Discover more from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The Movement to Crush Free Speech on Campuses and DeSantis' Bogus Brag He Sent Military Aid to Israel
Elon Musk's Racist Tweet Got Fact-Checked, Christians Blind to Racism, Richard Roundtree ("Shaft") Homage
What I’m Discussing Today:
Kareem’s Daily Quote: The aggressive movement to crush free speech is as dangerous to our democracy as Russia and China.
Elon Musk Gets Fact-Checked: Musk’s racism accusation backfires to reveal his own bias—and the dangers of social media.
DeSantis' Bogus Brag He Sent Military Aid to Israel: Right before meeting with Republican Jewish donors, he makes this claim, which Israel denies.
The Theory That Men Evolved to Hunt and Women Evolved to Gather Is Wrong: Why were we so quick to believe it? That’s the real revelation.
White Churchgoers Believe We See Racism Where There Isn’t Any: How do they arrive at this opinion in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Faith or willful ignorance?
Kareem’s Video Break: One of the most exhilarating sports moments I’ve ever seen. I’m still stunned.
Isaac Hayes Plays “Theme from Shaft”: An homage to Richard Roundtree, who died last week, and his ground-breaking portrayal of the “cat who won’t cop out.”
Kareem’s Daily Quote
To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.
Frederick Douglass, “A Plea For Freedom of Speech in Boston” 1860
A hundred and sixty-three years ago, abolitionist, feminist, journalist, and super cool Black dude Frederick Douglass made a plea for free speech that echoes the same conversations we’re having today. What makes that so confusing and frustrating is that freedom of speech is one of the things Americans agree they are most proud of about their country. We’re always bragging about how precious free speech is to us.
And yet, polls paint a different picture. A New York Times Opinion / Siena College poll found that 84% of Americans say being afraid to exercise freedom of speech is a serious problem, with half saying they often don’t speak out for fear of retaliation. A Pew Research Center poll of 12,000 U.S. journalists found 57% are extremely or very concerned about possible restrictions on press freedoms.
Americans get teary-eyed and patriotic over the grand idea of free speech while at the same time often passionately advocating for suppressing someone else’s speech. This is not a quaint, whimsical contradiction—it is a sinister hypocrisy designed to make people feel good about themselves for proclaiming they are on the side of freedom while simultaneously undermining the foundation of democracy. We’ve seen this behavior from powerful and influential moguls like Elon Musk, who, while declaring himself a “free speech absolutist,” systematically suppressed the free press in this country and aided fascist governments abroad in restricting information and opinions that contradicted those governments. Last week, a mob of Republicans in Congress shouted down and heckled a reporter for asking a legitimate question. The question was never answered. It should be the only question any reporter asks until he answers it.
With the Israeli-Hamas war inflaming passions throughout the world, defending free speech is something a lot of people have abandoned because of the vitriolic attacks that occur in response. Death threats are common from both sides because people are immediately triggered by their biases and self-righteous responses. I am most perplexed by those who attack something I wrote—or rather, think I wrote because often I said the opposite of what they are attacking me for. But they have the right to get it wrong.
At the same time, I’m sympathetic to their anguish, even when they do get it wrong. [To be clear, I support Israel’s right to defend itself against the terrorism of Hamas, whose stated goal is the elimination of Israel. I also acknowledge that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians prior to the war was harsher than it should have been. Like the United Nations, I would like a cease-fire to stop the killing of innocent people on both sides in order to peacefully resolve the issue in a way that protects Israeli and Palestinian rights. This can only happen with intense international support and pressure. I’d prefer there be no more bodies of children as collateral damage for our anger.]
A quick explanation: The First Amendment protects us from government interference in free speech. However, social and cultural free speech is limited by certain laws to prevent defamation, speech that might put people in jeopardy, or hate speech. I fully support these restrictions. The first two are self-evident. The third exists to protect people from the kind of verbal assault that creates a hostile work or living environment.
