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Abdul-Jabbar writes: "And, unless we want the Ferguson atrocity to also be swallowed and become nothing more than an intestinal irritant to history, we have to address the situation not just as another act of systemic racism, but as what else it is: class warfare."

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. (photo: unknown)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. (photo: unknown)

The Coming Race War Won't Be About Race

By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, TIME Magazine

18 August 14


Ferguson is not just about systemic racism — it's about class warfare and how America's poor are held back, says Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

ill the recent rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, be a tipping point in the struggle against racial injustice, or will it be a minor footnote in some future grad student’s thesis on Civil Unrest in the Early Twenty-First Century?

You probably have heard of the Kent State shootings: on May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on student protesters at Kent State University. During those 13 seconds of gunfire, four students were killed and nine were wounded, one of whom was permanently paralyzed. The shock and outcry resulted in a nationwide strike of 4 million students that closed more than 450 campuses. Five days after the shooting, 100,000 protestors gathered in Washington, D.C. And the nation’s youth was energetically mobilized to end the Vietnam War, racism, sexism, and mindless faith in the political establishment.

You probably haven’t heard of the Jackson State shootings.

On May 14th, 10 days after Kent State ignited the nation, at the predominantly black Jackson State University in Mississippi, police killed two black students (one a high school senior, the other the father of an 18-month-old baby) with shotguns and wounded twelve others.

There was no national outcry. The nation was not mobilized to do anything. That heartless leviathan we call History swallowed that event whole, erasing it from the national memory.

And, unless we want the Ferguson atrocity to also be swallowed and become nothing more than an intestinal irritant to history, we have to address the situation not just as another act of systemic racism, but as what else it is: class warfare.

By focusing on just the racial aspect, the discussion becomes about whether Michael Brown’s death—or that of the other three unarmed black men who were killed by police in the U.S. within that month—is about discrimination or about police justification. Then we’ll argue about whether there isn’t just as much black-against-white racism in the U.S. as there is white-against-black. (Yes, there is. But, in general, white-against-black economically impacts the future of the black community. Black-against-white has almost no measurable social impact.)

Then we’ll start debating whether or not the police in America are themselves an endangered minority who are also discriminated against based on their color—blue. (Yes, they are. There are many factors to consider before condemning police, including political pressures, inadequate training, and arcane policies.) Then we’ll question whether blacks are more often shot because they more often commit crimes. (In fact, studies show that blacks are targeted more often in some cities, like New York City. It’s difficult to get a bigger national picture because studies are woefully inadequate. The Department of Justice study shows that in the U.S. between 2003 and 2009, among arrest-related deaths there’s very little difference among blacks, whites, or Latinos. However, the study doesn’t tell us how many were unarmed.)

This fist-shaking of everyone’s racial agenda distracts America from the larger issue that the targets of police overreaction are based less on skin color and more on an even worse Ebola-level affliction: being poor. Of course, to many in America, being a person of color is synonymous with being poor, and being poor is synonymous with being a criminal. Ironically, this misperception is true even among the poor.

And that’s how the status quo wants it.

The U.S. Census Report finds that 50 million Americans are poor. Fifty million voters is a powerful block if they ever organized in an effort to pursue their common economic goals. So, it’s crucial that those in the wealthiest One Percent keep the poor fractured by distracting them with emotional issues like immigration, abortion and gun control so they never stop to wonder how they got so screwed over for so long.

One way to keep these 50 million fractured is through disinformation. PunditFact’s recent scorecard on network news concluded that at Fox and Fox News Channel, 60 percent of claims are false. At NBC and MSNBC, 46 percent of claims were deemed false. That’s the “news,” folks! During the Ferguson riots, Fox News ran a black and white photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with the bold caption: “Forgetting MLK’s Message/Protestors in Missouri Turn to Violence.” Did they run such a caption when either Presidents Bush invaded Iraq: “Forgetting Jesus Christ’s Message/U.S. Forgets to Turn Cheek and Kills Thousands”?

How can viewers make reasonable choices in a democracy if their sources of information are corrupted? They can’t, which is exactly how the One Percent controls the fate of the Ninety-Nine Percent.

Worse, certain politicians and entrepreneurs conspire to keep the poor just as they are. On his HBO comedic news show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver ran an expose of the payday loan business and those who so callously exploit the desperation of the poor. How does an industry that extorts up to 1,900 percent interest on loans get away with it? In Texas, State Rep. Gary Elkins blocked a regulatory bill, despite the fact that he owns a chain of payday loan stores. And the politician who kept badgering Elkins about his conflict of interest, Rep. Vicki Truitt, became a lobbyist for ACE Cash Express just 17 days after leaving office. In essence, Oliver showed how the poor are lured into such a loan, only to be unable to pay it back and having to secure yet another loan. The cycle shall be unbroken.

Dystopian books and movies like Snowpiercer, The Giver, Divergent, Hunger Games, and Elysium have been the rage for the past few years. Not just because they express teen frustration at authority figures. That would explain some of the popularity among younger audiences, but not among twentysomethings and even older adults. The real reason we flock to see Donald Sutherland’s porcelain portrayal in Hunger Games of a cold, ruthless president of the U.S. dedicated to preserving the rich while grinding his heel into the necks of the poor is that it rings true in a society in which the One Percent gets richer while our middle class is collapsing.

That’s not hyperbole; statistics prove this to be true. According to a 2012 Pew Research Center report, just half of U.S. households are middle-income, a drop of 11 percent since the 1970s; median middle-class income has dropped by 5 percent in the last ten years, total wealth is down 28 percent. Fewer people (just 23 percent) think they will have enough money to retire. Most damning of all: fewer Americans than ever believe in the American Dream mantra that hard work will get them ahead.

Rather than uniting to face the real foe—do-nothing politicians, legislators, and others in power—we fall into the trap of turning against each other, expending our energy battling our allies instead of our enemies. This isn’t just inclusive of race and political parties, it’s also about gender. In her book Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution, Laurie Penny suggests that the decreased career opportunities for young men in society makes them feel less valuable to females; as a result they deflect their rage from those who caused the problem to those who also suffer the consequences: females.

