There’s a problem with sports in America, well maybe not sports themselves as much as the machinations and mitochondria which power the cells of this overwhelming organism. I could have simplified the previous sentence by merely saying that there is a problem with America. Full stop. There is an understated redundancy in mentioning these in concert, akin to saying Karl Malone is an all time Utah Jazz great and NBA legend; one informs the other. You see so much of what we have been told are good American values, have been supposedly imputed upon us and mirrored by sports. Teamwork, fair play, hard work, dedicating oneself to a cause, etc. What happens though, when sports becomes another medium through which the more sinister side of America is transmitted? Do we then cling to the idea that the field of play is somehow immune to infection, or do we address the festering wound to quell the spread of disease? This is something that athletes from Adam Jones of the Orioles to high school football players, are confronted with because sports, like America has a racism problem.
I believe Boston is getting the short end of the stick in this recent pulling back of the veil of the American façade. Granted we have come to expect this from the New England area, as this isn’t the first time; and it certainly doesn’t help that the area’s two most beloved sports figures both appear to be the patron saints of Team Trump. In light of this, what has resulted from the situation with Adam Jones is a litany of responses from those who in no uncertain terms are attempting to paint Boston as a unique snowflake in this flurry of unfortunate circumstance. But Boston isn’t alone in their flaws; rather they are another particle in the avalanche of hate that sweeps through the US. A whole lot of, “well at least we’re not as bad as Boston” is going around, but as the good book says, “take the log out of your own eye before removing the stye in someone elses.” It needs to be noted that racism is institutional in nature, and is held perpetually in place by government bodies and citizens that benefit from it being in existence. It is evidenced in the local policies that control how property tax dollars are spent on funding schools, and district lining that impact where children can attend for their academic pursuits. It rears its vile head in the way police departments are incentivized to essentially terrorize communities of color, and the way users of crack versus cocaine are prosecuted. These conditions are not unique to the New England area, nor are they sporadic occurrences sprinkled lightly as bitters in the old fashioned makeup of the American landscape. As such, we cannot simply point the finger at Boston as a lone soldier on the watch of bigotry.
Bostonians, let’s make one thing clear you are not absolved of your actions merely because you are a single voice in a horrid chorus. What has been an oft-repeated reaction by your citizens is that you are not alone in your foibles. Worse than that you have those, who when presented with the evidence of said racism, have the response of being more upset at the accusation as opposed to the actual crime committed. Both of these reactions have one thing in common, they are marked by cowardice. The coward’s way out is to pull up a resume of all the good your city has done for race relations, as if it provides a hall pass for all past and subsequent actions to follow. The coward’s way out is to distract, and build straw men to take the blows as they make an escape behind poorly constructed walls with the phrase “stick to sports” scribbled in crayon. The coward’s way out is to have your black athletes answer for your sins in the media, while refusing to acknowledge that this is a “you” problem and not a “them” problem. More harm ends up being done, by listlessly acknowledging these conditions and proceeding to not doing anything about it, than by those who vehemently deny its existence.
Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. – from Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
A common misdirection in this has been those who when confronted with the idea that Boston is a racist city, respond by letting it be known just how liberal leaning the area is. Constantly residents of the New England area from remind us that they overwhelmingly voted blue for Clinton in this past election, as a way to show that these were the actions of a single deranged human being and not a testament to the city and state at large. This is intellectually lazy. Let’s not act as if Democrats weren’t at one point in a pissing contest to see who can be the toughest on crime, including the aforementioned Hilary Clinton. Lest we forget, the state of California which is an historical liberal state, was where the same Adam Jones had a banana thrown at him, in possibly the most liberal city in America. The point being, that every political leaning, state, city, and municipality is complicit in the conditions that make a fan have the gall to act in such a manner towards a man whose only crime was to be a few shades darker than him.
I was born in Los Angeles and raised in San Diego, a city in a state that leans heavily democrat. I remember vividly as a high school junior, playing in a basketball game where I was assessed a foul by a referee who followed up said whistle by letting me know loudly that “this isn’t jungle ball.” I’m 29 now, far removed from the days of competitive sports, but still deeply affected by the words of an adult who felt completely comfortable telling a child this. He said this confidently, loudly, in an attempt to put me in my place and laden with the conviction that despite his inflammatory speech, there would be no consequences to his actions. No coaches came to my defense, no parent rose up in arms that the lone person of color on court was addressed in such a manner. When I addressed this, my concern was dismissed as reading too much into it, and trying too hard to “rock the boat.” But should not the freedom from abuse be a far greater right, than the comfort of willful ignorance? Should not citizens of this country be angrier that their athletics are corrupted due to the racist institutions of this nation, than the fact that someone dares to address it? America has a problem, whether or not the people of Boston and citizens of the country care to recognize it. But mere recognition isn’t the solution, rather confronting these issues head on will lay the seed for this nation to flourish and provide relief for those whose field of dreams is often a nightmare.
Jotham can be followed @JothamKitara where he will be avoiding baseball till summertime when he is forced to watch because nothing else is on.