Sunday, April 15, 2007

Jackie Robinson and the Re-Written Check

The media world is buzzing over the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's first appearance in a Major League baseball game. According to Ian O'Connor of Fox Sports, Robinson's first game was "the most important event in the history of American sports."

And it was.

There is a strong argument that the two most important events in American history have been emancipation from slavery and the overturning of racial segregation. Like Brown v Board of Education, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Freedom Riders, the Poor People's March on Washington, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Robinson's first game as a Dodger is tremendously significant because it was a signal event in the overcoming of racial segregation.

But why is the overturning of segregation so important to American history?

First, overcoming legal segregation made life better for millions of black people in the United States. Most fundamentally, the basic rights of African-Americans to vote, hold office, serve on juries, and exercise free speech and freedom of assembly were recognized. Likewise, black people were integrated into business, education, and civic institutions and a large black middle class came into existence. Because baseball was a prominent civic institution, the integration of baseball helped advance the cause of integration in other spheres as well.

Second, overcoming segregation began a long process of redeeming American society from its legacy of white supremacy. One of the important things about the celebration of Jackie Robinson's baseball career is that all Americans now identify with Robinson's triumphs over racism--against the initial rejection from some of his teammates, the taunting from baseball racists like Phillie manager Ben Chapman, and the abuse from hostile fans. In much the same way that Martin Luther King became an icon for all Americans, Jackie Robinson has become everyone's hero while his racist antagonists are seen as being so un-American that it's like they came from another country.

In his "I Have a Dream" speech, Martin Luther King claimed that:

"[W]e have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

King underestimated the significance of his actions. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence was indeed a check, but a check that guaranteed "the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" only for white men. Jefferson and Madison did not recognize inalienable rights for black people any more than Roger Taney would in the Dred Scott decision of 1857. What King and other civil rights figures did was "rewrite" the founding documents to guaranteed rights for all rather than rights for white people. In doing so, King was retrospectively redeeming the American Revolution and the Constitution from the legacy of white supremacy. King created a Constitution for us all and then pushed the country to cash in on that promise.

Jackie Robinson was one of the first figures to cash in fully on the promise of an integrated society in the African-American rewriting of the American promise. In doing so, he paved the way for all of us.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

DancingChef said. . . .
I totally agree with this blog. Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King Jr. want equality and fought for it. For year African-Americans had been fighting for overturning segregation and equality between white males and black males. When Jackie Robinson was finally on the Major League he still had to deal with racial comments by teammates and fans but he stayed and fought to be there because he new that with doing so he was changing history for his fellow African-Americans, he was helping create equality. In the reading by Locke he talks about how all men are equal to one another and that you should treat your fellow man as you would treat yourself. In American society, we were not living Locke’s theory but we were living in the way that all white-men are equal and the black-man must be subordinate to white-men. Robinson and King knew that this way of treating one another is society was wrong. That everyman should live in a Locke society, everyman is equal. That is why their actions are so important to civil right, the brought about equality.

tango311 said...

Jackie Robinson's baseball career that has been a part of American History for 60 years is one of the most important events in the history of American sports. I agree with this blog. Although both Martin Luther King and Jackie Robinson faught for equality differently, they both wanted equality for race. All African Americans dealt with racial discrimination before and during the civil rights movement. Still today african americans deal with a new generation of discrimination, and even Jackie Robinson experienced discrimination on the field as one of the best athletes in American history and took a stand against it. Martin Luther King's approach towards racial segregation was just held in a different manner in order to take a stand. Changing the right to vote for millions of African Americans changing their freedom for many other opportunities for equality. The blog says that the discrimination that both Martin Luther King and Jackie Robinson faced with white supremacy was "un-american." I dont feel like it would be considered "un-american" because America is a color blind society and racism still exist at a high lever and although segregation between blacks and whites have been removed legally, I feel it's still here with us in the United States.

GreatAmerican said...