I grew up hearing politicians proclaiming, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it!” (The quote is often wrongly attributed to Voltaire.) People still say it, but I don’t believe them. One of the reasons is the proliferation of rich people intent on punishing colleges and universities for allowing students to exercise free speech about the Israeli-Hamas war. Here are some examples:
Dick Wolf, the creator of Law & Order, has penned a letter urging University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill to resign, joining a number of wealthy donors who have pledged to halt their school funding over its decision to hold a Palestinian literature festival last month. (“‘Law & Order’ Creator Cuts Off UPenn Donations and Begs President to Step Down”)
In a Fox Business interview Wednesday, Leon Cooperman, a hedge fund billionaire who has given tens of millions to Columbia University over the years, pledged to cut his funding to the school over its response to the Israel-Hamas war. That same day, hundreds of Columbia affiliates had walked out in protest of the campus’ ties to Israel, the Columbia Spectator reported. (“Billionaire Cuts Columbia University Donations Over Israel War Response”)
As tensions have erupted at college campuses throughout the country after Hamas’s attack on Israel, former president Donald Trump and other Republican presidential candidates have called to revoke student visas and deport foreign nationals who express support for Palestinians or criticize Israel’s military response — moves that would amount to violations of their First Amendment rights, according to some legal experts. (“Republicans target visas of student protesters. That violates free speech, experts say.”)
A rising number of prominent US figures have faced discipline over controversial public comments they have made about the Palestinian cause, as attacks by Israel on Gaza after the 7 October massacre of Israelis by Hamas fighters intensified. David Velasco, the editor in chief of Artforum magazine, was reportedly fired after the magazine published an open letter in response to the war. (“Prominent US figures face backlash and firings for pro-Palestinian statements”)
I remember how rich donors tried to pressure schools in the sixties and seventies to expel students and fire teachers who protested the Vietnam War. I didn’t agree with that then, and I don’t agree with it now. And, yes, I may vehemently disagree with what the students are saying, but they have the right to say it. Even if it makes me angry. If they say something that is illegal—such as inciting a riot as on January 6th—then arrest them. Yet, some conservatives have even called for students engaging in anti-Israel protests to be blacklisted for future jobs. College is a place where students get to explore different ideas and points of view. Most will modify those opinions with time and experience. We don’t punish them for speaking out—even when we disagree.
There are real and dangerous consequences to protestors inflaming passions against Jews and Muslims. Antisemitic and anti-Muslim verbal and physical assaults have risen on campuses and off. Unfortunately, this can be a consequence of free speech. The civil rights movement also caused violence against Blacks and Whites. The same occurred during labor movements and women’s suffrage movements. The violence is reprehensible, and any speech that deliberately encourages it is not protected. For years, I have traveled the country speaking out against hate speech as well as antisemitism and Islamophobia. I will continue to do so for as long as I can.
I’m extremely proud to be an American for many reasons, one of which is that I am free to write about this controversial topic without government interference. But we older Americans need to wake up to some harsh truths about how younger Americans view this country. According to a Gallup poll, only 18% of those aged 18-34 say they are extremely proud to be an American. Compare that to 2013, when 85% of those aged 18-29 said they were extremely proud. Part of that decline in pride is seeing the dismantling of the rights we have taught them to be proud of: voting rights, the rights of women to control their own bodies, LGBTQ+ rights, and immigration rights. Add to that the attacks on election integrity, education, and free press, the banning of books—and the current uproar over campus free speech—and you can see what troubles our youth. And breaks their faith.
SUMMARY: Elon Musk has provoked a furious backlash in Scotland by accusing Humza Yousaf of being “a blatant racist” after the tech billionaire saw a highly selective clip of a speech by the first minister.
Musk, the owner of Tesla, Space X and the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter, reacted to a 45-second clip of Yousaf listing all the senior public posts in Scotland held by white people, which was posted on X by an anonymous account called End Wokeness.
The account, which has a paid-for blue verification mark, accused Yousaf, who is Scotland’s first ethnic minority first minister, of “openly despising white people”. It said: “Why would Scotland’s parliament and King select a guy who hates almost 100% of the country?”
Musk replied: “What a blatant racist!”
…Numerous posts pointed out that Yousaf had been arguing that Scotland’s public sector and institutions were not demonstrating a clear commitment to racial diversity given nearly every one was run by white people.
…The clip was taken from May 2020 when Yousaf was speaking to MSPs on a motion in support of anti-racist activism after the death of George Floyd, where he discussed the racism he had experienced since being elected.
MY TAKE: Here are the facts: The clip was deliberately taken out of context in order to create a false narrative that non-White Humza Yousaf is racist. Actually, he was explaining how Scotland’s government has not been aggressive enough in its so-called diversity. The list he offered was proof.
However, the clip has now been used by many right-wing groups in Scotland to undermine Yousaf—and, by extension, imply electing other non-Whites would lead to reverse racism. That’s predictable disinformation from groups who have no actual platform, not real evidence. Instead, their goal is to minimize the extent of racism by calling those who point it out as being racist. This is like a cop arresting a murderer, and the murderer starts yelling at the cop, “No, you’re the murderer!”
