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“I was very racist” — Michael Jordan opens up about the racist encounter that formed his view of race growing up

MJ admitted he responded to the event with a generalization of his own. Since then, his view has a lot more nuance. “I respect all races as long as they respect me.”
young Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

Growing up in Wilmington, North Carolina, Michael Jordan quickly learned the reality of living in a racist environment. The fire that started his resistance was when Jordan encountered a young white classmate who used a racial slur to insult MJ. Since then, Michael's view on racial prejudice changed because he admits that this was an unforgettable moment when he felt most vulnerable and angry.

Jordan's experience in elementary school

In 9th grade, Michael encountered a white girl in school who called him the n-word to his face. He rightfully didn't act kindly after she said that and was suspended from school because he threw ice in her face. Although resorting to physical violence was wrong, Jordan admits this was the moment that opened his eyes and led him to turn against white people who were racist.

"I was very racist," Jordan said, as reported by the Chicago Tribune in 1992. "I got in trouble a lot. I went to a mixed school (in Wilmington, N.C.), but in a very predominantly black area. There was minor racial tension. It was just one of those situations I dealt with at that age, and I was always aware of it from that point on. I felt it was us against the world."

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Because of the racism he experienced in 9th grade, Jordan never fully recovered from the hurt and anger he felt that day. This was a scar that stuck with him even if he grew into a global phenomenon.

How Jordan approached racism

It wasn't that Michael hated white people after the incident with his classmate in 9th grade. For him, he clarified that he specifically loathed racist people who didn't treat his community right. Just like any person, all the GOAT wanted was equality and unity because if he wasn't treated the way he should be ,then that's when he'd rightfully remove his anger.

"For the most part, it's still us against them, so it hasn't changed that much. It isn't to the point where I hate whites. I respect all races as long as they respect me. And I've been able to adjust and adapt in dealings with all races. So I don't consider myself a prejudiced person. I'm just aware of certain things," Jordan said.

Jordan added that it all starts with how a child is raised in their household. Kids only learn from adults, and the best way to teach them to treat and approach people with respect is for adults to set an example. 

MJ concluded that it was going to take more than just him or two or three high-profile athletes to change the world, but the least he could do was set an example by fighting for what he believed in. 

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