Monday, April 16, 2007

"Where have you gone, Jackie Robinson?"

"Whitefolks are-a marketing you to-day/Hey hey hey/Hey hey hey..."

(sorry for the Simon & Garfunkle parody all you young folks, but Young Jeezy and Ciara don't have baseball songs to bite on...)
This man was subject to murder threats, he was spit on by white ball players (who often slid into second, metal cleats high), and yet told not to fight back. Hard for a dude with a hair-trigger temper like Jackie's not to fight back, to bear it all with "dignity." They love it when we bear things with dignity or have to "understand the way things work," don't they? Well, the not-so-distant ancestors of same clowns who infest Fox News and talk radio/blogs attacked him daily. "Middle America" despised the man; had he manifested 10% of the vices and anti-social behavior of some of Major League Baseball's (MLB) iconic white players, Jackie would have been expelled from the game. And of course the Senator Joseph McCarthy's minions tried to shellack him as a communist, to which Jackie responded with the classic, "If the comunists are using treatment of Negro to their advantage, then who can blame them? Think about this: Jim Crow has been around longer than communism, and might be around long after communism's gone unless somebody does something!"

These are the same folks, corporations, manipulators of MLB who, this week in 2007, this week of Imus and Duke Lacrosse imbroglios, are turning this 60th anniversity of his joining the Brooklyn Dodgers as a feel-good marketing event.

I'll be even more blunt about MLB history, and feel free to call me a loon. If Negro League players had been in the majors from, say, 1919-on, no one would have heard of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle. Ty Cobb would've prospered, though, using his hatred of blacks as fuel. Would have been fun to see him sliding spikes-first toward Josh Gibson, and Josh knocking some of Ty's teeth out with his elbow at the baseline. Ty would've cursed, called him an infernal nigger, and come right back at him the next at-bat. Now that's some baseball! But alas, it didn't happen. You never would've known this history judging from the feel-good Disneyfication going on. We have to stop kidding ourselves when we try to bemoan an "obsession" with race. Race--like lawyers--was a defining element in the founding and development of this nation. Period. No debate. So can't we just be honest about what happened 60 years ago?

Note many black folks still use a phrase coined back in '47 whenever we face obtuse comments about affirmative action. It's called "the Jackie Robinson thing." You have to be three times better than them to be considered half as good. Think about it...


Snowman said...

While I agree with your description as of 1947, I must disagree with your stridency. I have no doubt that Bud Selig's attitudes and governance have contributed to the lack of interest by young black people outside of the Caribbean and South America in baseball. However, I don't think there are too many black youngsters here who would even know or care about Jackie Robinson, be it the myth or "marketing," or the historical truth, with or without "manipulation" by Selig or sponsoring corporations.

Anonymous said...

Amen. I was wondering where all of this fairy tale commentary and pagentry was coming from.

Snowman: the reasons for African Americans turning their backs on baseball are not related to any ignorance of Jackie Robinson. Among kids in Brooklyn, where my wife was born and raised, he remains a hero without and resorting to "mythology." But I think you are right about the baseball owners and Bud Selig's terrible stint as Commissioner.

Francis Holland said...

Great article, Christopher! If whites would only support our leaders as much when they're alive as when they're dead, America might be a better place.

In an article entitled, "Jackie Robinson: The Enduring Importance of Firsts," I argue that it is just as important today to have a first president of the United States who is NOT a white male as it was to have a first Major League baseball player who was not a white male sixty years ago.

I wrote this article because I perceive that whites as well as Blacks have forgotten or don't care about the tremendous psychological power of having non-white-males "go where no non-white-males have gone before."

We have become jaded about the power of firsts because they became a cliché and were held up as evidence of revolutionary change that was unfinished. Yet we have to admit that WITHOUT those firsts, most of us could not have imagined getting as far as we have gotten.

"Firsts" are like oxygen. Like oxygen, first are not sufficient in and of themselves to support human life. But, without "firsts" and without oxygen, life as we know it would be impossible. And so firsts are, at once, insufficient and indispensable.

Anonymous said...

I think Pete Gammons may have written a piece a few years ago finally admitting that the inclusion of Negro League players earlier in the 20th Century would have had a momentous effect on the majors. Of course it also would have unleashed race riots and strife in every city in the U.S., so I guess it balanced out? :-)