Commenting on Jackie Robinson I want to say that the things he not only done for baseball but for America was great. He overcame so much that it is amazing that he changed things and had such an influence on segregation and society. I love to watch sports because that is something that blacks and whites do and race is not an issue. Sure you have the occasional fan that is racist but overall sports are a good equalizer for race. I feel that when blacks and whites can play on the same field their rules are the same because the game dictates what happens and not the color of the players skin as it used to. This is a huge step in American society. Jackie Robinson was a great player but he was even more remarkable for his achievements in racial equality. He would be taunted and things would be thrown at him while he was on the field. How he stood all of this I will never know, but he did and it was great. Jackie in my eyes is like Martin Luther King Jr. as the article alluded to. I feel that together these guys accomplished more in their lives than anyone else could hope to accomplish. Jackie Robinson is truly amazing.

viper10 said...

I agree with all of you. Jackie Robinson's will to stick it out, even with everyone against him, was truly a victory for African Americans in the United States. As my fellow bloggers said; not only was it a victory for integrating in sports, but it also helped to set the field for integration in every other aspect of the work force. Also, I agree that Mr. Robinson is like Martin Luther King Jr., in how he never struck back, and he didn't advocate other African Americans to be aggressive towards racist whites. To me, this shows tremendous character and a very strong will. I think all of us should feel lucky to be as strong as Jackie Robinson.

Anonymous said...

420ComfortablyNumb said...
I think Jackie Robinson is one of the most inspirational figures in American history. Jackie was a baseball player first and foremost and one hell of a ballplayer at that. All he wanted to do was play ball with the big boys and prove to himself and all of his critics that he could play. He did not care about money, votes or any number of incentives that have led people to fight for something. Jackie made a difference by simply doing what he loved. I think every one can learn form him, especially if you are fighting something oppressive. I think the way that Jackie Robinson never allowed himself to become compromised by white supremacists or teammates is amazing.

DemocratLove said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DemocratLove said...

Breaking such pivotal racial barriers like Jackie Robinson did by becoming the first African-American to play in U.S. major league baseball, not only pirated a new era in baseball but also a light that shown unto the World that the walls of racial tension and equality were coming to an end. Robinson was the type of man who could handle fans, teammates, and media critics; in racial slurs and unncessary discrimination. Racial segregation was a turning point in American history, because it started with a foot-step that would eventually lead into a milestone of victories for African-Americans. It opened a door to the many things mentioned in the blog like voting, the right to hold office or serve in court. Even the right of free speech and the freedom of assembly. Which were written in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Jackie Robinson started the equality movement through baseball, just like Martin Luther King Jr. did through his work, including his "I have a dream speech..." I agree with the blog that Jackie Robinson cashed in the check and paved a way for all Americans, black and white. John Locke's theory that all men are equal, are just the same as MLK and Jackie Robinson. And like Jesus said, "Treat your neighbor as you would like to be treated." If only it were as simple as baseball, to break all the problems of racial barring today.

rodeo8 said...

I completely agree with this article, I truly feel that Jackie Robinson is a very influential person in American history, both for African Americans and for the sports world. He made major strides in both arenas. The American society is a sports based society and because Robinson did what he did, it paved way for American society in general to begin the integration process in all other aspects of life. GreatAmerican made a good point that on the sports field, race is not an issue blacks and whites are equal, they are all there for the common goal. He is right, this is a huge step in American society, they fact that American’s can find a level playing field is important and a great thing for our society. I also agree with the fact that while Martin Luther King Jr. had a different way of paving the way for blacks and integration, I believe that Robinson was just as influential. I think they were equally influential because they reached two different types of audiences which played a major role in bringing American together with integration.

osubuckeye said...

Thanks to people like Jackie Robinson, who can handle the relentless pressure of others, America is a much better place than it was in the past. Jackie “cashed that check” to his full advantage, and he should have. He had every right to play in Major League Baseball with white people, and in doing so he helped to desegregate America. I am sometimes dumbfounded when I read about the times when America was so completely segregated that some black people weren’t even allowed into certain restaurants. I just simply cannot understand how white people could have been so destructive. Jackie Robinson was able to bring down racial barriers, but not with ease. I have to agree that he is an American Hero. People like Robinson helped to make our society more like
John Locke’s idea of society, everyone is equal.