What is startling here is Elon Musk’s involvement. First, he endorses a lie to his 155 million followers, perpetuating the racism from those posting it. Second, he reveals himself to be the lazy, biased thinker we know him to be by not bothering to research the clip’s context—free speech, sure, but also corrupt, smarmy, and racist.
SUMMARY: Ron DeSantis is receiving pushback from Israeli diplomats, Florida Democrats and the White House after he falsely claimed credit for a gun-running operation to assist Israel’s military operations in Gaza.
The Florida governor and 2024 presidential hopeful declared on Thursday that he had worked with Israel’s consul general in Miami to send military equipment, including drones, body armor and helmets.
His office, according to Reuters, said it had worked to “get weapons and ammunition to Israel through private parties” as part of his high-profile “rescue operation”. The operation involved sending humanitarian supplies on chartered planes and returning from Israel hundreds of US citizens who wanted to come home following the Hamas attacks.
His boast, however, started to unravel when Maor Elbaz-Starinsky, Israel’s consul general, told the news agency he had not asked for DeSantis’s help, and that the governor’s involvement was limited to smoothing paperwork requirements for a previously arranged shipment of “rifle parts” ordered by his government.
“I am not aware and would find it very, very bizarre to think that somebody is procuring weapons and sending it to Israel,” he said. “This is not how we work. And certainly not privately funded.”
MY TAKE: This, too, is part of free speech. DeSantis is free to lie to the public. The public is then free to reward him for being a liar by giving him campaign donations and votes or punish him by denying him both. Isn’t his behavior the very definition of “swamp” that the GOP has vowed to eliminate?
Clearly, his disinformation was meant to pluck the heartstrings of the donor gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas this weekend, where he was soliciting campaign donations. Instead, he insulted them with tall tales of his political derring-do that were really derring-do-nothing.
Kareem’s Video Break
Beach volleyball is an amazing sport. The court is huge, with only two people to cover it, and you’re fighting sand, sun, and wind, as well as your opponents. This is one of the most jaw-dropping sports moments I’ve ever seen in any sport. I’ve rarely witnessed such focus and athleticism. Unforgettable!
Share this post. Surely, you know someone who will be wowed by this video.
The Theory That Men Evolved to Hunt and Women Evolved to Gather Is Wrong (Scientific American)
SUMMARY: Even if you're not an anthropologist, you've probably encountered one of this field's most influential notions, known as Man the Hunter. The theory proposes that hunting was a major driver of human evolution and that men carried this activity out to the exclusion of women. It holds that human ancestors had a division of labor, rooted in biological differences between males and females, in which males evolved to hunt and provide, and females tended to children and domestic duties. It assumes that males are physically superior to females and that pregnancy and child-rearing reduce or eliminate a female's ability to hunt.
Man the Hunter has dominated the study of human evolution for nearly half a century and pervaded popular culture. It is represented in museum dioramas and textbook figures, Saturday morning cartoons and feature films. The thing is, it's wrong.
Mounting evidence from exercise science indicates that women are physiologically better suited than men to endurance efforts such as running marathons. This advantage bears on questions about hunting because a prominent hypothesis contends that early humans are thought to have pursued prey on foot over long distances until the animals were exhausted. Furthermore, the fossil and archaeological records, as well as ethnographic studies of modern-day hunter-gatherers, indicate that women have a long history of hunting game. We still have much to learn about female athletic performance and the lives of prehistoric women. Nevertheless, the data we do have signal that it is time to bury Man the Hunter for good.
MY TAKE: This article is very in-depth regarding the physical differences between the genders, but it also reveals the gender misconceptions that have affected us culturally for decades. The hunter-gatherers theory that was popularized in the sixties was highly selective in proving its theory, including ignoring evidence that was part of the very volume meant to make the case.
Naturally, the hunter-gatherer justification would be enthusiastically supported and uncritically accepted by a patriarchy because it confirms their superior power roles. It’s like telling your kids they’re the smartest kids in the whole world. Why wouldn’t they believe you? Until they start to look around outside your cloistered bubble.
New research indicates that the bubble is just an illusion of confirmation bias. Nevertheless, this has had a detrimental effect on how women are treated and how we see them. It’s no accident that society holds in higher regard those things which men excel at and in less regard things women excel at. (Can you name three things in each category?)