Yes, I’m aware that it is unfair to paint the wealthiest with such broad strokes. There are a number of super-rich people who are also super-supportive of their community. Humbled by their own success, they reach out to help others. But that’s not the case with the multitude of millionaires and billionaires who lobby to reduce Food Stamps, give no relief to the burden of student debt on our young, and kill extensions of unemployment benefits.

With each of these shootings/chokehold deaths/stand-your-ground atrocities, police and the judicial system are seen as enforcers of an unjust status quo. Our anger rises, and riots demanding justice ensue. The news channels interview everyone and pundits assign blame.

Then what?

I’m not saying the protests in Ferguson aren’t justified—they are. In fact, we need more protests across the country. Where’s our Kent State? What will it take to mobilize 4 million students in peaceful protest? Because that’s what it will take to evoke actual change. The middle class has to join the poor and whites have to join African-Americans in mass demonstrations, in ousting corrupt politicians, in boycotting exploitative businesses, in passing legislation that promotes economic equality and opportunity, and in punishing those who gamble with our financial future.

Otherwise, all we’re going to get is what we got out of Ferguson: a bunch of politicians and celebrities expressing sympathy and outrage. If we don’t have a specific agenda—a list of exactly what we want to change and how—we will be gathering over and over again beside the dead bodies of our murdered children, parents, and neighbors.

I hope John Steinbeck is proven right when he wrote in Grapes of Wrath, “Repression works only to strengthen and knit the oppressed.” But I’m more inclined to echo Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues,” written the year after the Kent State/Jackson State shootings:

Inflation no chance

To increase finance

Bills pile up sky high

Send that boy off to die

Make me wanna holler

The way they do my life

Make me wanna holler

The way they do my life your social media marketing partner


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+187 # Billy Bob 2014-08-18 13:50
We need to hear more from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He has a talent for summing up what's going on.
+138 # Nominae 2014-08-18 18:31
Quoting Billy Bob:
We need to hear more from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He has a talent for summing up what's going on.

Dude ! This man can *WRITE*. A calm voice of stunningly cogent sanity in an ocean of babble, racket, chaos, and calamity.

He truly *does* cut thru the bull to the heart of the matter, doesn't he ?

And he considers all sides. He apparently has no axe of his own to grind.
+85 # fuzzbuzz 2014-08-18 18:47
Brilliant, Mr Abdul-Jabbar! Very well said.

It's about time someone said these things. I've always thought the "black vs white" lens that is used to view these events was distorting our view. It makes much more sense to view it from the "rich vs poor" perspective.

Rich black people aren't getting killed in the streets, as far as I know. It's always the poor ones. I also think it's plenty evident that police brutality against poor white people has sky-rocketed in the last decade (Youtube is full of evidence). The common factor is poverty, not skin color.

The "black vs white" card is played by rich people to keep the population divided, much like the "Shia vs Sunni" schism that the US uses to keep the Iraqi population divided (with false flag ops, propaganda, etc.), which gives the great excuse of having to maintain an army there to prevent a civil war. The Brits used the same exact tactics, propaganda, and excuses, to invade, and then occupy, Iraq, more than a 100 years ago)

These divisive and distracting schemes have been very well developed in the last century, mostly in "democractic" countries (mainly USA, UK), for population control in lieu of state violence (I refer the reader to the great works of Chomsky for the gritty details, e.g. "Manufacturing consent"), so we're up against a very efficient and experienced monster unfortunately.
+22 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-08-18 21:20
We need another leader like Martin Luther King who is not afraid to put his life on the line for his people. America's original sin-slavery.
+29 # Kootenay Coyote 2014-08-18 21:47
& some White ones along the same lines, too.
+17 # roger dittmann 2014-08-18 22:01
Hear! Hear! but like Peter Finch on Network, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"--and when I figure out who's dong it to me... Then organize, but organize with a strategy for success. However, people don't want to buy a pig in a poke. We need to think about how a better society would be structured.. Let's get started [many already have and we can learn from them].
+3 # jmac9 2014-08-21 12:14
Kareem states we need an agenda, well
at least presidentmac.or g
has put out an agenda - a legislative mandate of specific changes to take back our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

You are more important than profit.

We the people are government. The Constitution states it: We the people.
Not we the corporations, or we the banks, or even we the Christians -

As Kareem states;
The corporate-Repub lican-Tea Party deflect you with frauds of gun rights, birth control, immigration, religion, all the while they are stealing your money out of your pocket to give to corporations and bankers and cutting all things that benefit you.
Well look how they vote: They cut veterans benefits, education, health care, seniors assistance, clean air-water, food safety and when they destroyed the economy - they blocked unemployment funds and gave tax breaks to the rich.
Republicans and Tea Party are 100% corporate criminal,

When you see how they vote - not the propaganda they talk -
you'll never vote Republican-Tea Party again. They work against you.
By the way,
Democrats seem to be 75% corporate feeders as well.
+3 # Jim Young 2014-08-21 20:10
Quoting Billy Bob:
We need to hear more from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He has a talent for summing up what's going on.

My respect for his communicating skill goes back to what I learned from Kareem Abdul Jabbar on Cat Green's "Talk Stoop." She surprised him by acknowledging his "Sky Hook" but asked him what his greatest achievement was off court. He hesitated a little but, said "I guess learning to get my point across without confusing, or alienating people."
-121 # Roland 2014-08-18 14:30
Yes, politicians do a lot that is in their own personal interests and that is bad for the country. However, to say the rich want the system to work this way and for the poor middle class to suffer is wrong. The better everyone does the more money they make and the more the tax burden can be shared.

