Criticizing LeBron James’ Silence on Tamir Rice is Unfair

Over the past week, writers and activists have debated the significance of LeBron James expressing his lack of knowledge over the Tamir Rice shooting and the subsequent non-indictment of the officer who took his life back in 2014.

During a locker room interview a few weeks ago, James admitted that he hasnt kept up with the story and didnt feel comfortable making any public statements until he read up on the case.

It seemed like a fair response, but many people feel James is not upholding his responsibility to the black community. New York Daily News writer Shaun King wrote, Listen, I know LeBron isn’t Muhammad Ali and I definitely knew he isn’t Malcolm X, but for him to basically say he can’t even comment on this case because he simply doesn’t know enough about it is appalling.

Encouraging an NBA lockout over Tamir, journalist Tariq Tour, who started #NoJusticeNoLeBron, added, I believe that if you decide to marshal your fellow players in a collective sit out, to ensure the amount of awareness is brought to help the family of Tamir Rice see their childs killers put away, itll be the best buzzer beater you have ever made.

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(Photo Credit: USA Today)

Many feel that as one of the most recognizable faces on the planet, James would ignite a spirited conversation over police violence that would compel media from around the world to follow suit with coverage.

However, I find the insistence by some critics that James celebrity and the fact that he is black, alone, should motivate him to be more vocal is a bit unfair. In reality, black celebrity rarely inspires black activism; it simply means a black person has fame, and, in some cases, a healthy bank account, and that is pretty much it.

And for those who claim James spoke out against police violence before, we should revisit what speaking out actually means. If we want to point to the Instagram post James published after the Ferguson verdict or the hoodie photos he posed in with his former Miami Heat teammates, then OK.

But expecting him to vocalize a language over the killing of a little boy is asking him to speak well beyond his social commentary playbook. James, at the end of the day, is a corporate man with a corporate mind.

Being vocal about black issues is not part of his corporate brand and never was. Would it be great if he did? Sure. Personally, Id love to see James be more vocal (not simply posting social media photos that could be read in a wide range of ways) about police violence, but, if he chooses not to, I dont see an issue with it.

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(Photo Credit: USA Today)

There are plenty of non-famous black people who have been more than willing to verbalize and sacrifice what most, famous athletes or not, arent willing to do. Being black and famous does not mean that the person will suddenly take on socially conscious values because they may have grown up poor and, in the case of Tamir Rice, could have been a hashtag as well.

Ben Carson grew up poor in Detroit, though that life experience has not translated into a race-conscience politic that benefits black people. Do I personally find that abominable? Yes. But, am I surprised or disappointed by Carsons disinterest in police brutality? No at all.

There are too many black people fighting for black liberation for me to invest emotional energy in someone who expresses little interest in raising his or her fist up in the air with mine.

There are some who are dismayed by the fact that James says he knows little of the case, given that the shooting took place in his own backyard of Cleveland. Well, for those who think he should know about current events in his community, I wonder how many of you know your local city council representative by name. Do you know your state representative? What about your U.S. Congressional and Senatorial reps?

Ill wait.

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(Photo Credit: USA Today)

Most of us have little knowledge of very key government issues in the cities in which we live and pay taxes, yet we want to criticize James for not knowing about the Tamir Rice case?

Sure, I wish he were more aware of the case, but lets not pretend we are up on everything that takes place in our communities. To some degree, we all are ignorant of some very important issues. LeBron aint the only one.

And I would caution us not to expect black athletes or any other famous person to speak up about black lives because they are black and grew up poor. A persons upbringing doesnt always inform their politics as adults in ways we think it should.

I have no idea why James rarely articulates his personal views on police violence, but I hope he does eventually.

I agree with the spirit of Shaun King and Tariq Tours perspectives: we need James voice and influence in this fight.

Though, I am more than ready to move on and fight without him and I wont feel a bit of disappointment towards James over his absence, either.

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