“No matter how much money you have; no matter how famous you are; no matter how many people admire you; being black in America—it’s tough,” said LeBron James, during a grave press conference this past Wednesday about the recent acts of vandalism at his Los Angeles home.
Earlier that morning, it was discovered that the N-word had been spray painted on the front gates of his residence. A visibly moved James spent a good portion of the conference discussing this incident, using the press opportunity to dispel the myth of post-racial America as opposed to talking about the highly anticipated NBA Finals.
“We got a long way to go—for us as a society and for us as African Americans—until we feel equal in America,” the Cleveland Cavaliers forward said.
Although the slur has since been painted over, the Los Angeles Police Department says the act is being investigated as a hate crime, reports ABC News. During the news conference, LeBron also confirmed that his wife and three children, who were not at the Los Angeles residence at the time of the incident, were safe.
Nonetheless, the incident has taken an emotional toll on the NBA superstar. “Obviously, you see [that] I’m not my normal, energetic self. It will pass. That’s fine. I’m figuring it out. I’m thinking about my kids a lot,” he told the press.
Using his platform to address the issue of racism in America, James said, “If the incident that happened to me and my family today can keep the conversation going and can shed light on us trying to figure out a way to keep progressing and not regressing, then I’m not against it happening to us again.”
The four-time NBA MVP further elaborated, stating that the episode reminded him of Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley, a mother who was forced to bury her 14-year-old son Emmett Till after his lynching in 1955. Rather than retreat in shame, Mamie Till made sure that Emmett’s casket was open during his funeral to expose the brutality of the murder.“She wanted to show the world what her son went through, as far as a hate crime and being black in America,” James said, adding that racism “will always be a part of the world; a part of America.”
Watch the press conference here:
On the same day of LeBron’s press conference, a noose was reportedly found hanging at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. In response, the Smithsonian Institution issued a press release stating that the noose was discovered by tourists Wednesday afternoon inside an exhibit on segregation. Five days prior to the incident at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, it was also reported that another noose was found hanging in the trees near the Hirshhorn Museum on the National Mall.
Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the NMAAHC, also addressed this via a statement posted on Twitter, stating the incident was “a painful reminder of the challenges that African Americans continue to face.”
A statement from our Founding Director Lonnie Bunch on the noose found in our history galleries today. pic.twitter.com/sFWVSaobhV
— Smithsonian NMAAHC (@NMAAHC) May 31, 2017
“The noose has long represented a deplorable act of cowardice and depravity—a symbol of extreme violence for African Americans,” Bunch said, via the Smithsonian NMAAHC Twitter account.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, these acts of hate—along with bomb threats to religious institutions, racially charged graffiti, and the circulation of white nationalist pamphlets—are on the rise. The Center traces this increase back to the election of President Donald Trump, reporting that over 1,300 incidents of this nature have occurred between Election Day and the first week of February.
“We’ve never had reports like this ever,” said Ryan Lenz, spokesperson for Southern Poverty Law Center Spokesman, in an interview with NPR. “We are in a moment where hate and extremism have been legitimized in the public sphere. During times like this, it is more important than ever for individual citizens across the country to voice their opposition to the acceptance of this behavior as standard operating procedure.”