Stefen is a Christian pastor and racial justice advocate who writes articles about current events, media, and social issues.
Why We Refuse to "Shut up and Dribble!"
In 2018, a Fox News host named Laura Ingraham stared aggressively into the camera lens while on air, and stated the loaded words heard around the world. These words were specifically said to LeBron James, but in my opinion, they were also directed at every young African American who has hopes of rising above the prejudiced assumptions of what a Black person is allowed to become in America.
Laura Ingraham was responding to a video of LeBron James and fellow NBA star Kevin Durant. In the video, the two professional athletes shared their opinions of Donald Trump. Ingraham goes on to demean these men and their intellect, and she basically tells them to stick to their set profession, which she reduces to dribbling a basketball, so they can leave the politics to those who are intellectually equipped to handle them.
Why This Is Problematic
She saw these young African American men as nothing more than professional basketball athletes, and she went on to put them in a box. She didn't tell them to shut up and dribble because they are uneducated, ignorant men. She told them to shut up and dribble because she did not agree with their personal opinions about the president of the United States.
I believe her statement was directed at every African American that believes they can achieve more than their forefathers did in this country. Her words were implicitly directed at every young African American person, and they were heavy with the implication that Black people should know their place in society and stay in it. Even though Ingraham's words implied that African Americans should be silent, I will not follow her orders. I have a voice, and I have an equal right to speak my truth as I see it because I have the right to freedom of speech.
I believe her words drove through the heart of LeBron James and into the hearts of Black youths all over America when she ignorantly told LeBron James to " Shut up and dribble."
Ingraham's statement reflects and reinforces America's historical response to Black people. Her words perpetuate the idea that Black people should be seen as sources of entertainment but nothing more. When Black people were slaves, they were often violently exploited in order to entertain White people. There were even some slave owners that would pit one slave against another slave and have them fight each other to death, simply for the enjoyment of the slave-owner.
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Black people were seen as monkeys in cages, and they were not considered to be intellectually sound enough to have a voice or opinion on anything, including politics or policy.
There is a stereotypical and false narrative that is fed to Black people in America that suggests that if you want to succeed in life, you have to learn how to play basketball, rap, or sell drugs. This assumption tells Black people that they are not intelligent enough to be successful in other ways. Laura Ingraham used and perpetuated that negative stereotype when she told James and Durant to shut up.
Why I Will Not Follow Ingraham's Orders
I am not a professional athlete; I am a 26-year-old Pastor of the Potters House Christian church. I will not shut up and dribble. I will not stay in an invisible box and limit myself to a narrow set of expectations that were created by White supremacists. I will strive to be all that God created me to be.
I will continue to be a voice for people who are voiceless. I will continue to stand for social justice. I will continue to voice my opinion on issues that matter. I will not shut up and dribble because I am a man made in the image of God, and I have the same right to freedom of speech as every White man in this nation.
I do not expect LeBron to shut up and dribble, nor should he. Everyone on this earth is entitled to their own individual opinion. We are free to agree or disagree, but we should strive to do so peacefully and respectfully.
Speaking Up Can Change the World
What would America look like today if Martin Luther King Jr. had just kept his mouth shut and chose to solely preach the gospel? Where would people of color be today without the efforts of individuals who refused to stay in the limited spaces they'd been forced into by a racist and oppressive society?
What if Martin Luther King Jr. had never stepped into the realm of social-justice advocacy? Where would we be today without his efforts? Every person in the United States should feel free to speak their truth—even if it makes people uncomfortable.
We will not shut up and dribble! We will voice our truth with courage, love, and compassion. My hope is that all people will continue to speak their truths. I also hope that people like Ingraham will stop using racial prejudices and oppressive power dynamics to disrespect people who have differing opinions.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.