The chaos unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri, is not just about "systemic racism" — it's about class warfare brought on by the "One Percent," basketball icon Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote in an editorial published Sunday.
"This fist-shaking of everyone's racial agenda distracts America from the larger issue that the targets of police overreaction are based less on skin color and more on an even worse Ebola-level affliction: being poor," the Hall of Famer wrote for Time magazine.
The comments come after Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered National Guard troops into the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. Riots, looting and unrest continue in the predominantly black community more than a week after a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager during an altercation on Aug. 9. Residents were placed under a curfew for the second night in a row Sunday.
"Of course, to many in America, 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," Mr. Abdul-Jabbar argues. "[I]t's crucial that those in the wealthiest One Percent keep the poor fractured by distracting them with emotional issues like immigration, abortion and gun control so they never stop to wonder how they got so screwed over for so long."
Mr. Abdul-Jabbar continued: "The real reason we flock to see Donald Sutherland's porcelain portrayal in Hunger Games of a cold, ruthless president of the U.S. dedicated to preserving the rich while grinding his heel into the necks of the poor is that it rings true in a society in which the One Percent gets richer while our middle class is collapsing."
The former Los Angeles Laker admitted that there are some wealthy people "who are also super-supportive of their community."
"But that's not the case with the multitude of millionaires and billionaires who lobby to reduce Food Stamps, give no relief to the burden of student debt on our young, and kill extensions of unemployment benefits," he argued.
"The middle class has to join the poor and whites have to join African-Americans in mass demonstrations, in ousting corrupt politicians, in boycotting exploitative businesses, in passing legislation that promotes economic equality and opportunity, and in punishing those who gamble with our financial future," Mr. Abdul-Jabbar wrote. "If we don't have a specific agenda — a list of exactly what we want to change and how — we will be gathering over and over again beside the dead bodies of our murdered children, parents, and neighbors."
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