Sunday, April 15, 2007

A few thoughts on Jackie, genocide, etc.

If you follow baseball, or live with someone who follows baseball, or have recently been in a sports bar where a ballgame was being telecast, you know that this day marks the 60th anniversary of the game in which Jackie Robinson broke the color line in Major League Baseball. It's been almost impossible to miss the buzz. In honor of the occasion, players on many teams will today be wearing Robinson's number, 42, which was officially retired from baseball in 1997 (the 50th anniversary of the momentous event).

Race is not an easy subject. (Duh.) To say that my emotions here are "mixed" is like saying Pres. Bush has some image problems regarding his intellect. As you know, I'm not a fan of racial, ethnic or religious identity and/or pride. I believe that the more of our heritage and ancestry we're able to strip away, so that we value ourselves—and insist on being valued—strictly for the unique individuals we are, the better off society would be. (For a textbook example of ethnic/religious pride taken to its logical conclusions, see under "Middle East," subsection, "Iraq.") Therefore, part of me—the major part—can't help but believe that this ongoing emphasis on race and ethnicity is also counterproductive, especially when it takes the form of a nonstop effort by minority agitators and their media accomplices to issue status reports in real time, keeping the milestones and remembrances forever in the public eye. When I heard a commentator describe the Mets' Willie Randolph as baseball's "fourth African-American manager," I sighed one of my wearier sighs of recent vintage. When do we stop keeping score? Moreover, at a certain point, isn't it the score-keeping itself that presents us from becoming truly colorblind?

For similar reasons, I've long argued that some people's obsession with keeping the Holocaust front-and-center in our collective consciousness is not only unnecessary but exceedingly divisive.** Covering it as a part of history is one thing, but I don't see why we need to fill impressionable young minds with the horrors of the Holocaust in order to raise adults who respect the rights of others and cannot even conceive of genocide as a "solution" to anything. And when Jewish parents feel compelled to do this to their innocent children, it's a sin comparable to that of raising kids to be terrified of strangers—a totally irrational act. (Relevant digression: Statistics clearly show that children have little to fear from strangers, who account for just 3 percent of sexual assaults on children. On the contrary, it is primarily the people children love and trust—their parents and siblings, or the boyfriends of single moms—who do the unspeakable to them. For all intents and purposes, in strict probability terms, childhood abductions by total strangers do not happen.* And they never did, even before today's climate of paranoia caused parents to bring up their kids under the effective equivalent of house arrest. Maybe schools should therefore teach kids to be terrified of their parents and siblings.) Though I'm not a psychiatrist, nor do I play one on TV, it strikes me that one of the most damaging things you can do is send a child out into the world expecting to be hated and/or abused.

And yet...and yet....

I realize that my wish for a world where the "isms" play no role—where people aren't even cognizant of race or ethnicity (or age or gender)—is probably naive. In any case, clearly we're not there yet. Which is why, on a day like today, I also think things like this: Until 60 years ago in this country—that's my own generation we're talking about—blacks were not allowed to participate in the sport we like to romanticize as "the national pastime." I find that unimaginable. I literally don't understand how it could've happened. But then, I literally don't understand how slavery could've happened. Or how the Holocaust could've happened. Or why people would beat some poor gay kid senseless, then tie him to a fence and leave him to die.

* Not quite the impression you get from CNN, is it? TV news would lead you to believe that just about every child who goes to the park gets abducted by some registered sex offender who slipped through the cracks and is now living in your neighborhood.
** Rebuttal: "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it." Really? Where's the proof for this? (It's another one of those assumptions, as noted in SHAM, that are universally accepted without being questioned/challenged.) Quite the contrary, I think it's those who remember the past who are far more likely to repeat it, albeit perhaps in altered form. An eye for an eye, and all that.


Cal said...


I have a couple of questions about your comment.

1. Race is a controversial subject in the medical field also. But we know that certain ethnic or racial groups are more susceptible to specific illnesses (i.e., blacks for sickle cell, whites for cystic fibrosis). How would people may be able to de-emphasize their racial identities when in these instances they help to understand illness? Also, I think people innately look at someone and compare the similarities and differences with themselves with regards to gender, color, etc. How would people be able to get over that?

2. I was going to write this in response to your comment about children living in fear before today's terrible events at Virginia Tech. How did you teach your kids for dealing with strangers? I am not a parent, so I don't know how I would handle it. They need to not be afraid, but at the same time feel comfortable if they think someone may harm them. I know the statistics are what they are. Maybe the media saturation when these stories happen feeds into the fear.

Steve Salerno said...

Very thoughtful questions, Cal--that deserve more than an off-the-cuff answer. Bear with me?