Category: Opinion Written by NNPA News Service
by Lee A. Daniels
(NNPA)—You could say “42,” the film about the life of Brooklyn Dodgers great Jackie Robinson, is a gripping baseball tale, and your assessment would be correct—but woefully incomplete.
“42” is not just a baseball story. It’s a compelling history lesson as well. It tells the story of not just baseball, but of a central facet of 20th Century American life—the suffocating reach of racism—in the decades before the 1960s.
It conveys the grievous wrong Black Americans endured and signals what it cost them, and America as a whole. And it indicates how the barrier of racism was cracked by Blacks and Whites who worked—many over the course of decades—to destroy it.
“42” reminds us, as the Major League’s season gets underway, that, given its mythic status in American life, baseball’s s most important milestone had nothing to do with the mechanics of playing the game or a particular game that was played but with cleansing the moral center of American democracy itself. It recounts once again in popular form the story of a man whose life proved that history sometimes acts through individuals and individuals can act to influence history.
“42” tells a story that never gets old; for it’s rooted in the saga of an America that once was, and then began to change sharply—a change which has yielded enormous benefits but which also remains both incomplete and resisted.
Jack Roosevelt Robinson, born in 1919, grew up in an America where the words “Too bad he’s the wrong color” were often the kindest remarks White Americans would say about Black Americans.
A Boston Red Sox scout said them in April 1945 during the now-infamous sham tryout at which that storied team passed on signing the future Hall of Famer despite his impressing Sox officials with his hitting and fielding. (A few years later, the Sox would also pass on signing Willie Mays. They would be the last team in baseball to add—in 1959—a Black player to their roster.)
Of course, the scout was wrong. As would become evident two years later, beginning on April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson was the right color, and of the right character, after all, to help ratchet up the pressure that had been building for decades among Black Americans in the North and South to confront the country’s great sin. To repeat, that wrong wasn’t merely Blacks’ 50-year exclusion from the playing fields of Major League Baseball.
Even as White America was boasting that its victory over Germany and Japan in World War II had made the world “safe” for democracy, Black Americans could see in every sector of American society—higher education, the movie industry, the civil service, residential housing, the military, large corporations and small businesses alike, the labor unions, collegiate and professional sports, and so on—that bigotry, not democracy, was triumphant.
The South’s apartheid system had its explicit “Whites Only” and “No Colored Allowed” signs. But, although the signs were absent, the same noxious sentiments existed almost everywhere in the North and West, from Boston to Pasadena, Calif., where the Georgia-born Robinson grew up.
In the immediate postwar environment, Robinson’s signing by the Branch Rickey-led Dodgers was the thunderclap that heralded the massing of new forces in the domestic fight to make America itself safe for democracy.
By then, Black Americans had the diverse organizational strength at the national and local levels to field multiple challenges to racism. By then, a still very small but growing number of White organizations—and individuals like Branch Rickey—were actively looking for ways to break the numerous “color barriers” that characterized American society. And by then, America’s position of global leadership was beginning to exert pressure on it to live up to its boasts about loving freedom by extending it to Black Americans, too. It was no accident of history that within a year of Robinson’s breaking baseball’s color barrier, President Truman ordered the desegregation of America’s other signal mythic institution—the military.
Jackie Robinson’s story was but one facet of the diamond of Black determination that in the 20 years after World War II would dismantle the legalized structure of racism. But he—an extraordinarily-gifted, fiercely-competitive athlete who possessed a deeply spiritual, disciplined character—was superbly suited for the challenge he, and America, confronted.
The wrong color? Not on your life.
(Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His most recent book is “Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.” He collaborated with Rachel Robinson on her 1998 book, “Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait.”)
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 April 2013 11:17
Category: Opinion Written by Bill Fletcher Jr.
BILL FLETCHER JR.
(NNPA)—Sequestration is like the sand in an hour glass. When the sand starts falling, it does not seem to amount to much. The full section of the hour glass seems not to change, at least at first. Yet at a certain moment it becomes clear that the sand is disappearing and that what was once full is now approaching empty.
When sequestration began, it began with a whimper. Discussions took place for months about the dangers of sequestration. We were led to believe that it was not very likely that it would actually happen because, after all, neither side really wanted to court such a potential disaster. We were wrong on a number of counts.
The first danger that we have to acknowledge is that sequestration actually is to the advantage of the Republicans. They are the ones looking for cuts. Yes, some of them are complaining about this or that cut, but the reality is that they are seeking cuts. In that sense, they can live with sequestration, or at least they think that they can. There is, as a result, no pressure on their side to end this.
The second danger is precisely the hour glass problem. In the beginning, there seemed to be little damage. Federal workers, of course, were upset, but many people are prepared to write off federal workers. In fact, too many people have thought about sequestration as punishing federal workers for any number of alleged evils. So, large segments of the public have been willing to let it happen.
The third danger is that no one seems to have a clear sense as to how to arrive at a budget that would actually end sequestration. That is the punch line: there are vastly different views on what government should look like and what it should fund.
Yet, with sequestration some strange things started to happen. An excellent example has been the closing of airport control towers around the country. In one story from the Midwest, pro-sequestration citizens were shocked to discover that sequestration meant that the airport control tower in their home town was going to be shuttered. Ooops! Was that supposed to happen?
Sequestration, as with other austerity measures, is a response to an imaginary crisis. The notion that the main problem facing the U.S.A. is debt is irrational. The main challenge is job creation and income. With job creation and income one gains tax revenue. Continuous cutting means fewer people on the payrolls and deeper levels of debt and poverty. One does not need to be an economist to see that reality.
