by Mike Pyatt
When Hammerin’ Hank Aaron shattered Babe Ruth’s MLB career home run record, on April 8, 1974, it was hailed as one of the biggest sports events of the century in Atlanta Fulton County stadium before more than fifty-thousand fans. Pearl Bailey sang the national anthem that day. Millions watched TV in anticipation. Typically Atlanta openers had 17 policeman on duty. That day there were 63. Aaron’s life had been threatened, before and after. He received hate mail for years because he was black. One letter exemplified the stark racism, “Dear (deleted) Henry, you are not going to break this record established by the great Babe Ruth if I can help it…Whites are far more superior than (deleted). My gun is watching your every black move.” Years later Aaron spoke out, “If I were a white man, all America would be proud of me,” he was quoted by the New York Daily News. “But I’m black. You have to be black in America to know how sick some people are. I’ve always thought racism a problem, even with the progress as America has made.” Is it, as Aaron remarked, a sickness? Is it contagious? Or is it ingrained in the heart to be expunged by legislation?
It has been nearly fifty years since Perry Wallace became the first black basketball player in the fabled Southeastern Conference. When one watches college hoops game now, it’s hard to imagine there was a time when black athletes didn’t dominate the court. Wallace was the first scholarship black athlete in the conference. Wallace was the valedictorian of his high school class, and a double engineering major at Vanderbilt. He went on to become a professor at American University. Absent his presence one would be hard pressed to fathom an SEC without black star players like Shaquille O’Neal at LSU, Charles Barkley at Auburn, or Herschel Walker at Georgia. Historians maintain there had to be a Perry Wallace, who at the time quietly shattered the barrier in the southern sanctuary of collegiate sports.
The landscape of collegiate and professional sports in terms of race is barely recognizable since the early days of Jackie Robinson, in 1947, a gifted UCLA athlete, donned a Dodger’s uniform, cracking the MLB racial barrier. He endured death threats, racial slurs, and indefatigable pressure from fans and other team owners to exit the league. Many sport fans saw the 2006, movie, Glory Road, that chronicled journey of the Texas Western Miners basketball team, who won the 1966 NCAA University Division basketball tournament, becoming the first team with an all black starting line-up. The Miners upset the iconic Kentucky Wildcats, that like most of the nation, was all white until 1969. Some insist that college basketball and football is a major avenue for young blacks to escape the impoverished urban city.
In the NFL, the 2016 average salary was nearly two millions dollars. It is almost 70% black, and only about 12% of the running backs are white; 98% of linebackers are black, according to ESPN. Years ago one couldn’t find a black quarterback. After the NFL’s unofficial ban on black players in 1946, it was 1968, before the league would see a black quarterback. What would a national conversation on racism do to solve inner city crime? Would that save one black life in the “killing fields” on Southside Chicago? If it was racist to ban blacks from the college basketball courts until the 1960’s, how should one describe the current situation that nearly every collegiate team’s dominated by black players today? Anyone discussing that? President Johnson’s landmark 1964, Civil Rights Act, couldn’t legislate the heart. Another example of government prohibition gone awry.
Black conservative columnist and professor emeritus of economics, Walter Williams, for one, maintains we do not need more conversation on race after more than a half-century of it. Instead, he suggested black people need to have frank conversations among themselves, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be. His comments were directed to former attorney general Eric Holder’s remarks calling us a “nation of cowards” for being unwilling to have a “national conversation” about race. Williams contends that among the nation’s most dangerous cities are Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Baltimore, Memphis, Milwaukee, Birmingham, Newark, Cleveland and Philadelphia. Once thriving, they’re in steep economic and moral decline.
What these cities have in common, Williams observed, is they have large black populations, and they’ve been run by Democrats for nearly a half-century, with blacks wielding significant power. These cities have poorly performing schools, inferior city services, declining populations, and are magnets for drugs and thugs. Each year more than 7,000 blacks are murdered. Blacks are killed at six times the rate of Whites and Hispanics combined. According to the FBI, police kill about 400 people annually. Blacks are about one-third of that number. In Chicago, as of 2016, over 2000 people have been shot, leaving 320 slain. It’s a similar tale of mayhem in predominately black cities. Heather McDonald’s recent book, The War on Cops, is an eye opener. The primary victims of lawlessness are black people.
Williams challenged blacks to ignore the liberal agenda that fostered this environment of black dependency. Without self-initiative little will be accomplished in these crime ridden havens. “Black people have the capacity to run criminals out of their neighborhoods,” Williams argued. He stated it poignantly, “Suppose it was the Ku Klux Klan riding through black neighborhoods, murdering 7,000 blacks year after year. How many black people would be willing to wait for the Klansman to behave themselves, or wait for a government program?”
What Williams and other conservatives have called “black self-sabotage” is a warning that all freedom, liberty minded people should heed. First, was weakening the black family. That goes for any family. In1950, only 18% of black female-headed households, as opposed to 68% today. In 1925, in NY City, 85% of black households were two-parent. The black illegitimacy rate is 75%. In 1940’s that rate was about 15%. Second, he warned, is not capitulating as victims, exchanging self-reliance, for crippling government mandates, and relying on civil rights leaders, like race hustlers Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton, who’ve spent their lives shaking down corporations for a living. For years black communities endured poverty without relinquishing their historic trust in God, shunning debilitating government entanglement, that enslaved the body and soul. Former black Milwaukee Sheriff, David Clark: “I’m living testament that America is not racist.” He added, “White Americans have made great strides in healing race relations, and that sooner or later they’re going to grow tired of having their noses rubbed in the past sins of slavery.”
Hating another is sinful. Some of us grew up in an environment that fostered hating blacks, often unwittingly. That’s no excuse. Whenever favor, power, preference or privilege, granted solely on the basis of legislative fiat, is governmental allocation of advantage. Liberals and progressives claim they want a dialogue on racism. That would be an existential threat to their narrative of pan-racism. During his campaign, President Trump, appealed to black voters, “What the hell do you have to loose.” Many hoped to break the shackles of entrenched liberal, elitist stranglehold on our urban cities and public institutions.
The Screwtape Letters counseled Wormwood about his patient,“They still connected thinking with doing, and were prepared to alter that way of life…” The devil favors thought over action, and shadow over substance. Active forgiveness is the trigger to reconciliation. The Bible recognizes only one race-the human race, with language and ethnic differences. Aaron and Clarke agree we’ve made progress. Is Colin Kaepernick the new face of reconciliation? What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org