A very interesting question was posed today on the Twitter. The question was, “Did baseball’s Jackie Robinson do more for Civil Rights than MLK?” (Big ups to the homie @iLetsPlayBall) I sat back for about a minute in real time to ponder the question, and then I replied, “Yes & no. Jackie was a precursor to MLK. 2 doesn’t happen w/o 1. W/o Jackie there’s no Brown vs. BOE, no nothing. (BOE is the Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas, which will be further addressed later in the blog) I then waited to see other responses. The two I saw were in complete contrast to mine. The homie shortly thereafter RT and Favorite my response, then tweeted me with his appreciation for me being the only one of the respondents to look at it objectively and rationally. I truly appreciated that. Anyone who knows me can attest that I attribute my “50/50, Straight Up & Down” mentality to my formal education in all aspects of Journalism and our only objective being to present news in a straightforward, objective manner. That overflows into the way I view life. So, I’m asking those who’ve already damn near had a heart attack over the mere thought of this topic to bear with me. To my faithful, love you much; you already know my format. Buckle up.
With today being 4.15.2014, 67 years ago to the day that Mr. Jackie broke the color barrier in professional sports, this question was obviously pertinent and relevant. My homie heard the question on ESPN Radio and figured he’d ask the Twitter world. Like I said, the responses weren’t at all favorable. With respect to those persons’ rights to opinion, I do feel that Mr. Jackie having done more for Civil Rights than MLK is at the very least a plausible topic of discussion. We as black people (deservedly so) have placed Dr. King on a plateau that no single black person could ever ascend to. Not even Michael Jackson/Jordan, Ali, Oprah, or President Obama. We know that MLK literally gave his life for the cause. We know. But, have you ever taken the time to fully consider Mr. Jackie’s contribution to us, black white, and all? Mr. Jackie desegregated AMERICA’S pastime, a game that has existed for well over a century and has even been played through two world wars. Baseball was the white man’s pride and joy, and unwilling to open the door to Blacks and Hispanics for as long as it saw fit. Jackie was hand-picked by Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers to do what had never been done. Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige were flat out better players, but not the best fit for various reasons. Mr. Jackie, in Rickey’s eyes, was the ideal candidate. Rickey had confidence and Jackie’s word that he would endure everything that came his way without retaliation, the only way to make his story a success and open the door for more great players of color so they too could get their opportunity to live the ultimate dream. That alone is the ultimate test: to not fight back even though you’re more than sure you’d win, because your win would be tantamount to loss. If Jackie couldn’t have kept his cool, he wouldn’t have made it in the Big Leagues, and the time before the next brother got a shot likely would’ve been well in the future. Everything rode on Mr. Jackie’s ability to get his Gandhi on, to just stay on his Exodus 14:14 and play his game. I can’t even imagine how that must have felt. Marvin wasn’t even old enough yet to sing “Makes Me Wanna Holler”. But Mr. Jackie did, and he did it alone. Let’s not forget that. How many of us know how it feels to be the ONLY Black man in a controlled setting/environment? I don’t care how cool you are, that shit gets OD awkward at times, unless you’re some type of Wayne Brady or something. And that’s in today’s time, when we and white folk and pretty much all of us under the rainbow get along from day to day. Imagine how it was for Mr. Jackie initially, when he didn’t even have teammates who showed love (they would eventually). He was ALL alone; just himself, his thoughts, and the game. Mind you, he couldn’t stay in the same hotels or eat at the same restaurants as his teammates initially, either. That’s the hard knock life. But he did it for all of us. He had his eyes on the prize. Just like Dr. King. And no, Mr. Jackie was not assassinated, but he did die relatively young. He was only 53.The massive amount of stress he endured almost certainly contributed to his diabetes and heart disease. He gave everything he had.
Jackie’s arrival to MLB in 1947 predated the Civil Rights Act by 17 years, predated Sis. Rosa Parks arrest by eight years, and the Brown v. Board of Education decision by seven years. All of these events were integral parts of the movement. But Mr. Jackie started it all. Like so many others, he gave the best of himself so we would be able to freely exercise rights such as speaking freely about this as we are right now. So, in conclusion, I stick by my initial tweet reply of yes and no. I truly don’t feel you can have Dr. King without Mr. Jackie, and without Dr. King, we wouldn’t have had anyone as vocal to carry the torch Mr. Jackie lit. Praise both these men, eternally. God bless them both and God bless the game of baseball.
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