On March 28, 2019, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came to my university for a moderated Q&A related to civility (sorry it took me so long to write this by the way; life has been crazy… and by “life,” I mean school). I had been looking forward to this for months; my friend and I arrived an hour before the event started, so we could get a good seat. With good seats came decent pictures.
Here are some of my favorite moments (besides a teacher behind us calling one of the moderators a dumba** because the male moderator was really weird while asking questions; that was the funniest moment of the night):
There were some things he talked about that I’m not going to go into too much detail about but still wanted to mention. I don’t want this to be centuries long; he talked about the topics of (and related to): racism, writing, activism, social and political issues. He gave his thoughts on Colin Kaepernick, about which he said “The truth is the truth, and that’s why people had a hard time with what he did,” and the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. He also talked about the president, in which he said, “What comes out of his mouth is gibberish,” and everyone applauded. Kareem also shared some great stories and passions, like Lewis Latimer being his favorite inventor that he wrote about.
Some of the questions (I paraphrased some of them, so if they’re not a proper question, don’t be upset) with the corresponding answers:
Q: “So you’re an advocate for women’s rights and equal pay.” (all the women, as well as a few men, in the audience applauded) “Why do you think it’s important for women to receive equal pay as men, and in your opinion, what is needed for us to achieve the gender equality here in the U.S.?”
A: “The toughest thing for anyone to do is be a single parent, and that often falls on the women. They need to be treated fairly in the workplace, so they can care for their family. The only way to do that is to pay people what they’re worth. To assign someone a better status because that person is a male, we got to get away from that.”
“What advice do you have for students to promote change?”
“It’s very simple: just be willing to talk to the people that you don’t agree with. Have the patience and the politeness to speak to them politely and listen to them politely.”
About overcoming the fear of having a conversation with people who are different from us or have differing views:
“Spend an evening with the people that you’re afraid of.”
His book explained the difference between implicit and explicit racism, which he talks about in his book Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White (this question was kind of weirdly phrased like this when it was originally asked)
“Explicit racism is in your face.” He used examples of the Jim Crow era and the two guys being arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia while waiting for someone as explicit racism. He didn’t really elaborate on implicit racism.
“You dedicated the final chapter of the book for advice for generation z. A quote from the book reads, ‘College is about creating character, one decision at a time.’ (LOVE THAT) What is one decision that you made in college that crafted your character and who you are today?”
“I think the decision I made to try to be an author.”
Final question of the night: “What is your definition of civility?”
“I think here in America, civility means the ability to deal with people from incredibly various backgrounds and learn to understand them and appreciate them. You have to be civil and open minded to do that.”
Something else that Kareem said (and I don’t know where to put it because I can’t remember the question): “College kids have to keep their eyes open because they have to look for the next problem. (directed to us) You guys have to anticipate the next problem and be ready for it. I would have advise you guys to keep your eyes open and keep a positive attitude.”
Everything that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said was both motivating and inspiring. It was an honor spending an evening in a room with such a legend.
If you had the opportunity to ask Kareem one question, what would it be?