Recent remarks made by an NBA player show that Sinophobia represents backward foreign policy and invitations to amplify racist tropes in the U.S.
National Basketball Association (NBA) player Enes Kanter has spent much of the past two months stumping for war with China. Kanter’s campaign began on social media with numerous posts attacking China for alleged “human rights” abuses and the NBA’s supposed connection to them. While Kanter has seen little playing time for the Boston Celtics this season, his line of shoes sporting anti-China messages and State Department talking points has grabbed the attention of the corporate media. Kanter has used the spotlight to target Lebron James and Michael Jordan, the two most prominent Black NBA players to set foot on a basketball court.
In an appearance on CNN, Kanter stuck a nerve with Black Twitter for his declaration that Michael Jordan “has not done anything for the Black community because he cares too much about his shoe sales all over the world and in America…” Black users on social media lambasted Kanter for attempting to represent Black people. Others pointed out that Kanter hasn’t done anything for the Black community himself prior to his critique of Jordan. Kanter’s criticism of Jordan followed up a series of statements from Kanter condemning Lebron James for remaining silent about China’s human rights record to protect his business interests.
Of course, Enes Kanter is far from an innocent when it comes to actual human rights abuses around the world. The veteran NBA player is a member of the Gulen movement, an extremist political sect in Turkey linked to the anti-Palestinian, CIA-linked Fethullah Gulen. Over the years, Kanter has been a regular in Zionist circles and has scored numerous photo-ops with the likes of Jared Kushner, John Bolton, and Bill and Hillary Clinton. While Kanter feigns concern about China, he’s shown no qualms about expressing solidarity with the Israeli lobbyists, repressive Gulf monarchies, or NED-funded organizations within the human rights industrial complex spreading innuendo about China. Kanter’s hypocrisy on the question of human rights has been covered extensively by Alan MacLeod at MintPress News.
However, the most important lesson from Kanter’s anti-China crusade is how it has exposed the deep connection between Sinophobia and anti-Black racism. Kanter’s comments angered Black Twitter because they were so obviously connected to a campaign that has nothing to do with the interests of Black people. Black America was treated by Kanter as nothing but a springboard for political gain. Never before had the Turkish NBA player spoken about the plight of Black people until his anti-China crusade began to garner the attention of rightwing elements in the U.S. establishment.
Similarly, the U.S.’s New Cold War on China has presented a cornucopia of opportunity for those seeking to benefit from the explosive growth of the military industrial complex. In the last decade, the United States has shifted more than fifty percent of all military assets and sixty percent of its Navy to the Asia Pacific. Congress is preparing to deliberate on the $250 billion “Innovation and Competition Act,” a bill that would expand the U.S.’s military presence across the world in the ongoing bid to “contain” China. The Act also includes $300 million annual “Countering Chinese Influence Fund” which institutionalizes anti-China propaganda as a government priority. These funds would ostensibly go to figures like Enes Kanter who have demonstrated firm loyalty to the U.S.’s militarist agenda against China.
Black Americans and China thus share a common relationship with U.S. imperialism that has been exploited by opportunists for political gain. In the U.S., imperialism terrorizes Black Americans vis-à-vis police occupation, mass incarceration, social discrimination, and economic immiseration. The U.S. political duopoly and its related institutions hinge much of their ideological and policy identities on the exploitation of Black people. Republicans stoke fear of a Black country as the basis for their variant of endless war, state repression and austerity. Democrats pander to Black Americans for votes while supporting endless austerity and war against Black people all the same.
Anti-Black racism is the ideological thread that ties together U.S. imperialism’s domestic agenda. Sinophobia is the ideological thread that ties together its foreign policy. White supremacy is a for-profit enterprise. Debates about Critical Race Theory (CRT), identity politics, cancel culture, and COVID-19 have taken political discourse in the U.S. even further to the right. Democrats and Republicans have exploited the racial cleavages of the United States to deflect from the glaring decline of the imperialist system. Black America and China are the two of the biggest targets of imperialist deflection and have received the brunt of its consequences.
Enes Kanter is but one opportunist of many who see the U.S.’s anti-Black and anti-China orientation as a possible avenue for political advancement. The U.S. ruling class has every interest in driving a wedge between Black people and the struggle for peace. It is the historic pro-peace consensus among Black Americans that has served as the driving force of the peace movement in the United States for more than two centuries. Enes Kanter and the elite class backing him are politically driven by the aims of imperialism. Kanter’s comments on Michael Jordan thus have nothing to do with exposing the Black misleadership class and everything to do with exploiting Black people as a chip in the U.S.’s New Cold War with China.
Danny Haiphong is a contributing editor to Black Agenda Report and co-author of the book “American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People's History of Fake News- From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror.” He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow his work on Twitter @SpiritofHo and on YouTube as co-host with Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report Present's: The Left Lens. You can support Danny on Patreon by clicking this link.