Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Rachel Dolezal, Isaac Hayes, and Al Jolson

[Read the post]


I saw it… and I just had to do this


Apparently lying to employers and the public you’re representing when the lie benefits you personally and professionally is a deficit in character. However, the fight for equality is too important to all Americans to lose someone as passionate as she is and who has accomplished as much as she has.

I guess my question is, does the lying tarnish the message? Yes, there is likely a large segment of the population that does not understand the racial identity story, just as there is likely a large segment that doesn’t understand gender identity… and that is worthy of a discussion in society. That being said, does the lying give opponents, or those unwilling to listen and think about these issues, an “out”, so to say, to avoid the topic…?

If this woman is sincere about her identity and bringing about a discussion regarding racial identity, are the accusations of lying doing more harm than good?

Actually, my question is: Where are all those people who said, for example, only women can write about the ‘woman’s experience’, only immigrants can write about the ‘immigrant experience’, only black people can write about the ‘black experience’.

But seriously, I’ve got an article by Adolph Reed Jr., From Jenner to Dolezal: One Trans Good, the Other Not So Much where he discusses some of the questions/points that this story caused me to ponder.

1 Like

Who knew Abdul-Jabbar was such a good writer? That was great! First he’s a great actor (Airplane!) and now this, next you’ll tell me he’s good at sports or something.


Can you put apostrophes in hash-tags?

OMG - he’s right!


I’m finding it difficult to accept his defense of blackface at face value.


Did you see Jelani Cobb’s article:

This whole thing…

[ETA] I keep coming back to two things in my mind. First, white people who want to help the cause, and how you don’t need to pretend to be black to do so. Second, her claim that white women can’t raise black children, other than the fact that white women have done so, historically.


Thanks, hadn’t seen that; great food for thought (but, even the NYer is calling her a “professor” – check your facts, famous notorious fact checkers! aside from a debate about who really counts as “black,” how about one about who really counts as a “professor”?).

This whole Dolezal thing is prompting a lot of interesting worms to crawl out of the woodwork. About all I’ve decided so far is that it’s too easy and lazy to simply ridicule Dolezal as just some crazy white lady. Even though she has been signaling several levels of delusion, I wouldn’t be 100% surprised if it becomes clear that she knows exactly what she’s doing. And even if she doesn’t, she’s already cracked open a complex and fascinating discussion.

ETA: Two things that keep coming to mind for me – her suit at Howard as a white person, and the lying she did to black people (and others), and thus her breach of their trust. Walter White passed too (as white in order to report on lynchings), but his passing wasn’t a lie to those he was working with in his anti-lynching activism.


Shaft never really did it for me. But watching Kareem in his prime kind of made me wish a little that I were black…and taller. Yes, much taller.

TNC posted this like on his twitters:


yeah, the Howard lawsuit is quite fucked up (she claims to be an ally then sues the Mecca for discrimination). I wonder why she felt as if she were entitled to go to a black space, a very specific black space, and demand full inclusion. Someone in the other thread I started about this suggested she was suing because she felt she was black and was being miscategorized by the University, but her own brother (who I think she adopted as her son) said that she said “don’t blow my cover” to him when he moved in with her family. I like how Cobb points out that her time at Howard (4 years!) should have given her a very clear idea about the complexities of race, from the perspective of the black community, yet she still pass herself off as black in a way that seems clearly designed to benefit her, even as she was doing work for the community…

I don’t think I’d ever presume to imagine myself as black, no matter how angry I am about the state of race relations in America (which is plenty angry, as we all should be). I can’t wrap my head around her thinking here, other than she wanted to be what she most admired. It’s kind of easy to admire black women especially (in the still kind of weird Norman Mailer kind of way), but frankly, it hasn’t been her struggle historically. It’s not my struggle historically. I can study it, respect it, try to do what I can to highlight it to other whites, etc, but it’s not my struggle. It’s not her struggle. If whites have a role in all this, it’s as Stokely Carmichael said - going to the white community (especially, the poor white southern communities) and doing the hard work there. That seems to me the only way we can even begin to undo the damage of centuries of slavery, the new slavery/Jim crow, and the current, new Jim Crow…