Years ago, I read about a study that has stuck with me. Middle school children were given a scenario: Your mother is very ill and needs medicine, but you don’t have enough money. What do you do? Most of the boys responded that they would steal the medicine while most of the girls responded that they would approach the pharmacist to make an arrangement to work off or pay for the medicine in installments. The male response was praised for its efficiency, and the female response was dismissed for its passivity. The lesson was that guys get things done, no matter the method. For the boys, the ends justify the means. For the girls, the ends are the means.
White Christians say too many see racism when it’s not there, new poll finds (The Washington Post)
SUMMARY: …In April, Pew asked Americans which was the bigger problem facing the country on matters of race: People overlooking racism when it exists or seeing racism in places where there is none.
Overall, just over half (53 percent) of Americans said people not seeing discrimination where it does exist was a bigger problem. Just under half (45 percent) said people seeing discrimination where it does not exist is the bigger issue.
Among religious groups, however, White Christians were most likely to say claims about nonexistent racial discrimination were the bigger problem. That number includes majorities of White evangelicals (72 percent), White Catholics (60 percent) and White mainline Protestants (54 percent), according to data provided to Religion News Service by Pew Research.
…Conversely, Black Protestants (88 percent), non-Christian religious Americans (69 percent), unaffiliated Americans (64 percent) and Hispanic Catholics (60 percent) were more likely to say that not seeing racism when it does exist is the bigger problem. Fewer White evangelicals (27 percent), White mainline Protestants (44 percent) and White Catholics (39 percent) held that view.
MY TAKE: Bottom line: If you’re White and religious, you probably think Black people see racism where it doesn’t exist. I get it. They see themselves and their neighbors as good people who would never act in a racist manner toward anyone. Probably true. But that narrow vision sees only the neighborhood and not the whole country. It’s what I refer to as “wallpaper racism,” which I wrote about in my book Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White and in a Hollywood Reporter article commenting on Chris Harrison’s removal from The Bachelor franchise for defending racist activity of a contestant:
For those it doesn’t directly affect, racism is like old, faded wallpaper that’s been around so long they no longer notice it exists. Wallpaper racism isn’t people shouting the N-word at Black children or calling the police on a Black man walking his dog; it’s being a support system for others to feel entitled to do that. These are racism enablers who deny racism exists or refuse to see how their actions encourage the systemic racism that suppresses Black voters, gives Black people inferior medical and educational services, and blocks their career opportunities. The woke police that Harrison dismissed are shining the blue light on the crime scene, they’re clawing at the wallpaper with the swastika patterns embedded in velvet, and they’re demanding we quit making excuses for bad behavior. For me, I’m wondering why the default setting of many white people is to make excuses in the first place.
This refusal to see racism despite the irrefutable evidence of hundreds of studies is a willful blindness created by pretend virtuousness. It is a refusal to help those in need because they choose not to see the need. As they drive to church to sing hymns of grace and love, they might glance at the car pulled over by the cops and the Black driver, hoping this isn’t the time he gets shot, tased, or beaten.
What worries me is this simple question: How do they arrive at this opinion in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Faith? Certainly not faith in a God who would want them to use reason and logic, or else why create it.
Kareem’s Jukebox Playlist
Isaac Hayes: “Theme from Shaft”
Richard Roundtree died last week, and I felt his passing deeply. In 1971, I was sitting in a dark movie theater watching in awe and excitement as Roundtree, playing Black private detective John Shaft, swaggered, fought, sneered, and romanced his way through Shaft. Even as a 24-year-old, I knew then that this was pop culture history in the making: A new era had arrived in which Black men didn’t have to be polite, non-threatening “Good Negroes.” They could be badass muthas who stood their ground no matter who was pushing against them: White cop or Black gangster.
It was the beginning of the Black action hero trend known as Blaxploitation (though Roundtree and Shaft director Gordon Parks didn’t like that term). Watching Shaft for the first time gave me an injection of pride, and I walked out of the theater with a bit of Shaft’s swagger. Soon Black women action heroes were featured, including Foxy Brown, Coffy, and Cleopatra Jones. Interestingly, Black women became action heroes before White women did, probably because White women were still seen as physically passive gatherers (see above article). Black women, on the other hand, were seen as closer to the jungle, to the sensually primitive. Looking back, the whole trend was pretty sexist, but it was one small step for a Black man, one giant leap for Black culture.
Isaac Hayes created one of the best theme songs in movie history. I hear the first guitar-chainsaw notes and I’m right back on the crowded streets of New York City, black leather jacket and carefully groomed ‘fro, strolling confidently but with purpose. Knowing I “won’t cop out when there’s danger all about.”