Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said young blacks must be told of the sacrifices their ancestors made in building the nation.
“A lot of black kids don’t relate to America,” he said Tuesday. “They don’t understand that the blood of their ancestors was shed with all the other people who founded it and made this country grow. For that reason, they find it easier to be on the outside of society and not take part.”
Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s scoring king, addressed 2,000 people attending a Leadership Development Council presentation at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
His speech was based on his book “Profiles in Black Courage,” which will be released in October. The book profiles blacks who contributed to forming the nation.
Among the items that are overlooked in modern history books, Abdul-Jabbar said, are that blacks sailed on each of Christopher Columbus’ three westward voyages; that more than 5,000 blacks fought in various state militias during the Revolutionary War; and that a black man killed British Maj. John Pitcairn at Bunker Hill, leading to the first U.S. victory in that war.
Many in the black community have “hostile attitudes dealing with stereotypes about the white population,” he said. Many whites, he said, think of “urban decay, welfare dependency, crime and a little bit of rhythm and blues” when asked about blacks.
“Racism affects everybody. Blacks can be just as racist as any other ethnic group,” he said. “In this country, blacks have been singled out in a certain way that has led to deeply inbred problems. That’s what we have to overcome.
“We have to be able to, like Dr. (Martin Luther) King said, ‘judge people by the content of their character.’ That takes more effort than too many Americans are willing to give. That’s a big problem.”