In our cultural wars there are an enormous amount of battle lines that have been drawn. According to the partisans, the last two presidents could either do nothing right or are playing six-dimensional chess. There are all kind of trenches for various religious groups and races and ethnicities. We see it as the bigotry of bigotry. If those folks on the other side are against us then we can’t admit that they could be right about anything.
The rays of sunshine come from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar via Jay Nordlinger at NRO. Kareem’s “Where Is The Outrage At Anti-Semitism In Sports And Hollywood?” makes us see sunshine, rainbows and more for two reasons. First, it is well done. Of course you should read it it all but here is a great story about the wonderful Billie Holliday from Kareem:
One of the most powerful songs in the struggle against racism is Billie Holiday’s melancholic “Strange Fruit,” which was first recorded in 1939. The song met strong resistance from radio stations afraid of its graphic lyrics about lynching:
Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Despite those who wanted to suppress the song, it went on to sell a million copies that year and became Holiday’s best-selling record ever. The song was written by a white, Jewish high school teacher, Abel Meeropol, who performed it with his wife around New York before it was given to Holiday.
One small quibble: We expect that Abel got his royalties. He didn’t give the song to Billie. He gave her the right to sing it.
What makes us joyful about Kareem’s op-ed is that he black Muslim. He began using his Muslim name many years ago at the age of 24.
Sidebar: Kareem’s Wikipedia entry might need some explaining. He did win three consecutive NCAA championships. Back in those days you couldn’t leave college early for the NBA and you couldn’t, how quaint, play varsity as a freshman. End Sidebar.
Before that he was Lew Alcindor. Kareem’s history makes his op-ed infinitely more powerful. When Kareem takes Louis Farrakhan to task folks might listen. He ends with this:
The lesson never changes, so why is it so hard for some people to learn: No one is free until everyone is free. As Martin Luther King Jr. explained: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” So, let’s act like it. If we’re going to be outraged by injustice, let’s be outraged by injustice against anyone.
We can still disagree about when X’s freedom impairs Y’s freedom but we need to first look at ourselves. We are glad that Kareem found his voice. We hope he will be a role model for others in every group.