The problem is that the two parties have two very different ideas as to how to resolve the problem of what is best for the people and economy.
+20 # propsguy 2014-08-18 19:53
the two parties are virtually indistinguishab le! sure, the repubs may be a bit more disturbed, but they all take their marching orders from on high
+15 # dquandle 2014-08-18 20:52
Indeed two ultra-right wings, both with fascist tendencies, aiming to, and succeeding in reaming the hell out of the poor and middle class.
+17 # Cappucino 2014-08-18 21:56
When somebody posts statements that are so stunningly wide of the mark, so egregiously untruthful, it does not do any good to focus on the least important thing that they wrote (what two political parties are or aren't doing.) I'm sure you mean well, but the other 99% percent of that post is a lot more significant. Don't rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic.
-49 # Roland 2014-08-19 07:13
You believe the post to be wide of the mark but around half the country believes what I do. The 99% isn't what you think it is. Many realize that your left of left desires are not in the best interest of anyone.
+33 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-08-18 21:08
Ignore Roland. He is a "board plant." Nobody is that stupid all the time.
+26 # kalpal 2014-08-19 05:04
Having taught students from 8th grade to university, I can assure you that stupidity is never in short supply in that exceptional nation known as the USA. (United States of Amnesia.)
+28 # Saberoff 2014-08-18 22:40
"What is best for the people and economy"?

You're wrong. Neither party wants what's best for anyone but themselves. The rich want what's best for them, only, and they sure as hell don't want to "share" no damn "tax burden."

Where you live?
-58 # Roland 2014-08-19 07:25
The rich are paying far and away most of the taxes. So why wouldn’t they want to balance that out? The top 1% pay around 37% of all income taxes and receive 21% of all income.

They don’t want to overpay workers with artificially high wages that will prevent investments and in turn jobs, but they do want a prosperous economy where everyone does well. This helps them as well. They believe that the more jobs relative to available workers the higher wages will rise.

I know you and others want to demonize the top 1% because it gets some naïve, impressionable people worked up to support your flawed ideas.
+30 # WestWinds 2014-08-19 12:58
Quoting Roland:
The rich are paying far and away most of the taxes. So why wouldn’t they want to balance that out? The top 1% pay around 37% of all income taxes and receive 21% of all income.

They don’t want to overpay workers with artificially high wages that will prevent investments and in turn jobs, but they do want a prosperous economy where everyone does well. This helps them as well. They believe that the more jobs relative to available workers the higher wages will rise.

I know you and others want to demonize the top 1% because it gets some naïve, impressionable people worked up to support your flawed ideas.

--- Sorry, but the facts don't support your assertion. When George W. Bush entered office, the Koch brothers were worth an aggregate sum of 30 billion dollars. Today, they are conservatively worth over 80 billion dollars. What part of this says they are burdened down with taxes... or even paying their fair share of taxes?
+30 # indian weaver 2014-08-18 16:37
Thank you for reminding us of the Jackson State massacre. Yes, those murders were buried in the aftermath of rage against the machine due to the Kent State massacre of the white students by the National Guard. Both state sponsored massacres occurred within days of my graduation from Indiana U. I'll never forget that rage against the machine (Pink Floyd was it that composed the song?). I want it again but this time, 10s of millions must rise up against the fascist terrorist regime of Obama / dumdum dubya's. We the People expect massive government sponsored massacres of 1000s, probably by the insurgent goons supported by the government such as FBI / CIA / DEA in undercover operations. We'll see false flag massacres performed by the state and attributed to We the People. That is how Obama / dumdum operate: with impunity, cruelty and overwhelming explosive force. We expect the worse, worse than Kent State and Jackson State. And as this approaches, the ensuing massacres will not be forgotten because now we have the social networks at attention worldwide. With 100s of legitimate states (no, I do not include Amerika as a legitimate state anymore) aware of this looming fascist terrorist regime of Obama's, Obama's terrorism will be difficult to hide and deny. Thanks again for reminding the world not only of the state sponsored massacre at Kent State, but just as relevant, Jackson State. Yes, most have either never heard of that massacre, or forgotten about it. NOT ME & 1000s like me.
+23 # barbaratodish 2014-08-18 17:17
I agree with Kareem Abdul Jabar! But even when "NEWS" IS factual, it may be factual distraction instead of, or in addition to practical useful information. (Call me Kareem, etc: 973 484-1023). Thoreau said about NEWS: News stands for what is "happening" to the North of us(N) to the East of us(E) to the West of us (W) and to the South of us,(S) because we want to be distracted that THERE REALLY IS NO "us" in the present awareness, i.e., we all somewhat "die" before we die and we (mostly) all "...find out when it comes time to die, that we have never lived."
+16 # WestWinds 2014-08-19 13:05
Quoting barbaratodish:
I agree with Kareem Abdul Jabar! But even when "NEWS" IS factual, it may be factual distraction instead of, or in addition to practical useful information... in the present awareness, i.e., we all somewhat "die" before we die and we (mostly) all "...find out when it comes time to die, that we have never lived."

--- Who can "live" when everything has been dismantled and is in a pile of bones and ash? The only things we have to live for in today's society are our jobs (all work and no play) and a creeping mountain of bills; thanks to usury APR's and pernicious, rapacious inflation.

When I moved to Floriduh ten years ago, my monthly grocery bill was $150.00 a month. As of 2/3rds of this month, my aggregate grocery spending is topping out at $592.72!!!

When I was a kid, my Dad spent $100.00, a month for a family of four and five carts so loaded down, my brother and I were jammed into the back of our station wagon mired under grocery bags.

