“I speak to you only as an American who happens to be an American Negro and one who is proud of that heritage. We ask for nothing special. We ask only that we be permitted to compete on an even basis, and if we are not worthy, then the competition shall, per se, eliminate us.” Jackie Robinson
Last Sunday Major League Baseball celebrated another Jackie Robinson Day, commemorating the African American who broke baseball’s color barrier and became a symbol of sports civil rights, human dignity and above all athletic prowess.
The day was April 15, 1947 when Pasadena, California native son Jack Roosevelt Robinson did what no other Negro could. That’s play the game of baseball with and against the alleged best in America.
Some will argue that the old Negro League had the better players and talent, but because of the racist and segregated era they were born into did not get the opportunity demonstrate it .
Robinson was carefully selected, not based on just his ability, but also his character and temperament because had he failed the likelihood of any Negroes playing in the Major Leagues would be remote.
When Robinson broke the baseball color line with the then Brooklyn Dodgers it was supposed to signal the end to racial segregation in professional baseball that had relegated black players to the Negro Leagues since the 1880s.
Now some 71 years later, we still ponder the significance of Robinson climbing over that high wall of hatred and bigotry, but the wall itself still stands tall and strong.
Major League Baseball symbolizes the anniversary with the wearing of Robinson’s number 42 uniform.
Communities and organizations throughout America are invited to ball parks and presented with jersey’s to commemorate the occasion, but when the games are over and they all return to their respective communities, Major League Baseball is still left with the tremendous void that Robinson’s ground breaking achievement was aimed to cure.
That is the opportunity for African Americans to play the game of baseball in the Major Leagues.
The appalling few numbers in Major League Baseball is an atrocity and an affront on the legacy of Jackie Robinson.
Wearing No. 42 on a single day and then in Cleveland have the Indians wear the racist symbol of a Wahoo on their cap with the No. 42 commemorative symbol on the side when it has already been decided the team would eliminate the Wahoo in 2019 is absolutely disgusting.
However, it is the reality that we live in America, that individuals, organizations and corporations are uncomfortable with African Americans in many aspects, and specifically in sports where most of all of the people in authority are white, most of your reporters, those that document and chronicle your history are white, from the publicity department to the game announcers, to the public address announcer, except in New York where Paul Olden is employed, African Americans are mere token symbols.
On Sunday April 15, 2018, Jackie Robinson was like the rest of us just another token symbol.
An event that MLB could not be happier that the sooner it ends, the better for us to return to where we want to be, comfortable among ourselves.
Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, but it was his electricity on the base paths, his intense effort on the diamond and his steeled, remarkable character off of it is something that we all should learn from, white included.
Inclusion is not EXCLUSIVE, baseball should not be a white country club where all of its players, employees, and most of its fans feel comfortable that its okay where the game is some 71 years after Jackie Robinson.
Giving out socks and other commemorative items to individuals who feel saluted for just attending the ceremony is not what this day should be about.
Yes, it is good that Major League Baseball is reminding us on this day something we should never forget on any day, but until your game can demonstrate that it is more determined to fielding teams with players from urban communities in America instead of internationalizing it with players from abject poverty communities in third world countries, you have failed.
“I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me... All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” Jackie Robinson