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April 14, 2016 0

Jackie Robinson Set the Stage

By Ken­neth Jacobson

April 15 is the 69th anniver­sary of the entry of Jackie Robin­son into the major leagues. To com­mem­o­rate that his­toric event and that his­toric fig­ure, PBS is run­ning a new two-part doc­u­men­tary  look­ing at how this grand­son of slaves rose from hum­ble ori­gins to inte­grate Major League Baseball.

In some ways, the story of Robin­son and the inte­gra­tion of base­ball is a lit­tle hard for us to under­stand in 2016. Soci­ety in gen­eral has come a long way: the civil rights rev­o­lu­tion, the elec­tion of an African-American pres­i­dent, and the lead­ing role that African-Americans play in our major Amer­i­can sports. And base­ball no longer occu­pies a unique place as the national pas­time that it held in the 1940s.

Jackie_Robinson,_Brooklyn_Dodgers,_1954

Still, in a year where major sto­ries include num­bers of cases of unarmed African-Americans killed by police, where the right to vote cre­ated by the 1965 Vot­ing Rights Act is under attack, where the school to prison pipeline is in the news, the Jackie Robin­son story has much to teach us.

In 1947, base­ball was king in Amer­ica. The fact that base­ball had never allowed an African-American to par­tic­i­pate in the major leagues was a blot on America’s rep­u­ta­tion, but only one of many that char­ac­ter­ized the coun­try before the civil rights era.

Robin­son was truly the har­bin­ger of change in America.

His break­through on April 15, 1947, which was rec­og­nized as a huge step for­ward. It took place seven years before the land­mark seg­re­ga­tion case Brown vs. Board of Edu­ca­tion and 17 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It started a process, which took years to ripen and which still is not over, of right­ing the great wrong of Amer­i­can history.

The great les­son of the Robin­son expe­ri­ence is that while laws have the great­est impact in chang­ing soci­ety, cul­ture can set the stage and cre­ate a cli­mate for the accep­tance of new, more inclu­sive laws. We’ve seen that in our time with the legal­iza­tion of gay mar­riage, which was pre­ceded by a num­ber of years of greater cul­tural accep­tance of les­bian and gay peo­ple through tele­vi­sion and the internet.

Back then, the emer­gence of Robin­son, the first African-American major lea­guer,  who han­dled  hos­tile fel­low major lea­guers and crowds with such grace and strength, to be fol­lowed over the next few years of other suc­cess­ful black major lea­guers, helped to cre­ate a sense that African-Americans deserved to be treated like other Amer­i­cans in our demo­c­ra­tic soci­ety. It was not a rev­o­lu­tion – it took years for the law to change – but it set the stage for the revolution.

Cul­ture mat­ters. How we teach our chil­dren, how the media por­tray var­i­ous minori­ties, how our reli­gious, busi­ness and polit­i­cal lead­ers speak about “the other” have a cumu­la­tive affect that cul­mi­nates in a more equal society.

Nobody bet­ter rep­re­sents this idea than Jackie Robinson.

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July 24, 2013 4

Foul Ball: Hate Speech, Twitter & Baseball

In the past week, the abil­ity to spread hate about eth­nic and reli­gious minori­ties in real time has twice played out on Twit­ter in the con­text of baseball. ryan-braun-twitter-hate

After Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers out­fielder Ryan Braun was sus­pended from Major League Base­ball for the remain­der of this sea­son for using per­for­mance enhanc­ing drugs, some Twit­ter users responded by post­ing dis­tinctly anti-Semitic messages.

Among the tweets that can be found when search­ing for Braun on Twit­ter are:

  • leave it to a jew to cheat the sys­tem, deceive peo­ple, then tar­nish other’s rep­u­ta­tions. Fuck you asshole
  • Ryan Braun jew’d us!
  • Ryan Braun didn’t make a mistake…he cheated, lied about it and than got caught…fuckin jew
  • Of course Ryan Braun was juiced out of his mind. How else could a Jew be that great at any­thing besides accounting

While anti-Semitic tweets about Braun did not start with his sus­pen­sion, the recent tweets fol­low a bar­rage of racist tweets in response to singer Marc Antony’s singing “God Bless Amer­ica” at Major League Baseball’s All-Star game in New York on July 16.

While Anthony is an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen of Puerto Rican descent, numer­ous offen­sive tweets made the rounds, say­ing  “shouldn’t an Amer­i­can be singing God Bless Amer­ica?” and imply­ing that Anthony is actu­ally from Mex­ico or Cuba, gen­er­ally assert­ing  any­one who is Latino in appear­ance is not inher­ently American.

ADL ardently sup­ports the right to free speech, but believes that social media and other Inter­net sites also have an oblig­a­tion to police their com­mu­ni­ties and con­front those who pro­mote anti-Semitism, racism and other forms of hate speech.

Twit­ter has no terms of ser­vice or com­mu­nity stan­dards that address aggres­sive or mali­cious behav­ior on the ser­vice. Addi­tion­ally, Twit­ter does not pro­vide even the most basic “Flag­ging” mech­a­nism for com­plaints which is widely used on the expe­ri­enced plat­forms run by Google and Facebook.

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