I love watching ESPN’s “First Take” in the morning. Depending upon the topic of discussion I’ll forego watching “Good Morning America”. I can get my news through other media platforms or not.
Around Christmas following a Los Angeles Lakers’ loss, LeBron James posted on his Instagram account while listening in his car: a lyric from a rap song about having “Jewish money”. In response to the Social Media outcry Lebron posted an apology on Instagram. He did not intend anything demeaning in his post. He usually posts lyrics from songs that he listens to.
Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman insightfully discussed the consequences of Lebron’s words, albeit the words of the rapper. Max, who is of the Jewish Community, said that he was not in the least offended by what Lebron posted, that it didn’t come from a “negative place”. Lebron had apologized, and that he need not do anything more.
Stephen A. listened to Max, and agreed with all that he said. Then Stephen A. said, “I’m starting to get worried about Lebron James.” This occurred amidst the media blitz where Lebron said that would love to play with Superstar Anthony Davis on the Lakers, if the opportunity presented itself. Stephen A. was there when Lebron said to the press, “They (the NBA) ain’t gonna control me…” referring to his freedom to speak.
Stephen A. said, “I love Lebron James.” He has nothing, but mad love for Lebron. Like Stephen A. I see Lebron as the tremendous role model, and the Man of his Community.
Coming from his space of the “disenfranchised community”, and tirelessly recreating himself and his own success Stephen A. said, “There is nothing that most folks fear nor detest than a Black Man, who comes across as arrogant enough to believes that he can say what he wants to say. When he wants to say it. And how he wants to say it.” He said, “LeBron James needs to be careful”.
At play in this bigger picture is the perception of the Jewish Community and its perceived sphere of influence. Stephen A. concedes that Max would know better than him. He wasn’t at all refuting Max’s point of view. Admittedly, Stephen A. said that it’s his perception “from the outside looking in” on the Jewish Community.
Compassionately, Max said that Stephen A.’s perception of the Jewish Community is perhaps “incomplete”. From Max’s perceptive the Jewish Community is indeed fragmented, not the perceived cultural “monolith”. Max also said, “That’s okay… So long as it’s coming from a good place.” That it starts a useful dialogue.
I agree with Max, that we live in an era of rigidly intolerant political correctness. To the extent that one can’t express him or herself acceptably without possessing several Ph.D.s in any given subject. That ain’t happening. I believe intolerance of other people’s intolerance is still prejudice. Just saying.
The greater fear is: “If you don’t express yourself perfectly… Now you’re in trouble.” That’s what LeBron experienced. It could have easily been you or me. LeBron’s consequences were magnified, because of his obvious sphere of influence and celebrity. Maybe, Lebron did not know about every nuance of cultural stereotypes? Do we expect LeBron to be perfect? Do we expect ourselves to be perfect, too? No. We don’t. We aren’t perfect either.
In terms of LeBron “Needing to be careful,” Max thoughtfully said, “I think it’s all right for him to be uncomfortable.” It’s all right to be uncomfortable to become the leader, to make a difference somehow.
He pointed out that Muhammad Ali was made a profound difference in the world. “And he was as arrogant as can be” at a time back in the 1960s when no one would tolerate that. Ali “sacrificed a whole lot.” Yet, “Because of the courage of his convictions… he became the most celebrated athlete on planet Earth.”
You have to be willing to be uncomfortable to make a profound difference, for that to be your possible legacy, like Lebron. Like Max, I believe that it’s okay for Lebron (and us) to “express himself imperfectly”. He’ll learn. We’ll learn. Perhaps, we’ll become enlightened along the path.
Dare for what you say, for your art to be imperfect, when it comes from a good space, from a good heart. When it comes from the space of creating a meaningful dialogue or fostering understanding of another human being.
Stephen A. clarified that by “being careful” about what Lebron or we say: Don’t knowingly take heat for posting a fucking rap lyric on Instagram. If you’re going to say something, make it count. Make it something that’s meaningful to you. Amen, Stephen A. Dare to be imperfect in your words, to be imperfect in your art when it is something meaningful to you.
Years ago, when I was teaching 15-year-old Lukas Aikido, he was also a gifted soccer player. His Dad Neil, who was also Nidan at the Aikido Dojo, told me the story of how Lukas got suspended for a game. While Lukas was driving the ball down to the goal, this other kid ran beside him and tried to elbow him in the face. Lukas let the blow pass his face. He then threw the kid to the ground with Iriminage, a classic Aikido throw. Consequently, Lukas was kicked out of the game and suspended for one game.
After Sunday morning Aikido class we all had lunch at our favorite diner, Ronnie’s. I told Lukas, “What you did was bad. Bad. And I’m proud of you.” That was cool with Neil. However, my “imperfect” words did not go over well with Lukas’s Mom. I apologized.
I spoke imperfectly because Lukas didn’t take shit from some wannabe bully. Good for Lukas. Granted I worked on Iriminage with him for a couple years. So he was good at it. I was proud that Lukas stood up against some bully. I was okay with saying my imperfect words.
Bullying lies at the source of the #Metoo revolution. Most of the sexual assaulters are men, who deem themselves greater than the women they abuse. That’s simply bullshit behavior. That just needs to stop.
Yes, I’ve read articles ad nauseam blaming the culture of toxic masculinity for #Metoo. Perhaps. But that doesn’t stop this kind of repugnant behavior. More than any kind of thoughtful dialogue about sexual assault, I think what victims of this kind of sexual assault want most is that this just stop. That this kind of behavior no longer claims victims.
Before one can be a good man, one needs to be a good human being. Be kind to others. Don’t think you’re inherently better than anyone. We’re all imperfect. But that doesn’t mean you get to be a dick. Don’t be a dick.
In this era of global political correctness, we might fear what to say, fear what we create as our art. I believe that as long as what I have to say or what I create comes from the space of making a difference, it’s okay to be imperfect. I’ll make mistakes. I’ll become the greater for that along my journey. This need to satisfy some self-imposed illusion of political correctness only diverts our path in becoming greater than we know.
Imperfectly be true to yourself. Imperfectly be true to your art. Be imperfectly true to your Life as Art. Dare to make the big mistakes. Become greater, because of them. After all, we’re imperfect. After all, life is imperfect too.
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