Today, you are lucky if you get one full cart. I even saw a Filet Mignon medallion going for $48.00!!! And people won't even get up and out to vote in the mid-terms!
-54 # skylinefirepest 2014-08-18 18:17
So why don't we all just wait until all the facts are in and the investigation is done before lynching the cop??? Now I fully admit that the Ferguson cops are not making any friends out there with their military equipment and badass attitudes.
+67 # babalu 2014-08-18 18:41
Lynching is what white people do to Black people. The Ferguson cops are pointing guns at peaceful citizens to cause a riot. Therefore, the police are RIOTING in Ferguson. They are escalating the emotional level and causing more trouble.
-17 # MidwestTom 2014-08-18 19:13
skylinefirepset , that is my feeling exactly. Today someone sent me the following:

This could be another Duke Rugby team, condemned before all of the facts are on the table. I really do not know, but I do not judge from first reports.
+43 # REDPILLED 2014-08-18 20:56
Focusing only on Ferguson misses the point of this essay. Take into account the whole history of police violence against black and poor people, and the fact that police work to enforce the laws made mostly for and by the wealthy, mostly white people who run this country for their own profit. There are more millionires in Congress now than ever before, Wall Street and corporations have much more influence on government than the average citizen, and corporate media, owned by millionires and billionaires, is biased to their own class. The facts and history, especially over the last 30 years, show inequality getting worse here. The united States is now the most unequal developed nation on earth, while also being the wealthiest. That is a recipe for civil unrest.
0 # RHytonen 2014-08-25 04:20
Quoting MidwestTom:
skylinefirepset, that is my feeling exactly. Today someone sent me the following:

This could be another Duke Rugby team, condemned before all of the facts are on the table. I really do not know, but I do not judge from first reports.

There is no nuance here to be created. The situation of absolute greed is well and overwhelmingly obvious, transcending all nuance. Someone made a profit from untaxed government tax money, selling a bullet that was used causing demand for another to replace it. The American consumer is no longer a necessary customer in the system. He now only contributes to a destructive revenue stream as an obstacle to be moved or removed.
+27 # propsguy 2014-08-18 19:55
i haven't seen any lynching unless you want to consider the murder of the kid a form of lynching

as far as i can tell, the cop got escorted from the scene and is probably at home with full pay
+20 # dquandle 2014-08-18 20:53
why didn't the police wait until all the facts and figure were in instead of lynching a civilian?
0 # RHytonen 2014-08-25 04:23
Quoting dquandle:
why didn't the police wait until all the facts and figure were in instead of lynching a civilian?

I think the more tragically revealing question is, why didn't the civilians lynch that cop on the spot?
+35 # carneyva 2014-08-18 20:55
After shooting an unarmed civilian six times, the cop should be in protective custody, i.e., a jail cell.
+11 # kalpal 2014-08-19 05:06
Surely you have in mind a scenario that justifies shooting an unarmed man several times for walking down the middle of a street? I'd love to see it in print.
+42 # Charles3000 2014-08-18 18:50
It is an excellent piece. I think he grew up in Philadelphia and has a first hand knowledge of the facts. I think he could do well in politics if some of his friends would encourage
+16 # propsguy 2014-08-18 19:56
i think he should lead the charge!
+10 # Tazio 2014-08-19 16:20
Kareem is from New York City and played high school ball at Power Memorial.
He has always been very well spoken and thoughtful and I was happy to see that he had written this great piece and I hope everyone shares it with their friends.
+9 # Tazio 2014-08-20 07:37
A bit of historical detail that gets overlooked: Tommy Smith and Lee Evans are famous for their impressive, one-gloved, Black Power salutes on the podium at the 1968 Olympics, but Kareem, still known then as Lew Alcindor, protested the treatment of African-America ns by refusing to even join the Olympic Basketball Team.
He has always been a man of principle,
and his integrity is proportional to his height.
+46 # Willman 2014-08-18 18:54
There are two basic rules of the ruling elite.
1 who holds the gold makes the rules
2 united we stand divided they fall
Mr Abdul-Jabbar is as talented or more in his analysis and writing than his play on the court.
He needs a wider audience.
+16 # born1929 2014-08-18 19:18
Ferguson is a town of approximately 21,000 citizens and it covers an area of some six square miles .... two thirds of its residents have tolerated more injustice for a very long time than we outsiders could imagine and I'm reading that they have had enough .... I think it's possible that if justice is not now served we might next watch a six square mile blaze forthcoming ...and what used to be Ferguson reduced to ashes ...I hope I'm wrong
+31 # dick 2014-08-18 19:23
Roland is hopelessly clueless; well programmed though. Probably a very nice guy. But he got his political economics from Dick & Jane. Time to grow up, smell the plutocracy that feeds on racial hatred & fear, profound ignorance, & the best brainwashing propaganda job in history.
+14 # MidwestTom 2014-08-18 19:30
The problem we all are facing is ourselves. Our elected officials have figured out that to get re-elected they have to continually offer more and more 'benefits' to citizens. Both patios do it. These same 'benefits' tie the recipients to the grantors, thus relieving all pressure on our elected representatives to actually attack and cure real problems in America.

Literally everyone is aware that wall street has almost destroyed the country. Brokers and bankers there consider themselves failures if they are not multi-millionai res by 35. They have so twisted the rules that John Corzine can steal $400 million of investor's money and not be prosecuted; and Paul Singer has amassed enough money that his games have single handedly almost bankrupt Argentina. Yet no one in Washington wants to really attack the NYC crowd. Instead they offer more 'benefits' to enslave more people: get your free Obama phone (and remember who to vote for).

Obama came to office with both houses and did not really attack any problems facing the nation. He could have taken a meat axe to Wall Street, but instead he surrounded himself with Wall Street people, and fought for another bone to throw to the voters.