Lokanda2 said...

The constitution was written during and for white-supremacy. At that time blacks were not equal nor were women. What Jackie and King did to re-write this was of amazing accomplishments. The reason for this is because they didn’t fail and they didn’t give up. King could have quit when he was in jail or when people started to get seriously injured but it didn’t. If he did then that would have been a failure and a set back to the entire African-American population. Just as Jackie Robinson faced adversity for integrating a sport. If he would have failed then he would have set back all black baseball players for a long time because managers and owners of teams would have said that these guys don’t have what it takes. Many people don’t know this but Jackie Robinson was not the best baseball player in the Negro-league. He was however the best player in that league that stood a chance to overcome the adversity that the Dodgers organization knew he would face. They knew that if any black man could break the color barrier it would be Jackie. Jackie breaking the color barrier is not as significant to me as him being successful at doing it. Jackie was the rookie of the year his first year and then went on to win the world series and lead the league is stolen bases and the stealing of home plate in his seasons. That is the most important thing. Not that he was black and playing in the league but that he was black and was “leading” the league. He showed everyone that he was equal and that all black people deserved a change. He was not a King but baseball was Jackie’s platform from which to speak like King’s platform was marches and speeches. They both fought for equality in different ways but they both won that fight and that is the most important thing.

mckendree5454 said...

Jackie Robinson and the Re-Written Check
I would agree with Ian O?Conner in saying that the most important event in the history of
sports when Jackie Robinson put on the Brooklyn Dodgers uniform and stepped out on the
field for the first time. With him doing that the game was not about sports anymore. It
was about culture and America. With baseball being the most popular sport at the time
having Jackie in there broke color boundaries. This was showing America that the black
person is just as good as the white person. It also showed that we are all equal as
human beings. Whether or not people want to admit it, sports shapes our culture greatly.
It is a billion dollar operation yearly and almost every person in America likes one
sport or another. It brings us together. I think another with Martin Luther King Jackie
helped make America better. Martin Luther King wanted equality and this is the same
thing Jackie wanted. Jackie was simpler though he said I?m just as good at baseball as
the white guys so I should be able to get paid like them and play like them. Jackie took
a lot of harassment like other civil rights leaders, but he knew he was paving the way
for something greater than himself.

Joe Gray said...

Sure Jackie Robinson was a huge step to equality but I believe the most important game for equality was when Western Texas won over Kentucky when they started with all black player but then again Jackie Robinson started it doing it alone but still pulled it through and its still pulling today, might not be as hard but as sufficient.

kingkong said...

I defiantly agree that Jackie Robinson was a big reason for the turn in segregating. I don't necessarily believe that the 2 most important events in American history are the emancipation from slavery and the overturning of racial segregation. Yes they were very important events in American history, but I don't think that they are the top 2. I think 2 events that would be ahead of those would be the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. But back to Jackie Robinson and the importance of him playing baseball. Jackie Robinson playing baseball was a really big step to equality and from then on the change for equality has taken a turn for the better. When Jackie stepped onto the baseball field with that Dodgers Jersey on the focus of that game was not about whom won or lost it was about the huge step the American society and American culture were taking. Jackie Robinson bravery will never be forgotten and his joining the Dodgers and playing baseball will always be one of the biggest reasons for equality today in sports. The accomplishments that Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King achieved were great for the change in segregation and equality and these are great events in American History.

davidb said...

Great article. Being from the town of the man who signed Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey i just want to say we couldn't be more proud. A guy like Robinson was needed in order to give the african american civil rights movement a victory. This was a time when baseball was the most popualr sport in america. And for something like this to happen gave hope and possibility to the people of the movement. It could be done at this point. And you can't give enough credit to the man Jackie "wonderboy" Robinson this freak athlete out of UCLA who is also very educated adn shows the kidn of qualities needed to do what needed to be done. I agree, one of the most important moments in sports history besides Woody Hayes coming to Ohio State University.