Television talk show host and journalist Don Lemon asked a pertinent question in response to President Donald Trump’s Twitter comment about basketball player Lebron James. Offended by a remark James made on Lemon’s talk show about the president’s divisive activities, Trump then suggested that both Lemon and James were lacking in intelligence.
Lemon interviewed James because of his philanthropic activities, assisting thousands of African-American children and families. He recently announced the opening of a new public school in his hometown, Akron, Ohio.
But instead of congratulating James on his effort to improve the Black community, Trump used his favorite means of communication—social media—to espouse negative stereotypes attributed to African-American males. Lemon’s response to this attack, on not only his character and intelligence but also the intelligence of many African-American male athletes, was to pose a simple question: “Who’s the real dummy? A man who puts kids in classrooms or one who puts kids in cages?”
Currently, there are over 1,000 migrant children the Trump administration has placed in detention camps separated from their parents and sleeping in cages. So, yes, “Who’s the real dummy? A man who puts kids in classrooms or one who puts kids in cages?”
Although James does not have a college degree, as he went straight from high school to the National Basketball league, he is no dummy. Many would say he is wise beyond his years. His business accomplishments place him as one of the wealthiest male athletes of all time. According to Business Insider, James’ new contract with the Los Angeles Lakers will earn him cumulatively $387 million. He also has a lifetime endorsement deal with Nike for $1 billion, and over $86 million annually in other off-the-court endorsements and contracts
James defies the stereotype of Black males in many ways, including the stereotype that “black people don’t read.” As a librarian, I am always interested in finding out what others are reading. I follow his posts on books, and he has an extensive collection. He reads postseasons and before, during and after games. Some of the titles he has commented on are: The Alchemist, The Hunger Games, biographies of Jerry West, Jay-Z, The Pact — a book about three African-American friends who all went on to become physicians—The Godfather and The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell, which looks at sociological changes in everyday life, to name just a few. James says reading is an essential outlet for him to quiet his mind and release some of the pressure. He encourages children and adults to spend more time reading to learn about the world and foster humanity, compassion and self-respect.
I Promise is the name of the new public school the LeBron James Family Foundation and the Akron Public school system created. The first initiation of 240 at-risk third- and fourth-grade students will receive: free tuition, free school uniforms, free breakfast, lunch and snacks, free transportation within two miles, a free bicycle and helmet, access to a food pantry for their family and guaranteed tuition for all graduates to the University of Akron. Parents of the students will receive access to job placement services, and if they do not have high school diplomas, they will receive help acquiring their GED. When I read the benefits these families will receive, it brought tears to my eyes. I thought about how much compassion this man has for his community and to think about all the factors that contribute to school success, family environment, hunger, transportation, and college. He gave these students a promise of hope. These children get to start their educational career with a promise of attaining a college education to improve their opportunities in life and their contributions to society. James’ philanthropic endeavors are not only wise, they are kind, and as it has once been said by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?”
I thank Don Lemon for his question, “Who’s the real dummy?” His question encouraged me to research James and to question the stereotype of the Black male athletic figure. More importantly, it reminded me that compassion is a sign of a good leader and not the title or position a person holds.
Elizabeth Jean Brumfield is a distance services librarian at Prairie View A&M University and a doctoral student in the College of Education at the university.