Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Barack Obama: The Jackie Robinson of Politics
Let me expound upon the concepts of the New Yorker cover:
Ultimately, the real issue at stake is the liberties that the media will take with regards to how they portray Senator Obama's bid for the presidency of the United States. What we see playing out in the popular media is a collective subconscious of the largely Caucasian-controlled media.
To monitor the media in the U.S. these days is to monitor a collective sampling of a people wrestling with their own bias, prejudice, guilt and racial attitudes. We people of African descent, in particular, are neither surprised nor dismissive of this reality of racial inequity in reporting news. This entire process is not new to us at all. In fact, it is tradition in the U.S. to heap every kind of disrespect and indignity upon the head of any Black pioneer.
The men who broke the color line in major league baseball, Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby, had to endure racial bias not only from Caucasian teammates and fans but from the media as well. Years later, that same media serves as the guilty conscious for an America who decries a racist past in award-winning documentary movies. Today Robinson and Doby are indeed celebrated, not for their athletic achievements as much as they are celebrated for being able to endure the racism of the day.The real revision in this popular history lesson is the absence of a true portrayal of the media's complicity.
Racial bias is always granted a pardon by its practitioners. Unfortunately, we see this absolution of racism play out on a daily basis in the popular media. Racist ideas are floated daily then they are excused or dismissed as being a faux pas or fringe idea. The fringe of what? Is that fringe the ragged edge of a racist fabric of American life? Once the bell has been rung it has served its purpose to remind everyone that attitudes of superiority do not die an easy death.
Jackie Robinson had to be the perfect example for a race of people. He was to be the standard bearer for any Black man who would choose to conquer the status quo of America's color line. He was given a choice; grin and bear the insults and pain or spoil things for the rest of your race by defending yourself and striking back.
Sixty years later; we are watching Barack Obama grinning and bearing the insults just like Jackie Robinson.