Also, Dave Chappelle won’t joke about her (although he kind of did, in his reference to the racial draft):



It is your struggle. It is my struggle. We’re all humans. We have to stand up for each other despite our differences, be they skin deep, cultural, in creed, faith, sexuality, or any other shape or form. We have to fight the urge in ourselves and in others to see only the difference, not the similarity, not the humanity. This struggle belongs to all of us, be we empowered by difference, or disempowered. We must not stand idly by when others are trodden down by bigots or the systems bigots have created. We must stand up for our fellow humans and try to right the wrongs we’ve been born to, or the wrongs we have committed. We must do this no matter what we look like, what our parents taught us, what god or science we believe in, who we see as our partner, or what color our skin is. For we are all humans. Don’t believe the ones who tries to divide you by your differences, for whatever reasons good or bad they may do that. You’re all one in your humanity.

Except we don’t live in a world where we can pick and choose all things being equal. Because all things are not equal. That’s the problem, that’s the point. It would be rude and frankly dickish of me to insert myself into a set of circumstances that have not historically impacted me in the same way. Any help I offer should be based on what’s asked of me, not how I feel I should insert myself into the conversation/struggle. Being a white woman and saying “I know how to fix the problems of the black community, so let me talk now, black people” is not helpful and only serves to reinforce white suprmacy, because it’s a white person acting like they have the sole right to speak. Listening to the voices of black americans and doing what you can to support and amplify that is actually helpful.

Of course we’re all humans, but as human beings we have created these social categories that have real power in our society. I do more effective work by trying to destroy racist thought among whites, not by assuming a mantle of blackness and assuming I know best for the black community.

[ETA] Just erasing the structures of white supremacy without dealing with its painful legacy does nothing, except sweep it under the rug.


Do you feel the same about transgender people?

1 Like

How is it the same? How is switching the conversation to transgendered people not derailing? Let’s deal with the sticky situation at hand, instead of deflecting to something else, shall we?

Again, erasing structures of white supremacy instead of dealing with its legacy does nothing, except sweep it under the rug.


How is it different? It’s very similar – KAJ brings up this point explicitly in the very article we are discussing (and is thus the exact opposite of derailing - it’s keeping us on-topic):

At no time in history has the challenge of personal identity seemed more relevant. Olympic champion Bruce Jenner struggled for years with her gender identity and only at the age of 65, as Caitlyn Jenner, seems to have come to some peace with it. The same with many in the gay community who have battled internal and external demons before embracing their true selves. The difference is that these people faced a biological imperative rather than a free will choice of orientation (#readthesciencebeforepostingoutrage). Dolezal chose to identify with a racial group she was not born into, like Sean Connery as the Japanese expert in Rising Sun.

Lest you think KAJ is thus dismissing Dolezal’s claim with the last sentence, the subsequent paragraph is important:

The thing about race is that, scientifically, there is no such thing. As far back as 1950, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released the conclusions of an international group of anthropologists, geneticists, sociologists, and psychologists that stated that the concept of race was not a scientific entity but a myth. Since then, one scientific group after another has issued similar conclusions. What we use to determine race is really nothing more than some haphazard physical characteristics, cultural histories, and social conventions that distinguish one group from another. But, for the sake of communication, we will continue to misuse the word, myself included, in order to discuss our social issues so everyone understands them. As far as Dolezal is concerned, technically, since there is no such thing as race, she’s merely selected a cultural preference of which cultural group she most identifies with. Who can blame her? Anyone who listens to the Isaac Hayes song, “Shaft,” wants to be black—for a little while anyway (#who’sthecatwhowon’tcopout).


You really think that @chesterfield wasn’t derailing with his comment about transgender?

So then it’s an irrelevant comparison if race has no basis in biology, which of course it doesn’t. The trandgendered issue is a different set of questions, that might have more basis in biology than race. At the very least, it often includes a change in physical biology via hormonal therapy and sometimes surgery (not always, but it can and does).

1 Like

It’s in the article that we are discussing. So, no, I don’t think it is derailing to reference a key element in the article we are discussing.

Are there any other elements of the article we are discussing that you would prefer removed from disussion, or at least labelled off-topic (where the article is partically the topic, and partially whatever you choose it to be)?