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The Great Emancipator

While the city of Boston is tearing down a statue of The Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, a nice big statue of Michael Jordan stands in front of the United Center in Chicago. Should we tear that down, also? Michael is not a racist. He never owned slaves. But he has become a billionaire off selling shoes that are manufactured using slave labor in China, Malaysia, Vietnam and several other countries. Was the owner of the mercantile company that sold clothes made from cotton picked by slaves a supporter and beneficiary of the slave trade? Of course, he was. What he was doing was not much different than what Michael is supporting and benefiting from. They both financially profited off of the inhumane exploitation of forced labor.

And where is King James who pockets millions every year off China’s systemic oppression, on this issue? He is siding with the totalitarian Chinese government. When Darryl Morey, GM of the Rockets, sent out a tweet last October 4 showing solidarity with Chinese citizens in Hong Kong protesting for basic human rights by tweeting, "Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong", LeBron James and the NBA attacked him.

LeBron tweeted, “he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand. So many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually.” But when you consider that Chinese companies pulled their sponsorships of the N.B.A., state-run Chinese media boycotted the N.B.A., canceling the local broadcasts of N.B.A. games, in response to Morey’s tweet, LeBron only seemed to be considering his financial harm. The Chinese market which brings in hundreds of millions of dollars into the N.B.A. was too important to risk on something as trivial as human rights. LeBron knows exactly where his bread is buttered.

LeBron does not seem to want to see the extreme oppression of Chinese citizens because he would be forced into a moral dilemma. LeBron tweeted about Morey’s tweet, “I’m not discussing the substance. Others can talk about that.” Which means he does not want to consider the oppression that is going on in China, because it would force him to rethink his and the NBA’s business dealings in China, costing him millions of dollars, so he is happy just to ignore it, like what many of the white non-slave owners did in the south. They ignored the problem, and simply reaped the fruits of other people’s labor. LeBron silence on China, is violence to the Chinese citizens.

Yet, LeBron has no problem wading in on almost every situation dealing with injustice or oppression, except China. He lashed out at Drew Brees when Drew said he would stand and honor our flag. King James tweeted, “You literally still don't understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee??” And went on to tweet that his father “never found Kap peaceful protest offensive.” LeBron literally does not understand what the people in Hong Kong were protesting about. He still doesn’t.

So, fighting for freedom and standing up against oppression is a good thing in America, but not in China. But it’s takes no courage to put out tweets about how unjust and evil America is in this day and age. In today’s media culture, you will be called the next Jackie Robinson or Muhammad Ali for criticizing America. You may even be put up for the Nobel Peace Prize. But it takes real courage to risk tens of millions of dollars and stand up against China. That’s why very few athletes do it.

Isn’t Colin Kaepernick, the person who famously kneeled against oppression in America, also receiving millions of dollars from Nike, profiting from a company who exploits slave labor around the world. I guess Kaepernick will not stand and honor a flag of this country that oppresses people, but will collect millions of dollars from another country that does.

No, we shouldn’t tear down Michael Jordan’s statue and cancel him. Instead of tearing down statues in an attempt to erase from our history the people who oppressed and enslaved others, we would do more for humanity spending our energy ridding the world of oppression and slavery that is happening today and at this moment all around the world, so we can actually improve the lives of living people. But if we did that the cost of Air Jordan’s will probably double. That’s what happens when you have to pay your employees a fair wage, provide benefits, and create humane working conditions. That’s why companies ship our jobs overseas, slave labor cuts their labor costs dramatically. So, it becomes more virtuous and cost effective for us to simply rewrite Abraham Lincoln’s legacy, and recast him as a anti-black racist by parsing every word he ever spoke, that way we can still pat ourselves on our backs for our enlightened virtue while only paying 99 bucks for a pair of Jordan’s.

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