LeBron James is one of the richest, most successful, most recognizable African Americans to ever walk the earth. But for some people, his wealth, success, and charitable good works are irrelevant. All they see is the color of his skin.
James was the victim of a hate crime early Wednesday morning, as someone spray-painted the N-word on a gate surrounding his Los Angeles home. It was an ugly, disgusting incident, and James didn’t shy away from it.
“No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, you know being black in America is tough,” James said, “and we got a long way to go – for us as a society and for us as African Americans – until we feel equal in America.”
Marc Spears admired James’ thoughtful, direct response.
“I’m glad he went strong,” The Undefeated senior NBA writer said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “People need to hear that. I’m glad he didn’t say ‘No comment.’ Ten years ago, I think he would have said ‘No comment.’ Now his voice is much stronger. He doesn’t mind using it. I think he understands the power that he (has). It’s a different time for him now. He’s more of a man, more confident.”
This incident was a humbling reminder that anyone – regardless of status or merit – can be affected by racism in America.
“It’s just sad,” Spears said. “Last time I checked, when I was born, nobody said, ‘What race do you want to be?’ Racism is so ignorant and silly. To be mad at somebody because of their color is just very ridiculous.
Spears grew up in a racially diverse community and is happy to have had that experience, as it was integral to his upbringing.
“I was blessed to live in San Jose, California,” he said. “Grew up there. At that time, it was one of the most diverse places in the country – and still is. One of my buddies always talks about, ‘Remember how we used to have those after-school things where every kid had to bring a diss that was unique to his culture?’ My mom always made shrimp jambalaya because I’m black and Creole, (and my other friends’ families made all sorts of cultural dishes). That’s what I knew. I was blessed with that. But when you go to other places and you see people that don’t have that – people are products of their environment. But it’s sad. I’m hoping that the next generation doesn’t bite into racism that. Racism isn’t something that’s taught. It’s not something that’s born in you.”
Spears has lost friendships due to racism. It’s unfortunate, but that’s his reality.
“I’m a very intelligent person and I’m black and it’s okay,” Spears said. “When you bleed, it’s all red.”