Refresh  

Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook 1 Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend 3 (4 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Article Stats   1 comment

OpEdNews Op Eds

On the Little League World Series, Jackie Robinson West, and Michael Brown

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 1 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

Supported 1  
View Ratings | Rate It

opednews.com Headlined to H1 8/24/14

republished from TheNation.com


From flickr.com/photos/73735208@N04/10585258356/: Jackie Robinson
Jackie Robinson
(image by idccollage)

To paraphrase bell hooks, the events of this summer show with bracing clarity that there are huge swaths of this country that love black culture and hate black people. It is difficult to not see this reality in the events of the last week: events that counterpose something as American as apple pie, the Little League World Series, and something else that is frankly also as American as apple pie: the killing of unarmed black men and women by police.

On the Little League side, Hollywood could not have painted a more soul-stirring tableau. We have the charming, charismatic champions of the United States, called Jackie Robinson West, hailing from the great city of Chicago. JRW is a team consisting entirely of African American kids from the city. The fact that such a team has ascended to the finals of the Little League World Series is an astounding accomplishment both athletically as well as demographically. JRW is the first all African-American team to become US champions in over 30 years. During that same thirty-year stretch the number of African-American kids who play baseball has plummeted dramatically, their roster-spots in the Major League Baseball falling from 19% to 8% of all players. In college baseball, less than 6% of rosters have African American players.

What else has happened over the previous three decades in this country? We have seen the rise of neoliberal economics and the hollowing out of our cities. One casualty of the new urban-normal has been Little League programs, Boys & Girls clubs and community centers: the very infrastructure baseball demands. This period of decimation has been followed more recently by an era of urban gentrification, as the wealthy have moved back into the cities, exploding property values, pushing the poor disproportionately black residents to the margins and creating a 21st century phenomenon: the suburbanization of poverty and dislocated ghetto sprawl. The infrastructure for baseball in urban communities has withered, likened by sports sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards to a corpse on life support.

Yet here is Jackie Robinson West. They beat the odds and America is cheering on this fact without examining what made those odds so daunting in the first place. Instead people are choosing to enjoy this dynamic, magnetic team named after the most universally praised of sports trailblazers and our collective symbol of racial reconciliation.

Meanwhile that same dislocation and suburbanization of property that has gutted urban baseball, has also produced and created areas like Ferguson, Missouri a place that has gone from majority white to majority black over the last generation, with the police seamlessly shifting its approach from Officer Friendly to occupying army. To judge by recent polls, white America doesn't see poverty, police brutality and institutionalized racism in Ferguson or anywhere else. That era is considered long done, defeated by the individual heroism of people like Jackie Robinson. The logic goes, if racism was still throbbing in this country, then the kids from Jackie Robinson West, not to mention Mo'ne Davis, would never have stolen our hearts.

If we choose to see racism as an awful memory, like small pox, instead of as a living virus, then the killing of Michael Brown is the fault of Michael Brown. Officer Darren Wilson must be being railroaded by a "lynch mob" and the leaving of Michael Brown's unarmed corpse on the streets of Ferguson for hours was just an unfortunate clerical error. By that logic, all the deaths of black men and women at the hands of the police is the deracialized expression of the system working as it should

If the white majority can go to sleep at night content with the idea that Michael Brown is dead because of the individual choices of Michael Brown, then they don't have to confront racism as a living, breathing virus, needing to be confronted, quarantined and destroyed,. They can cheer for Jackie Robinson West, put on a copy of the movie 42 afterwards for the whole family, and marvel how far the American experiment has allowed us to travel from those dark days before people like Robinson and of course Dr. King emancipated us from our past. Anyone who says otherwise a "race hustler" and -- altogether now -- "the real racists."

If only the real Jackie Robinson was still with us to speak for himself. If only the real Jackie Robinson could pop up as a public service announcement before Jackie Robinson West plays in the Little League World Series and repeat the words he said about police brutality fifty years ago: "One cannot expect [black] leaders to sell the non-violence cause when followers see violence erupting against them every day of their lives. Not even new civil rights bills or statesmanlike speeches can counteract this."

If only the real Jackie Robinson were alive today, he would undoubtedly say that there is nothing post-racial about a world where two black people are killed on average by police every week. He would say, as he said in the 1960s, "All these guys who were saying that we've got it made through athletics, it's just not so. You as an individual can make it, but I think we've got to concern ourselves with the masses of the people--not by what happens as an individual."

If only the largely white Little League crowds cheering this electric team from Chicago could know as stone cold fact, that if Jackie Robinson were alive, there is no question he would be brimming with pride during the day at the play of the team that bears his name, but at night he'd be in Ferguson committed to the struggle for civil rights. He would also be challenging his white fans to care: to not isolate themselves from what Ferguson has exposed, but to help confront it. He would repeat the same words he uttered fifty years ago: "There's not an American in this country free until every one of us is free."

[Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming book "Brazil's Dance with the Devil" (Haymarket) Receive his column every week by emailing dave@edgeofsports.com. Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.]

 

http://www.edgeofsports.com

Dave Zirin, Press Action 's 2005 and 2006 Sportswriter of the Year, has been called "an icon in the world of progressive sports ". Robert Lipsyte says he is "the best young sportswriter in the United States. " 

Dave writes about the politics of sports for the Nation Magazine, and is author of Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games We Love

You can receive his column Edge of Sports,
every week by going to http://zirin.com/edgeofsports/?p=subscribe&id=1.


Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Latter Day Protest? Proposition 8 and Sports

Reflections on 9-11

Fan Culture, Rape Culture, and the World Joe Paterno Made

Pure Poison: The Weekend Shooting, Ray Rice and a Culture of Violence Against Women

The Super Bowl: When Hawks Cry

Big League Crisis at the World Baseball Classic

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
1 people are discussing this page, with 1 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)
You are correct in one sense: Michael Brown did s... by Doc McCoy on Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014 at 4:03:53 AM