Letter to the editor: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was callous to Middle East in Tuesday talk


Editor’s note: This letter is in response to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s comments on sexism in Middle Eastern countries in his public talk on Tuesday.

Mr. Abdul-Jabbar,

I am writing you to ask you a question, one that I wish I had the courage and time to have asked you Tuesday. However, there are some things I have to say first.

Thank you. Thank you for all that you have done, for your advocacy, for social justice and for coming to speak with us at Kansas State. I am writing you because your words left an impression on me.

Tuesday night, you spoke of the need for us to use our voice to speak out against injustices to battle intrinsic discrimination and inequities. Your words carry substantial weight both to me and many around me.

For that reason, I would regret walking away from that event without using my voice. The words you say and use as an activist, a role model and an influencer of your caliber cannot and should not be taken lightly. The words you use have immense power that transcends identities nationwide. Your words can help us move forward — or backward — as a nation.

Tuesday night, there were words you used that ignited a fire within me and many others present at the lecture.

I am a proud Middle Eastern woman who is also a student at Kansas State University. Your words Tuesday night painted a picture of my home and culture as one that is only incompetent, brainwashed, radicalized and purely problematic to the United States.

Your broad strokes barely cover a corner of the diverse and complex painting that encompasses the Middle East. For I am strong, powerful, capable and have lived a very different narrative.

I am not saying the Middle East is void of the issues you described. However, the words you used generalized the population and region when you yourself said that stereotypes are the tools of racists and bigots.

This is a point in time when Middle Easterners are already fighting an uphill battle attempting to bridge the gap between cultures and omit the derogatory and ignorant stereotypes associated with people in the Middle East.

Your words have immense power, so I ask if you will choose your words with consideration and intentionality for all of those you are choosing to advocate and represent.

Will you walk alongside me and many others toward a more just and equitable world?

Mary Abounabhan is a senior in business management and the director of multicultural affairs for the Student Governing Association. The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.