Sometimes people say things that are so utterly outlandish that, once I manage to close my mouth and register that yes, they really did just say that, I want to scream and/or take a baseball bat to my TV. As I was making my dinner and listening to the news (yes, I was watching Fox – what of it?), I heard the anchor doing a snippet on Jesse Jackson’s commentary about LeBron James’ move to the Miami Heat. Before I continue this story, allow me to say this: I do not watch basketball, nor do I intend to start. My outrage at this story is based on historical facts and my distaste for RIDICULOUSLY STUPID comments. Now then… having said that, apparently Jesse Jackson compared Cleveland Cavaliers owner Daniel Gilbert to a “slavemaster” because he chewed out LeBron James for leaving the Cavaliers in a written statement. He says Gilbert views LeBron as a “runaway slave” and acts like he owns LeBron instead of the Cavaliers. Aside from the general absurdity of this statement, I have two problems with Jackson’s diatribe.
1) This analogy demeans and belittles the tragedy that real slaves endured. Slaves were torn away from their families, beaten mercilessly, and forced to work long hours under grueling conditions. Their lives were painful, miserable, and often very short. Contrast that situation with how LeBron James lives – nice cars, nice houses, doing something he loves for a living and getting paid obscene amounts of money for it. Yeah – sounds like slavery to me. In addition, many slavemasters severely mistreated their slaves (you know, aside from the “holding them in bondage against their will” thing) – they beat/tortured them for trying to escape or for rebelling in other ways. They forced their slaves to live in tiny, poorly-furnished shacks and separated mothers from children and husbands from wives by selling them off. All Gilbert did was publicly complain about King James moving to another team, which I’m sure any owner would have done in this situation – it sucks losing one of your best, most popular players to another team, but doing a little public bitching and moaning hardly makes you a slavemaster, at least in my eyes. “Slavery” is not an analogy to be thrown around lightly, especially by people who have never experienced the horrors of forced labor (in other words – most people living in the US, including Jesse Jackson). In addition to cheapening the hardships endured by black American slaves in the past, statements like the ones made by Jesse Jackson also minimize the horrors of modern-day slavery, which often involve women and children trafficked into the US and other countries illegally for use as sex workers – but maybe in Mr. Jackson’s eyes, pimping stolen children and complaining about losing a good player are on the same level.
2) Jesse Jackson is a race-baiting attention whore who says things like this as a failed attempt to remain relevant in a post-civil rights era where we have a black president. He needs to hang it up.