Many believe that we are to the point that we have more people voting for living, than working for a living. Now that the IRS has access to all foreign bank accounts it may be time to take away everyone's inherited stock and money, and drastically change the rules on Wall Street.
+9 # Glen 2014-08-19 05:27
Nicely written, Tom. I would also add that federal spending is going to projects such as the military, rather than to the health of the country and its citizens. Learning the level of poverty in Ferguson and the lack of funding for the schools is very telling when it comes to the priorities of federal and local governments.
+33 # RogerEllman 2014-08-18 20:10
Right On! Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Class War is the problem. The ruling class's most powerful tool in that war is 'propagandizing ' the populace to believe there is no class war.
+18 # DGM 2014-08-18 21:23
Great article. I do see a different solution to divide and conquer tactics of wealthy and influential sociopaths. I sometimes puzzle my black friends by telling them. “They do not screw you because you are black. They do it because they CAN. They CAN because you are black.” They’ll screw anybody, regardless of race because they’re sociopaths. They validate themselves by dominating and degrading others. Wealth cannot satisfy them. Your poverty can. They make race an issue to keep us from joining others they economically squeeze. They convince ignorant whites they’re not targets because they’re not (like them). I don’t care if creeps like me if they can’t stop us from living a decent, free and secure life with those we respect and love. Put the race issue aside to team up on economic issues. The first step can come from brave civil rights leaders. Martin Luther king made this transition and was soon murdered. He became more of a threat than an asset of distraction to the sociopaths. Racist are pathetic and disgust me, but we can only win by destroying their economic and political power. Employers discriminate at their own peril and eventual destruction if there are plenty of jobs. Same goes for commodities. Economics of contrived scarcity allows sociopaths to degrade and deny opportunity to any of us. Prospering people can protect themselves. We don’t need pundits and media creeps protecting us from racist. Let's demand they stop protecting the economic predators.
+8 # WestWinds 2014-08-19 13:20
Bingo! Exactly correct. Spot on. Right on the money!
+10 # polebridgemod 2014-08-18 21:46
A man of great wisdom. With leaders like him we would all have a different world in which to live. Problem is, every time a man like him stands up, a political extremist, suffering from misplaced anger and frustration shoots him.
+13 # Kootenay Coyote 2014-08-18 21:51
I never forgot Jackson State, which happened while I was studying in Philadelphia. & I'm Canadian & White (well, muddy pink)...It, & Kent State, & Viet Nam all seemed parts of the same horror show, & that show ain't over yet.
+18 # dyannne 2014-08-18 21:53
It's always been class. Not race. In the beginning of this country both white and black were slaves, and the slaves were tight, but the 1 percenters soon learned they could divide those slaves by treating the white ones a little better than the black. Not much better, but better. It worked then. It still works. We are so damn dumb.
+13 # Malcolm 2014-08-18 23:49
Big difference: whites weren't sold at auction, weren't bred with who ever their white masters decided to breed them with, and did not have families torn apart, and sold to different masters.
+9 # NAVYVET 2014-08-19 14:06
Whites, blacks and all other humans have been exploited in chattel slavery & serf-bondage (a.k.a. villeinage) from ancient times to our own year of 2014. Some were so destitute they sold themselves to get food & shelter, some were free people made servile by crooked judges, some were captured in war or raids. Until very recently national laws permitted these forms of slavery, along with self-indenturin g for a term of years. Such laws have been removed in most countries, but on the sly, slaves still exist.

Rural villeinage was by far the commonest form of bondage in Medieval Christian Europe, ending in Germany and Russia as late as the 19th century. Although their treatment was severe and exploitative, serfs had a few legal protections, such as lifelong freedom for a female serf's child sired by a lord.

Post-Medieval slavery concentrated on enslaving people of color, which gave rise to the illusion of "white supremacy". Because it was invented by the merchant-advent urer capitalists of the Renaissance's so-called "Age of Discovery", who sailed around the world stealing people, their captives legally became their "property". This is known as CHATTEL slavery, in which selling & buying people is legally the same as selling or buying cattle or a house.
Chattel slaves, equivalent to property, had NO personal legal recourse and the possibilities for their cruel exploitation were infinite. White supremacists exhibit nostalgia for chattel slavery.
+10 # MDSolomon 2014-08-18 21:55
You got it, Kareem: class war. The objectives of the .00001% at the top of the power pyramid include power, profit, and population reduction.
+15 # Cappucino 2014-08-18 22:07
Can we draft Kareem for political office??
+5 # Saberoff 2014-08-18 22:46
Sounds like Malcolm at the end.

We can't let that kind of talk go unanswered.

Do not look to your right or left, or to your neighbor, as your enemy. Look up!
+10 # bsimpich 2014-08-19 00:04
Great article in every way.
Lots of us remember Jackson State. Let's make sure that our children and grandchildren know all about Jackson State, and Ferguson, and the battles coming up fast.
+10 # ghostperson 2014-08-19 00:07
It's Hurricane Katrina on a smaller scale. Being an evacuee from NOLA, I found it remarkable that the Homeric incapacitation that seized governments at all levels never seemed to occur in wealthier Florida.
+12 # Barbara N Shabo RN 2014-08-19 00:34
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has it right. He is a brilliant and articulate writer and thinker. Our whole family would vote for him in a heartbeat.
+8 # janie1893 2014-08-19 01:02
if you remember Kent State, you must remember 'sit-ins'. They were extremely effective, and with no violence (except by a few very stupid policemen ). If a sit-in of 100,000 or so people could agree on the details, one could be put together in a short time. But one must be prepared to spend as long as necessary, weeks if called for.( now I will wait to read the many reasons it cant be done).
+2 # Glen 2014-08-19 05:20
Students demonstrating is very different from the population at large attempting the same long term efforts. Too many of those "lower class" people are working their butts off to keep their families going and cannot afford to lose jobs.

The government does know how difficult or impossible it would be for folks to get out to demonstrate. Also, the very real chance of getting hurt or even killed hovers over those willing to participate. In that case, families would definitely be thrown into serious poverty.
+7 # coalminds 2014-08-19 02:01
I'd love to agree with Kareem who I think is an excellent writer, but there are too many instances where folks across different classes still think they're better than black people automatically even if they live the same way. It's persistent because we are one of those groups all other groups express hatred for in one way or another in this country.

