Have you ever had the talk with your kids? No, not that talk. How about being stared at by the store security from the minute you walk into a department store, or just plain ignored by the person at the check out counter. The talk I’m referring to is the one most people of color and especially Black people have with their children on how to act if pulled over by a police officer. I’m not saying all police are bad, but I think it is safe to say we have a problem that has never been solved.
In this article, I would like to juxtapose a suburban White kid to an urban Black kid. Black people have been legally separate from White people for 60 years. In 1896, the Supreme Court heard the case of Plessy vs Ferguson. This decision legalized segregation if things were equal. Those things included schools, recreation centers, hospitals, public parks, swimming pools, and the like. A 1960 census report showed that 80% of White people believed everything was equal between Blacks and Whites. This staggering assumption came on the heels of 75 years of forced segregation. That means White people believed things were equal with no empirical evidence. Very few White people had ever been to a Black neighborhood.
I’m going to share a recent experience with you. I’m a baseball umpire and I went to a city named Longmont to do a tournament. It conjured up thoughts of my baseball career which started in the 1960’s. I can remember players like Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan, Willie Stargell, Bob Gibson, and many others. Baseball was America’s sport, and it was dominated by Black ball players. We recently had a World series with no American born Black players.
This did not happen by accident. Let me explain. The baseball establishment came up with the brilliant idea to privatize baseball. Instead of local teams playing in public leagues by location, we now have hand-picked teams or club teams. One must supply all their equipment, gloves, bats, uniform, administrative fees and traveling fees. These costs can get to several thousand dollars.
When I started organized baseball in 1971, it costs five dollars to play in the league and my dad bought me a five-dollar glove. The uniform was lent to you, and you returned it at the end of the season. Every team had a manager, and he had all the equipment needed to play the game. There was one trophy and that went to the coach of the winning team. There was no affirmative action to make sure everybody played. The best players played. One could sit on the bench the entire year and not play at all. If a player got hurt, he recovered as quickly as possible because we were on a time limit and our field had no lights.
The Rest of the Story
Oh, I forgot to tell you, I was in Longmont from 7am to 7pm. There were 8 teams at this tournament site. There were about 300-500 people circulating in and out of the park on that day. Not only did I not see any Black players, but I also did not see any Black people, or even a person of color. If a fan loses his mind and comes at me, I can’t really defend myself. Remember, I’m a six foot three 280-pound Black guy. If I become an angry Black man, I can go to jail or even worse. Living in Denver, I frequently find myself in these kinds of situations. I’m used to it, and I know how to navigate my way through it.
Let me ask you this, my White brother. When was the last time you were surrounded by people who didn’t look like you? Granted most of them were pleasant and had good things to say after the game. On the way home, I had to travel on several back roads before I reached the freeway. I must admit, I thought I might see some guys on horseback who might have a historical flashback.
The question is, why don’t you know this about me? Answer, you never asked. You thought that because we sat in the same church on Sunday morning, I was just like you. Guess what? I’m not.