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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Jackie Robinson and Barack Obama

The Jackie Robinson of presidential politics...
by plainbrown1

Sun Aug 03, 2008 at 07:41:45 PM PDT

Let’s face it, whether we like it or not, Barack Obama is the “Jackie Robinson” of presidential politics. That’s just the fact. And like Jackie he is going to have to go through a LOT of stuff to make it safely to home plate.

Robinson, the first “negro” baseball player to play in the white Major Leagues, was (like Barak) smart and very talented. Not THE most talented baseball player in the Negro Leagues where he played professional ball, but one with an essential characteristic, one that Obama shares – the ability to remain cool under pressure. Robinson had to endure all manner of racial and racist attacks during his first season. (If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend the baseball book that tells the story of that season, “Opening Day” by Jonathan Eig) He had to endure physical and verbal assaults by other players while on the field, racial and hostile remarks by the press and fans, and like Barak, threats on his life and safety and that of his family.

So what happened this past week with McCain is to be expected. As has been said, “power concedes nothing without demand”. And I would add, gives ground grudgingly even in the face of just causes and maximum effort.


I know that the Senator knew what he was getting himself into and that it was not going to be all peaches and cream. America has a tradition of trying to disparage, humiliate and threaten any minority who tries to break a major cultural or social barrier. We know this.

So don’t lose focus. We ARE going to talk about race. We will because it is an inescapable factor, the elephant in the living room. And talking about it as Sen. Obama did in his Philadelphia, “More Perfect Union” speech will bring the issue out into the light of day, and make people really think about it! And thinking about it is the first step in overcoming folks fear of it.

We all realize that there are millions of people in America who won't vote for Obama simply because he is black. Many of these folks are not racist, but they do still respond to racial appeals, even the dog whistle ones. They don't respond because they are consciously anti-black, they respond to them for the same reason folks respond to Coca-Cola or Budweiser beer commercials, becaused they are conditioned to. And you cannot reach such folks through accusations or denunciations that make them feel defensive and guilty. But you can reach some of them by surfacing their fears, shining the light of reason on them and giving them the opportunity to discuss them.

Jackie Robinson eventually won over the large majority of baseball fans and became an American icon. He did it by biting his lip when others wouldn't or couldn't, and showing just how good he was on the field. Obama, unfortunately, also has some lip biting and demonstrating to do. And like Jackie he can't afford to "react" to every nasty trick or disparaging comment that the McCain camp makes - no matter how justified or desired a reaction might be. He needs to pick his battles and keep his eyes on the prize. But he too will demonstrate his talent and ability and win over the majority of voters. After all, 75,000 Portlanders and 200,000 Berliners can't all be wrong!

For the exchange see:

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