This police violence in particular is just an attempt to confirm that the 3/5 clause has never really gone anywhere in reality, it's just given a different facade. They won't SAY that black lives are only worth 3/5th (wink wink) they'll just tear gas you for complaining that your teenagers are being murdered and nothing changes. They won't say it, but they'll tell the cop to take his family and get out of town and not release his name for a week b/c he's one of their own, and for many of them black people never will be. Even within the dept. the treatment of blacks confirms this. And for those using the cigar theft now as proof that the pigs were justified, Bernie Madoff probably should have been dropped in the Grand Canyon if we're basing penalty on the theft's severity.
+6 # Artemis 2014-08-19 03:47
Quoting coalminds:
...but there are too many instances where folks across different classes still think they're better than black people automatically even if they live the same way.

I absolutely agree. Having grown up amongst the indigenous population of people of color, I know what it means to take for granted that we are the same, even when earning power is unequal. Therefore I was shocked to spend time in the US as a conscious adult and see what I preceived as a disconcerting divide and prevalent racism, the subject of which I have followed every since.
If you don't experience equality of race as a child, it is hard to ever accept it in the core of your being. You simply do not know your fellow man/woman and miss the opportunity of loving them. That is something all Western countries need to address.
+5 # kalpal 2014-08-19 05:10
America's racism is bone deep in some sectors but most especially in the RW which vehemently denies that it is racist because it refuses to publicly discuss its racism and points out that those who do bring up the topic are the only racists in this nation. The RW is simply dispassionate about the inherent genetic inferiority of all whose skin tone is not that of caucasians. Woe be unto you if you don't look like the Europeans.
+4 # Jingze 2014-08-19 06:29
Right on!
+6 # NAVYVET 2014-08-19 13:10
After we moved to Florida in 1951 my blond dad, an industrial engineer who worked outside much of the day, came home the first day, unbuttoned his open collar shirt facing a mirror and said in horror, "Yikes! I see why they call those bastards rednecks!" Spiritually he was never one of them, but as a Harper's article pointed out a few years ago, global scorching and the diminished ozone layer are likely to cause "The End of the Redheads" (I used to be one and my son still is). The paleface complexion is specialized for survival advantage in a cool, cloudy, rainy, snowy, wintry, glacial climate. In a sunny tropical climate lack of melanin pigment is a potentially fatal liability. My dad got skin cancers and I am now getting them. Thank God my pale blue-eyed son married a naturally tan brown-eyed Asian, so their kids at least have a chance to survive above ground. White "supremacy"--wh at a load of hog dribble!
+10 # Jingze 2014-08-19 06:32
The U.S. is seriously lacking in leadership. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in this clear, honest and perceptive article shows us all the kind of leadership the country needs. This is the kind of man who should be sitting in the congress.
+15 # fredboy 2014-08-19 07:05

While Ferguson has captured the news--and rightly so--a similar horrible slaying of an unarmed young African American man happened recently near Charlotte, NC.

A former college football player was injured when he car went off the road at night. He went to a nearby home asking for help and they instead called the police.

When the police arrived and found the unarmed, injured lone young man, one of the officers shot him repeatedly and killed him.

Murder. By a policeman.

So who investigates this? The police!

Please research this. It reflects the truth of this remarkable column: The police, armed and militarized, have launched an open class war. Starting with the perversion and discrediting of the Supreme Court in 2000, the entire system of justice is being turned against us.
+9 # danireland46 2014-08-19 09:01
Thanks Kareem, this is an excellent summation of the situation in America inspired by the tragedy in Ferguson.
The most important points made were: first, the divide and conquor principle; as long as we're fighting each other we can't concentrate on the real enemy- the plutocracy. Second, this is about economic fairness more than race, and third, like the problem with the Wall Street protests, we have to unify around the central issue of economic inequity or we'll just be battling windmills forever.
+11 # David Starr 2014-08-19 09:53
Class warfare. Kareem hit the nail on the head.
+11 # reiverpacific 2014-08-19 10:31
Quoting Roland:
You believe the post to be wide of the mark but around half the country believes what I do. The 99% isn't what you think it is. Many realize that your left of left desires are not in the best interest of anyone.

A little question.
Does money = Quality of life?
Look at Bhutan, Denmark and any country which takes care of it's population and in which the GDP is less important than the GHI (Gross Happiness Index) as stated by the former.
There is no perfect place for such a diverse species as Homo Sapiens but if priorities are an indicator of personal tranquility, the US must be near the bottom, especially regarding "Rich-developed " nations.
And look at the Koches: apparently they even hate each other.
BTW, >"Around half the country" watches and believes Ruppie Muck-doc's "Fixed" News: if that's your indication of credibility it's about as realistic in content as the Church of Scientology.
-4 # WestWinds 2014-08-19 13:33
--- I understand the point you are trying to make here but Bhutan and Denmark are small countries compared to the US population all competing for jobs, goods and quality of life. The math:

Bhutan pop: 753,947 (2013)

Denmark pop: 5.60 million (2013)

USA pop: 316.13 million (2013)
+2 # reiverpacific 2014-08-20 09:38
Quoting WestWinds:
--- I understand the point you are trying to make here but Bhutan and Denmark are small countries compared to the US population all competing for jobs, goods and quality of life. The math:

Bhutan pop: 753,947 (2013)

Denmark pop: 5.60 million (2013)

USA pop: 316.13 million (2013)

That didn't answer my primary question: does Money=quality of life and how would you define q.o.l?
A start; everybody has the basics human needs of shelter, food, healthcare and security of place.
It goes upward from there and certainly doesn't quash enterprise.
There are other countries much larger and more populous than this with these basics and more.
I don't wish to lecture or compare apples to apples but in my opinion and experience, the US has, since the advent of Reagan, morphed from a good and pretty happy place to live, work and create into one of the angriest and most fragmented nations I've ever experienced globally.
+1 # WestWinds 2014-08-20 10:35
Quoting reiverpacific:
"That didn't answer my primary question: does Money=quality of life and how would you define q.o.l?

--- Yes. Money figures into quality of life. Why? Because over time we have structured it to be that way. You must have money to pay rent, property taxes, for food, even water and sewage before you can even think about enterprise or personal industry.