Sequestration and other austerity plans are aimed at strangling the government and forcing an end to various programs that have been won over the last century. This is precisely what is meant when the right-wing suggests that it wants to return government to the size that it was under President McKinley (1898), i.e., to return government to the size that it was prior to regulations to protect our food, prior to unemployment insurance, prior to programs for the homeless, etc.
While many people have watched and yawned as sequestration has unfolded, the reality is that the sand is dropping faster and faster, and soon enough we will all find that we have been touched by further unnecessary, and frankly immoral, cuts.
(Bill Fletcher Jr. is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forums. Follow him at www.billfletcherjr.com.)
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 April 2013 11:12
Category: Opinion Written by CNN
by Van Jones
(CNN) -- Richard Biennestin was only 20 years old when he was shot and killed on April 13. Jessie Leon Jordan was 23. Sione Fakatoufifita was 19. Titania Mitchell was only 13. Of the nearly two dozen people reported killed that day, about half were under age 30.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 20:52
Category: Opinion Written by Courier Newsroom
It never fails. Every time I read the paper or hear the news, someone’s home was invaded. Or, some youngster was shot and killed. Another mother is crying. Another vigil is held somewhere. Someone else is shot. And someone always cries out “THIS HAS GOT TO STOP!”
Well, it won’t stop until someone has the guts to come up with an obvious solution. If you want to stop the home invasions, the shootings and killings, you have to get guns off the street. To get guns off the street, you have to get drugs off the street. To get drugs off the street, you must legalize them. Yes, legalize drugs.
I have no data as far as violent crime being related to drugs, but I believe there is a very high correlation. If legalizing drugs doesn’t do anything, it will take the criminal element out of it. There is an old saying that goes something like, “If you forget the past, you are bound to repeat.” Remember prohibition? As long as liquor was illegal, Al Capone, Frank Nitti and all the rest of those thugs caused violence and crime to run rampant just as it does today. Just as soon as they repealed prohibition and made liquor legal, crime was greatly reduced. And the same will happen if they legalize drugs.
Just like back during prohibition, people said you can’t repeal prohibition. Everyone will be walking around drunk. Well, if you don’t drink, you don’t drink. The same is said of drugs. If you don’t use drugs, you don’t use drugs.
Believe me if you legalize drugs, the only ones that will be using them are the ones that are using them now. Regulate them. Take all the money spent on losing the fight against drugs and put it toward the education of the dangers of drugs. Let’s face it. We are not winning the war on drugs and as long as drugs are illegal, we never will. Legalize drugs and stop the killing. Stop the home invasions. Stop the car-jackings and stop another mother from crying.
George E. Knox
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 April 2013 11:10
Category: Opinion Written by Marc H. Morial
MARC H. MORIAL
(NNPA)—It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.—The late National Urban League and civil rights leader, Whitney M. Young Jr.
Last week, during the National Urban League’s 10th annual Legislative Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., we released the 37th edition of the State of Black America, Redeem the Dream: Jobs Rebuild America. This year’s report commemorates the racial milestones that have occurred in the 50 years since the height of the civil rights movement and shines a sobering light on the unfinished business of achieving full equality and empowerment for every citizen.
One of the most encouraging signs in the report is the progress African-Americans have made in fulfilling Whitney Young’s vision of preparing ourselves for real and hoped for opportunities through education.
Since 1963, the high school completion gap has closed by 57 percentage points. There are more than triple the number of Blacks enrolled in college. And for every college graduate in 1963, there are now five.
Anti-poverty measures have also improved our living standard since 1963. The percentage of Blacks living in poverty has declined by 23 points. And the percentage of Blacks who own their homes has grown by 14 points.
But these numbers don’t tell the full story. While Black America has achieved double-digit gains in educational attainment, employment, and wealth over the past 50 years, we still have made only single-digit gains against Whites. With an Equality Index of 71.7 percent, African-Americans enjoy less than three-fourths of the well-being and economic status of White Americans. Similarly, Hispanic Americans, with an index of 75.4 percent, are experiencing only three-quarters of the full opportunity America has to offer.
For example, in the past 50 years, the Black-White income gap has only closed by 7 points (now at 60 percent). The unemployment rate gap has only closed by 6 points (now at 52 percent). And with March unemployment figures showing African-American joblessness now at 13.3 percent and Hispanic unemployment at 9.2 percent, compared to an overall rate of 7.6 percent, we still see a tale of two Americas that continues to break down along the color line.
But rather than bemoan these problems, the National Urban League is using these findings to sharpen our focus on meaningful solutions. Earlier this year, we launched a ground-breaking endeavor Jobs Rebuild America, a $70 million series of public/private investments to create pathways to jobs and put urban America back to work.
But Washington must also be part of the solution. During our visit to Capitol Hill this week, we reiterated our support of the Urban Jobs Act and the Project Ready STEM Act, a bill sponsored by Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge. We also support the stated goal in the president’s 2014 budget released last week: to invest in the things needed to grow our economy and create jobs while reducing the deficit in a way that does not unfairly impact the most vulnerable communities.
Again, while much progress has been made over the past 50 years, The State of Black America remains a tale of two Americas. The National Urban League has put some real solutions on the table. Its time for Washington to put them to work.
To obtain a copy of the State of Black America visit www.nul.org.
(Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 April 2013 09:23
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