In a recent op-ed for Time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, and about how it’s about more than just racism.

Abdul-Jabbar began by recounting the May 1970 shooting at Kent State University in which four students were killed, and another nine wounded, when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on student protesters. The shooting resulted in a strike of 4 million students that closed more than 450 campuses and seemingly mobilized America’s youth to cry for an end to the Vietnam War, racism, and sexim. It also ended the “mindless faith in the political establishment,” Abdul-Jabbar said.

He then mentioned the shooting at Jackson State University, a predominantly black school in Mississippi, which took place just 10 days after Kent State. Police officers killed two black students with shotguns and wounded twelve others. One of those killed was an 18-year old high school student. The other, a father of an 18-month old baby.

“There was no national outcry,” said Abdul-Jabbar. “The nation was not mobilized to do anything. That heartless leviathan we call History swallowed that event whole, erasing it from the national memory.”

To prevent the Ferguson tragedy from becoming just another footnote in America’s history, Abdul-Jabbar said the situation must be addressed as more than “just another act of systemic racism, but as what else it is: class warfare.”

Abdul-Jabbar said that focusing solely on the racism in this case distracts America from the issue that police overreaction is really based on, an “Ebola-level affliction: being poor.”

“Of course, to many in America,” Abdul-Jabbar elaborated, “being a person of color is synonymous with being poor, and being poor is synonymous with being a criminal. Ironically, this misperception is true even among the poor. And that’s how the status quo wants it.”

He brought up the US Census Report findings that 50 million Americans are poor, and said that would make a powerful voting block if it was ever organized to fight for economic goals. However, the “One Percent” keeps the poor distracted with emotional issues like immigration, abortion, and gun control, “so they never stop to wonder how they got so screwed over for so long.”

Disinformation, Abdul-Jabbar said, is one way to keep their focus shifted. He cited a recent PunditfFact scorecard showing that on Fox and the Fox News Channel, 60 percent of claims are false, and on NBC and MSNBC, 46 percent were false. He then recounted a specific point of Fox News’ coverage of the Ferguson riots.

“…Fox News ran a black and white photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with the bold caption: ‘Forgetting MLK’s Message/Protesters in Missouri Turn to Violence.’ Did they run such a caption when either Presidents Bush invaded Iraq: ‘Forgetting Jesus Christ’s Message/U.S. Forgets to Turn Cheek and Kills Thousands’?

How can viewers make reasonable choices in a democracy if their sources of information are corrupted?”

They can’t.


Read Abdul-Jabbar’s entire piece at Time.