Nearly 50 years ago, Bruce Lee and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar filmed the iconic fight scene in The Game of Death, Lee’s last film before he tragically died at 32-years old. The visual display of a 7'2" Black Man and a 5'8" Asian Man engaged in fluid martial arts was stunning, but more impressive was how the scene served as a metaphor for overcoming life’s greatest challenges.
Symbolically, Kareem’s character represented Bruce Lee’s life’s work; thereby translating the scene as Bruce Lee fighting a larger, more formidable version of himself. During the battle in a dark room, a broken window revealed Kareem’s character’s handicap: the light. To overcome himself, Bruce Lee had to shine a light on his weaknesses.
On May 30, 2020, Kareem wrote an Op-Ed piece in the L.A. Times that put words to emotions.
Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air.
The systemic injustice against the Black Community has been illuminated and the light that we’re experiencing reveals our greatest weakness while simultaneously revealing a path toward sustainable progress. And although the acknowledgment of our biases is a big step, the leap occurs when that recognition prompts transformational action.
We’re living in that moment now.
Humans are wired to minimize risk and maximize reward, but that’s not as linear as it sounds. In life, we have control over how we define “risk” and “reward” and the agency that exists in every moment. Who we were yesterday doesn’t have to be who we are today; As the light reveals transparency, we’re all called to take action against the racism that plagues our collective growth as a society.
Bruce Lee said,“The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the very beginning but I did not take it. My ailment came from within myself, but I did not observe it, until this moment. Now I see that I will never find the light unless, like the candle, I am my own fuel, consuming myself.”
The light has broken through, shining brightly, and our journey toward a better tomorrow begins today.