On June 14, 2016, Nation Books published Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching—A Young Black Man’s Education, in which author Mychal Denzel Smith calls out basketball legend Michael Jordan for being apolitical and uninvolved in the black community’s struggle, unlike Muhammad Ali and even—as Smith makes an impassioned case—LeBron James.
On July 25 2016, Jordan publicly stated that he “can no longer stay silent,” regarding the deaths of black people at the hands of police officers and the deaths of police officers at the hands of snipers. Jordan also stated that he will donate a million dollars each to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. While 2016 has been notably plagued with shootings of people of color and police officers, his statement didn’t immediately follow any of them, and I have to wonder if Smith’s book made its way to Jordan. It’s not out of the question. Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching is Smith’s travelogue of the road to his awakening: racially, politically and culturally. The road is marked with events, like the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina and TV shows like The Boondocks and Chappelle’s Show, which through Smith’s eyes, we see in entirely new light.
Regarding Barack Obama, empathy is an unaffordable luxury. Smith has use for neither Obama’s tough love for the black community, nor his occasional encouragement to consider how the world looks through the eyes of Angry White Guy. Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching is a slim book that has the spirit of a political pamphlet. It’s a screed made more readable with the help of a personal narrative. It’s rare to have one’s eyes opened so widely for relatively little effort. –Jim Woster (Nation Books, publicaffairsbooks.com/nation-books)