Opinion: What LeBron James’ Royal Gaffe Says About the Nature of Racism in America
Did LeBron James screw up by putting his arm around Duchess Kate? Is it really a faux pas to touch a member of the royal family? Does the media’s coverage of this say something about the state of racism in America? I have to get onto my soapbox to attempt to answer these questions.
Around the nation, people are protesting the violent death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the choking death of Eric Garner in Staten Island. But most media has switched over to coverage of Prince William and Duchess Kate's visit to the US.
Nobody is really talking much about the Prince’s visit with President Obama or the Duchess’ visit to Harlem.
What everybody is talking about is how LeBron James is a world-class fool for daring to touch a member of an institution our countrymen fought and died to gain independence from. Did I go to sleep one night and everybody else stayed up late to ratify a caste system in America?
We fought because we were fed up with not getting to vote on taxation and other fiduciary issues affecting the colonies, but if you ask the average American why we fought for independence, the answer is along the lines of 'so we didn't have to answer to some monarch across the Atlantic from us.'
By pointing out that James touching Middleton is a major gaffe, news outlets have created the impression that we are still in a lower class than them. Conversely, we in America want our version of royalty to be accessible – Bush was considered by man to be a "man of the people" for choking on a pretzel while drinking a beer, while Clinton is "gonna play that sax all night, what a dude."
ABC World News did not report on the incident heavily, but they did write it off by jokingly mentioning that if the Queen wasn’t averse to being touched by first lady Michelle Obama, James couldn’t have been that bad of an experience for the Duchess Middleton.
Although their segment was in good humor and neither ABC nor any other outlet has said a word about race, I believe this is still an insight into the nature of racism in America.
While we have had two major incidents this year – both very different in nature – involving the death of black men caused by white police officers that have led to riots, civil unrest and mass demonstrations, some media outlets basically chose to report 'royals OK with being touched by rich, affluent blacks' just weeks after hard-hitting reports have come out trying to discover if there are still race issues dividing America.
Of course there are.
Nobody can say there are not race issues from previous generations and whole new issues being created. Half of my Facebook feed is filled with posts saying Michael Brown was a thug, and the other half is posts demonizing Officer Darren Wilson as a racist murderer.
The media is a powerful tool that helps shape public policy and opinion. Media in the past has helped create awareness for key issues. At the same time, it can create and reinforce negative and preposterous stereotypes, even unintentionally, through rhetoric and framing.
In the end, the most paramount thing is for the individual to inform themselves with a variety of perspectives and remain skeptical to the last while discerning the truth.