Thursday, July 8, 2010

Education: Baseball- Racism Towards Jackie Robinson, Soccer, and Other Things

Aurora Harris- 4:30 a.m. July 8, 2010

I was in a deep sleep until I heard loud cheers and found myself waking up to a documentary on baseball with the narrator talking about the deep racism African American ball player Jackie Robinson and other team members endured as members of the Negro League Baseball teams. As I listened to what happened to the ball players in 1947, I had a very clear memory of my father telling me how he went to a field on or near 6 mile and Dequinder, on the east side of Detroit, to watch Negro League ball games because Blacks were not allowed to play on minor or major league teams due to the segregation of Jim Crow. In the memory, I could see my father and I driving east on 6 mile and hearing his voice say, "See that corner? I used to come here to watch Negro League baseball, some of the greatest Black baseball players in the world. They played on this field because they couldn't play in Tiger Stadium."

As I listened to the story of how Robinson suffered from stomach pains and was pushed to the brink of a nervous breakdown by repeated racist taunts and name calling by Whites every time he stepped out on the field, but managed to keep playing better and better until he was drafted into the Major League as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers... listened to how his team mate repeatedly drank alcohol to cope with racism until he began hearing voices and eventually had a stroke, and, listened to how a White ball player purposely gashed open Robinson's thigh with his spiked shoe, I thought about the soccer players of color during the 2006 World Cup who received racist taunts by White Europeans during soccer matches every time they stepped out on the field, and, how they became so upset, they wanted to stop playing.

The next memory that I had was about my father and how he came out our our restaurant on Fifth Street near Elizabeth and Plum, in the Plum Street district in the 1960's... how one evening, during a Saturday in the summer, he was stabbed repeatedly in his chest by a White man who tried to rob him. I remembered my mother getting the call from Receiving Hospital and going with her in a cab to find my father in the hallway wrapped in sheet, dripping with he told us later that the butcher knife broke off in his lung and that he drove to the hospital himself, slumped, and with gashes to his arms that severed tendons...

Jackie Robinson was one year older than my father...born in 1919, my father born in 1920...when Robinson was playing baseball in 1947, the man who would become my father was returning home from World War II... the soccer players in 2006 being spat at... all of it adds up to the existence of racism in various countries within a span of eighty seven years... Whether it is through sports or trying to be an independent business owner, the film and the memories are reminders of the reality of what Black Americans endured under Jim Crow and what some African men continue to endure in the 21st Century.

The following video is from an ESPN special on Soccer players of color and the level of racism they faced during the 2006 World Cup. The players are Carlos Kemeni, Marc Zoro, and Thierry Henry. I find it ironic that as I write this morning, the 2010 World Cup Soccer games have been taking place, and it was just announced that Spain beat Germany...Spain's racist fans are shown in the video.

As a result of the racism from soccer fans, Thierry Henry got with Nike to make a commercial that speaks out against racism. The commercial called "Stand Up Speak Up" has been shown in Europe. The commercial follows the sports video.

  Sports (Soccer) and Racism.  This video was posted a few years ago.  European Racism:

2. Thierry Henry's Commercial: Stand Up Speak Up:

So, here I am sitting on the edge of the bed watching images of Whites in the bleachers screaming at Jackie Robinson in a black and white film on baseball...suddenly I get an in color flash memory of the soccer players and how they looked on the field as people screamed at them, and then I have an idea to put to the two together, the baseball documentary and the soccer video, to talk about racial and ethnic identity, racism, and its effects.

I think that if teachers, parents, and students who are interested in Sports; American, African American, Ethnic, Racism, Whiteness, and Peace Studies should watch the documentary on baseball and compare what happened to Jackie Robinson and fellow African American ball players, to the European soccer team players, there is a possibility that someone will have a deeper understanding of the levels of racism that historically exists, in addition to discussing the following and other sources mentioned in this morning's blog:

1. The effects of the social construction of racial and ethnic identity.
2. Prevailing racism in an imagined post-racial or colorblind society in America and abroad.
3. Resiliency, strength, and coping skills to deal with persistent racism and racial violence.
4. The importance of documenting and listening to lived experiences from our families and communities
5. The importance of lived experiences in legal cases as discussed by Critical Race Theorists.
6. Where or how does a person find peace or peace of mind when faced with racism on a daily basis?
7. Examples of how race trumps gender and class.
8. How to improve race relations.
10. Since there was no equivalent to the US Civil Rights movement for people of color in Europe, how can we as Americans who either lived through and after that era, lend support to others that experience racism in other countries?

It is now 7:14 a.m. and a POV film about apartheid in South Africa is on ( once again this is another morning experience of watching important educational programs that are shown most people are asleep). For more info on the film "Promised Land" go to

Notes: (see PBS Baseball link below)

1. I was watching Baseball, Inning 6: The National Pastime (1940-1950) by Ken Burns

2. For info about the Negro Baseball League:

3. For further information to add to your discussion, see this blog's side bar for "Education: Aurora's Project: Part 4 Brazil." Click on the link to see more videos concerning the construction and effects of racial identity in Brazil, the story of Native American actors in Hollywood, and, videos on Whiteness and White privilege.

4. The website Football Unites Racism Divides explains the Stand Up Speak Up campaign and provides more information of racism in soccer (football). At he bottom of the page is a PDF document that has the story of Stand Up Speak Up from 2005-2009.

5. Latest news on racism in soccer as of July 1, 2010 from Foreign Policy. A 3 page article about France:,0

End: 8:13 a.m. July 8, 2010
writing and memoir c. 2010 by Aurora Harris
All other sources and videos mentioned are under their own copyrights like YouTube, PBS, Ken Burns, POV, Thierry Henry, Nike, Football Unites, Racism divides, etc.

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