversation. And even if the person admitted he was wrong and apologized, he is still canceled. Nothing he will ever say in the future is allowed. Everything he says and does for the rest of his life has already been deemed bad. Isn’t that a form of prejudice?
But isn’t this what we do to each other far too often in our society? We judge each other without knowing them. We prejudge them. Hillary Clinton labeled Donald Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables”. Isn’t that sweeping accusation, that blanket characterization prejudiced? Judging tens of millions of people based solely on their support for one politician, without ever knowing them individually, without ever talking to them, without discovering their character, who they are? Believing a person’s political affiliation is a window into their souls.
The left hates the right; the right hates the left; Democrats hate Republicans; Republicans hate Democrats. But that hate is an offshoot of our own beliefs as much as the other person’s. We believe if we disagree with somebody politically, then we must hate them, or at least distain them. Holiday dinners are destroyed because two family members happen to have different political beliefs. Families are torn apart because of politics. Making sweeping assumptions and accusations about a person, their character, who they are simply because of the political beliefs they hold, reducing each other to their politics, isn’t that a form of prejudiced?
Isn’t it reducing each other to one aspect of who they are a form of prejudiced, whether it’s their race, their religion, their politics, their education? Our tendency to not see the entire person, but to distill the person down to one aspect of who they are, or to fit them into a group in order to judge them, is all a form of prejudice.
We see this all the time in politics, and the way politicians break the people down into voting blocs based on their demographics is a form of prejudice, making the assumption that all people within that demographic group think the same way, believe the same things, so the politician must pander to that group. We saw that with Jill Biden recently when she compared Hispanic people to “breakfast tacos”. As bad as that comparison was, her attempt to pander to the audience, and group them all together, believing that all Hispanic people think and believe and vote the same way, reducing each of those individuals down to their ethnicity was even worse.
Politicians do not stand before an audience and lay out their beliefs, their vision, their plans when they get into office for the voter to contemplate and decide if that’s the person, they want to represent them. Most of the time politicians have a strategic plan on how to talk to each voting bloc which is determined by the demographics. ‘This is what I will say to the Hispanic people’, or ‘this is what I will say to the women’s groups’, or ‘this is what I’ll say to millennials’, or ‘this is what I’ll say to Gen X or people over the age of 65.’ And they change and they craft what they stand for based on the demographics of the audience they’re talking to. And that’s how you get to the first lady of the United States calling a group of human beings, “breakfast tacos”. She didn’t see the individual people in the audience as individuals, as human beings, with hopes and desires and fears that transcend the color of their skin or their ethnicity or their gender. She grouped all of those people together and painted them with a broad brush.
President Joe Biden is being criticized for being an “old white man”. And people make that statement as if it’s OK to make that statement, that it’s not ageist, or racist, or sexists to reduce a person down to their age, their race, and their gender, as if another age, another color, another gender is automatically superior. Are all “old white men” to be judged alike, to be dismissed? Are we allowed to do that for other groups?
Recently, three young black women brutally beat a white woman on a New York City bus, screaming, “I hate white people”. Clearly, it was a racially motivated attack. Does that mean that all young black women are racist? According to LeBron James’ logic, it does. But in reality, it means that those three specific black women are racist. Their actions and their words are not a reflection on another person living today other than themselves.
Black men commit a disproportionate number of violent crimes in America. They make up 6% of our population yet commit over 50% of the violent crimes. Is it right to say that all black men are violent criminals? Of course not, because it’s wrong. It’s inaccurate. Only a very small percentage of the black men in that group commit violent crimes. The overwhelming majority of the people in that group are peaceful and law-abiding, so to make a sweeping assessment of a group of people even when the statistics could lead you to make that assessment, is still wrong because each one of the millions of people within that demographic group, are individuals who are much greater than the sum of their age and their gender and their skin color, just like the rest of us.
None of this is new. I remember having all these types of discussions 20 and 30 years ago, when people wanted to be seen and judged based on who they were as an individual, not as part of a demographic group, but somehow the pendulum has swung back the other way and people are not solely defining others by their demographics, they are defining themselves by their demographics, they are limiting themselves, they are reducing themselves not expanding themselves, and when we engage in this type of thinking, the country in the society as a whole shrinks and divides.
Our race, our gender, our age, our religion, our political beliefs are part of who we are, but none define who we are, and that’s why it’s so important to see the individual as a whole, and not just see the subset that others want to cram us into, reducing us to the box they want us to fit into. But sadly, we as a society are moving toward that mentality rather away from it. And when we fall into that trap, that’s when people get pitted against one another based on the superficial parts of themselves, and that is when divisions are created where there should be unity, that’s when our country will be torn apart at its seams.
There is a lot more to each of us than what we can see. Every human being has depth and breadth beyond the superficialities that the world uses to define us, and that is found in our common humanity, the thing that links all of mankind together, that has nothing to do with race or ethnicity or gender or political leanings. We are all staring at the same fate, common to all people. And when confronting that fate, it is far better to united by the common profundity of our existence, than to be divided by the shallow differences that too often tear us apart.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.