"A start; everybody has the basics human needs of shelter, food, healthcare and security of place."

--- Agreed. And you have just answered your own question. Without a platform of shelter, health and sustenance, you're going nowhere in terms of q.o.l.

"It goes upward from there and certainly doesn't quash enterprise."

--- Agreed. How many garage success stories have we heard over the years that start, "Well, I borrowed some money from (fill in the blank) to get started and after XYZ amount of time working out of my garage, I was able to..." etc.

"There are other countries much larger and more populous than this with these basics and more."

--- I don't understand your point here. Define "with these basics and more." Are you saying China and India have these basics and more (what?) therefore they are happier?

See Part 2
+2 # WestWinds 2014-08-20 10:45
Part 2

I don't wish to lecture or compare apples to apples but in my opinion and experience, the US has, since the advent of Reagan, morphed from a good and pretty happy place to live, work and create into one of the angriest and most fragmented nations I've ever experienced globally.

--- You're not lecturing. We are exchanging ideas to try and come to a place of deeper understanding about what's going on and why. You're fine. No problem.

--- As for "angriest and most fragmented nations..." I totally agree. But for me, it harkens back to Reaganomics. Reagan is the one who inserted "trickle down" aka supply side economics and the results have been the destruction of the Middle Class, the termination of pathways through education to better living standards, "austerity" or planned, intentional poverty, and poverty for all but the 1%.

My objection is to people being told to "grin and bear it", "smile though your heart is aching/breaking " "keep a stiff upper lip" "Be happy" when there is nothing to be happy about. All of this is getting us to go along to get along. They want us to be happy when they are shafting us mercilessly and endlessly.

Quality of Life has to include the basics. After that we go for some kind of occupation that makes our lives meaningful.

See Part 3
+2 # WestWinds 2014-08-20 10:52
Part 3

Recently, I was watching a serial about policing in the southern Navajo Nation; NM, AZ, UT. Alcohol and violence has up-ticked sharply in recent years. I could be wrong but it seemed to me the kids need something meaningful to do... but that costs money.

Then again, we have kids watching fast cars and blinged out celebs on TV and the Internet, but they can't participate so they steal, feel guilty, drink and drug at their pain, end up in legal trouble if not jail. Even in my own life, since retiring from a very active life, I feel locked into Groundhog Day because everything costs so much.

One of the things the narrator noted was a breakdown in parenting. Male children are more prone to get into trouble with alcohol, fighting, weapons and the law and the narrator attributed this to a loss of male role models for young males on reservations. But father's are required to work all day and when they come home they have nothing left to give because they gave everything at the job(s). I've heard similar observations made of Black communities from NYC to Chitown. I've watched the same thing happen with White kids, too. Only more Whites get free passes from the existing judiciary. I see that here in Central Florida where my home has been vandalized and burglarized for the past decade and not one single person has been arrested let alone jailed. In these last few decades, since Reagan, people have just been derailed from the pursuit of happiness.

See Part 4
+2 # WestWinds 2014-08-20 11:05
Part 4

So, q.o.l. is a more complex subject than one might think at first glance. I think it requires a base line of creature comforts followed by kids feeling grounded in family and community. Then another component is having structure to their lives and the means to have something to do each individual likes to do and gives personal satisfaction (that does not involve harming other living beings.) But money is always a key component. This business about it is only a state of mind is the rich telling us to be happy with nothing while they wallow in the lap of luxury.

Do you have anything else to add to this list?
+1 # WestWinds 2014-08-20 11:30
RSN: You should read the whole post before giving it a negative rating. How do you negatively rate a dialectic???
+6 # drew 2014-08-19 11:21
Great article. I'm one of the 2%'ers who's humbled by my good fortune and sick about the inequality in America. Nothing takes the fun out of making good $$ like watching your once great Country go down the tubes at the hands of misguided, callous, hypocrite Republicans who are the 1% personified - working only for the interests of the rich & corporations, to the severe detriment of the rest of us - as Kareem mentions: purposely dividing us and fomenting paranoia, jealousy, mistrust - and fighting tooth & nail to preserve the worst, most broken parts of our capitalist system. Most egregiously, their tactics are vile! They don't try to win our support thru the merits of legitimate debate but rather they try to scare us into voting for them by lying about Dems/the poor/immigrants /etc. Those of us who watch a lot of news (from a variety of sources; with open minds) know that the GOP lies 24/7, as easily as most folks breath in & out! Hard to fathom for sure, and it's a downright twisted political strategy, but true nonetheless and easy to see. The saddest part is that it's all fixable. It's easy to envision a MUCH better America if we could just employ some simple, common sense solutions ... but Republicans filibuster those.
+1 # NAVYVET 2014-08-19 12:53
Went into wrong area. Deleted. See below.
+7 # Anonymot 2014-08-19 12:00
Yes. Well said. There is, however an even deeper layer than you mention. This nation is no longer a democracy. We have drifted away from democracy over a couple of decades. We are a dictatorship looking for a dictator. We are a new form of fascism that does not seek to physically control land or people, but to control the economy of the entire globe. Those who control the economy will do what suits them.

In the process, the tone changed. The police became the militias of the new governments (bushobama)sort of leftovers of the armies we sent to Iraq & Afghanistan. Our economic resources were used to advance on 2 critical sources of global weath, Iraq's oil reserves and Afghanistan's narcotics. For the American racial image Obama was chosen and Holder, just as Bush had his Rice. And as Bush was a talking head for Cheney and his neocon cabinet, so Obama is for his neocon cabinet, but we still don't have a name for his ventriloquist.

