The more things change, the more they remain the same

By Roland Rogers, CEO BlackAthlete Sports Network, LLC
Updated: April 11, 2006

NEW YORK, NY— Sunday I celebrated my 64th birthday two days after Jackie Robinson day 2011 with hardly any African American representation on major league baseball fields. A day earlier I read about the Barry Bonds verdict and I understood the injustist African American still must endure in a society committed to making sure people of color will truly never be free.

Its now become an annual ritual. I put my Jackie Robinson Story CD produced in 1950, three years after he broke the color barrier on April 15, 1947 along with Marvin’s Gaye’s “What’s Going On”. Robinson, astonishingly, played himself. Having to endure repeat takes of cinematic abuse took courage and should have won an Oscar! The film was complete with actors, like Ruby Dee and African-American singers but also encapsulated the stench of something so bizarre because it represented a time when African-Americans weren’t allowed to drink out of the same water fountains of white people, eat in their restaurants or ride next to them on public transportation.

What is Going On?

What is Going On?

In recognition of that anniversary and the insincerity involved supposedly righting a wrong only to be revealed later it was another smoke screen to camouflaged a hatred and ignorance so ingrained and deeply embedded in a society committed to things remaining the same, I felt compelled to expose the Wizard of Oz and Wicked Witch of the North in one fell swoop.

Life was tough already even without knowing about the animosity, disdain and contempt white America harbored against integration at any and all cost and would become tougher after learning the color of ones skin could ignite the negative passion that polarizes a nation to this day.

Back in the 40’s the Negro Leagues were the only institution black baseball players were able to hone their craft but most players would never be able to realize the dream of playing in the Major Leagues. I wondered how a movie could be made depicting a time when fear by white men had such a profound effect on a nation just because black men wanted to play a game, even though it was the considered The Great “American” Pastime. Here was a man who relived constant racial indignations, threats by teammates and black cats being hurled out of the stands to protest him dawning a Dodger uniform to become the symbol of a past rooted in hate, ignorance and separatism.

The Dodgers won opening day 12-6 over the Braves at home and Robinson got his first ML hit, a bunt single, off Glenn Elliot. I was born two days later on the 17th. Although these events were separated by five hundred miles, it’s ironic that these two events would one day be inextricably linked in Black sports history.

After the war and being honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy my dad decided to move to Buffalo, NY instead of joining his service buddy in Brooklyn. Back in those days many blacks migrated to all the major cities like New York and Chicago because of illusion that life was better up North than in the Deep South. Growing up I remember resenting his decision. Buffalo, being one of stops on the Underground Railroad on the way to Canada was far enough away from those big cities to offer blacks the environment and opportunity to raise a family and earn a decent living. One of the things they shared was their love for baseball. It was riveting and something all Americans, black or white could adopt during a time of post war depression.

Dad wanted to shield his family from the perils of racism. His denial was rooted in the belief that by moving north could somehow circumvent reality by allowing tolerance to placate the fears of a society so intent on keeping things status quo. As we settled in a middle-class environment dad worked two jobs to make ends meet and still managed to take time out to sponsor baseball teams in the neighborhood to insure kids would get the opportunity to carry on the legacy of Robinson’s heroic sacrifice.

Although at the time, I didn’t realize I was being groomed to follow Jackie’s footsteps into immortality. Most kids who signed up for teams were more interested in the uniforms and having fun-for me it was pressure. It�s ironic that dad wanted me to play second base, vicariously living his dream after being denied the opportunity to display his talent because of bigotry but in spite of fact he volunteered to still fight for a country to preserve it’s democracy there by insuring that same nation would maintain a strangle hold on the strategy to keep blacks inferior.

Over a half a century have passed since and for African-Americans and other people of color time has remained still. We still live in a vacuum of deceit, the great divide! The veil of hypocrisy still permeates every fabric of American life. The dream Jackie envisioned has turned into a nightmare and in spite of all forswearing from the major sports institutions here and abroad the playing fields will never become level unless there is concerted effort to rid society of this terrible disease.

Over the years as CEO of BlackAthlete Sports Network I have received emails applauding and condemning our mission to report the truth and fiction about racism in American sports and around the globe but have become painfully aware there are consequences for those actions. Today in 2011 narrow minded-ness is still entrenched in the hearts and minds of people black and white unfamiliar with the black sports experience although society projects the facade the things are truly progressing- until we witness fewer blacks in baseball along with other sports outside of basketball and football. Power hungry white men perceived sports as pecuniary, recreational and extracurricular, beneath their stoic way of looking at the world. Blacks view it differently-as a way to get out of the ghettos to earn a more than a marginalized living and gleam into the public spotlight of acceptance.

Parity has become another chic word in the cryptic mode as “athleticism” “political capital” “the court of public opinion” and “The Silent Majority “only to masked the true meaning of censorship and exclusion. Our goal to our readership is to offer historical insight on a sports platform to allow bridges into a world few have know because of their particular bias and prejudices.

Until we denounced the illusion perpetuated in the general media there will always be a need for a BlackAthlete Sports Network and a Jackie Robinson. Until we are willing to denounce the double standard which defines race, class and privilege as symbols of supremacy and superiority, Robinson�s legacy will be forever lost on a black youth whose lack of respect and in terrible need of hero’s to balance the daily assaults on history and relegating their future to hell on earth. The general media through its racist’s editorial boards has given our black communities a negative assessment, forever tarnishing an image that reflects back on our culture, families, youth and on society as a whole whose condescension has eroded the integrity of a people whose only goal was equality and making America great.

The myth that anyone can grow up to be president of these United States when in realty all the images projected say otherwise. The movie ended with Jackie in front of Congress testifying on the impact race relations and possible solutions to the problem.

According to the most recent figures from the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, 9.1% of major leaguers were African-American on Opening Day 2010. In 1995, approximately 20% of players were black.

New York Mets utility player Willie Harris agrees with the most commonly cited reasons for this, that young black athletes are lured by the money and star appeal of basketball and football, but he also raised another concern: He believes that MLB does not market its black stars as well as it should.

“I don’t think they do,” he said. “To get more African-Americans in the game, you’ve got to have that. It takes time, but I think it should be done. I think it can be done.

After Jackie died in 1972 it appears Jim Crow is still very much alive and kicking today… Just more sophisticated.

As Marvin Gaye clearly asserts, “What’s Going On” in 2011 because the more things change the more they remain the same.