Even Sebastian Haffner didn't flee for his life until 1938, unable to believe tha HIS Germany had become what it had become.
+3 # WestWinds 2014-08-19 13:36
Follow the money.
-1 # twa 2014-08-19 12:00
Great piece! A terrible tradgedy for sure. The subsequent rioting is an expression of a pent up simmering anger at the overt and long time oppression of not only blacks but an increasing number of all Americans. No--wealth confiscation or more goverment programs are not the answer. A sound economy not run by the elites is what our forefathers and our Constitution provide for. Until we demant a change, we cn expent more of the same.
+2 # WestWinds 2014-08-19 13:37
You mean no taxes and no assistance where needed and necessary. Wrong.
+6 # NAVYVET 2014-08-19 12:54
Thank you--I hope you write more articles! You express the opinions of many of us, including white persons like me who were arrested for a legal petition to bring black students into our white university. Too early I guess (1956). The next year I joined the Navy, resigned to protest the Vietnam War in 1968, so was again an active protester by 1970 when the massacres occurred.

I read about the Jackson State killings in THE NATION or THE PROGRESSIVE or RAMPARTS or all 3, and was upset that it wasn't as prominently known as Kent State's. I recall it being mentioned on TV news, and it may possibly have added to "rainbow" protests already begun, but a lot of my white friends hadn't even heard of it.

Over the years, I've tried to follow the repression and class warfare conducted by the privateer oligarchs, but I was way too optimistic, and was shocked, horrified and angered after reading Michelle Alexander's THE NEW JIM CROW. It's legalistic in tone, but I wish everybody in this country could read it and take actions based on her conclusions, as my church is doing.
+5 # fredboy 2014-08-19 14:26
This is the thinking and leadership we so desperately need now.
+2 # WinstonDenker 2014-08-20 10:29
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is right on the money! And when we speak about money, we need to focus on the 50% of minorities, low-income earners, younger households and the unemployed who are at the mercy of predatory lenders because they are either unbanked or underbanked.
People who are trapped in the payday lender cycle are spending 10% their income on getting access to their own money. One of the answers is a public banking alternative and the best on is the post office. Non-profit, public, postal banking in the United States would enable people to get out the control of predatory lenders who have filled the void created by the abandonment of rural and urban communities by the too-big-to-fail banksters who plundered this nation. The time is right for postal banking in America. The America people need a public option to the greedy banks and Wall Street, and the time is now.
+2 # reiverpacific 2014-08-20 11:10
@ "WestWinds"
To continue our dialogue, I wasn't dissing money (I could use a little extra right now to advance my creative endeavors since the current depression) -I established and initially funded my Pottery Studio business from a former very successful and profitable Architecture/Co nstruction Management practice until the depression hit and I had to close the office, lay off everybody and move the remains out to my home and land.
Almost opened a Spanish Bodega and restaurant too.
The thing is, I love all the things I do including music.
I agree that Creative Arts and humanities are part of the solution and I was inducted into the American Indian Movement for services to the West Coast Tribes by introducing clay and painting into some of their reservations and helping to get funding for housing.
I'm also trying to get a "Healing Clay" program instigated for Veterans, Battered women and disadvantaged people so they can establish their own Ateliers and some self-respect.
Sadly, the creative and plastic arts are discouraged in schools any more in favor of Math, Science (also very important) and the omnipresent MBA's.
Ergo, this is definitely an essential element in decent quality of life.
I've been amazed at what involvement in visual, plastic, performing and musical arts can do for individuals or groups, including cooking.
I personally have done what I loved all my life and wouldn't know how to NOT do it.
Hope that answers some of y'r questions.
+3 # Edwina 2014-08-20 11:17
Great article, and good comments. It seems that we cannot depend on our politicians, and so we must take back America one community at a time. I'm not advocating that we give up on electoral-type activity -- trying to hold the pol's accountable -- but we can't count on that activity to solve our problems. It was people in the street that brought national attention to Ferguson, and began a conversation about poverty and race that we have needed for a long time.
0 # twa 2014-08-20 13:46
Some have missed Kareem's point. It is the economy. stupid!!!
We need an economy that allows for all to utilize their talents and be rewarded. If we did that, the demant for the now necessary social services would begin to come down. It is an absurdity to suggest that food stamps, unemploymen insurance and many other important programs for the bottom half of our societs should be removed as many suggest---it just makes people dependent. Our culture of dependency has been created by an economy to continues to funnel the eanings to the top and use these social programs to obsure the theft. Our modernt bureacracy perpetuates this and our totally corrupt election system is serving the same interest and not us. It seems to me that Kareem is challenging us to stand up and be counted an take back our country for all of us.
-1 # barbaratodish 2014-08-21 01:41
Re Q of L: Perhaps we mistake LIFE (absolute LIVING and BEING) for HAVING MATERIAL excess beyond what are ones' most simplistic, most basic needs? Perhaps what causes us to want and desire to HAVE excess material things is different from what enables us to DESIRE AND WANT TO BE AUTHENTICALLY ALIVE, i.e., to BE our lives? What if there may be RELATIVE PERFORMANCES OF HAVING (Q of L) that involve ego and drama, etc., versus different ABSOLUTE REALITY EXPERIENCES, e.g., something like LIFE OR DEATH EXPERIENCES, that involve instinctual fight or flight, etc., automatic, judgment free reactions? Google: or tweet to #BUB4UR
0 # RHytonen 2014-08-25 04:05
I chuckle in cynical, helpless, and then inevitably futile but nonetheless rage-blinded despair whenever I see phrases like "political pressures."

There are no politics, no government, no laws, and no justice - only the trivial economics of absolute greed. And in the phrase "class war" there is no allegory whatsoever. It is straight ahead, mass violent class genocide.

And in that genocide, fracking (the most cruel, physically destructive part of the energy and financial "industries"' economic extraction) is the chemical warfare that will never be punished unless we do it now, on a local, individual basis, because there will be no more "civilization" - no life on the planet, before it even reaches its industry-announ ced peak of "a facility within one mile of every single American's home." Guaranteed cancer for all.

Come to West Virginia and see. This war is not cold nor allegorical, and its signature weapon is cancer. It has been so here for two centuries.

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