Apr 18, 2013 - Issue 513

BlackCommentator.com: Why Jackie Robinson Still Matters - Between The Lines - By Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, PhD - BC Columnist

There are some things in our society that matter and need not be explained. We live in a society where we have forgotten about the things that matter. We find ourselves explaining things that shouldn’t have to be explained and paying attention to things that we should give absolutely no attention. Nonsense now makes the most sense in today’s world and we give priority to things that are more irrelevant than relevant. Simply put, we - as a society - have lost sight of what matters. The things that truly matter most in our society, that allow us to co-exist, are the very things we’ve forgotten about it. And I’m not just talking about fundamental things like God and family (though both find themselves being challenged in a society that has become more irreverent), I’m talking those thing that keep the Democracy stable and the society from collapsing under weight of its own decadence and/or its own ignorance.

Education matters. We need not explain why quality education matters. We’re witnessing the effects of a “dumbed-down” society. Our society’s plunge into anti-intellectualism explains why government can’t do simple things any more - much less move society forward. Communities are unable to respond because anti-intellectualism leaves them short on what to ask and how to proceed. Primary, secondary and higher education are all in crisis, at the same time - and we’ve become a society that doesn’t know what it doesn’t know. We just know there are no jobs, no money for education and no desire to fix what’s broken - because to some, it doesn’t matter.

Joint sacrifice matters. All of society should contribute to balance the federal budget - that shouldn’t have to be explained. When we no longer put the common good ahead of the individual gain, then individuals pursue self-interest before they pursue the common good. The result is a massive wealth divide and a nation that has leveraged its future with debt. The rich are able to explain away their lack of contributions, as job creators, etc., when the same system they rob affords them to build wealth without limit - which they couldn’t do creating the jobs. Exemption of the rich is nonsense but nobody criticizes it because they think it doesn’t matter… plus, they want to be rich one day and keep all their money, too.

Homes matter. The loss of the “American Dream” is only eclipsed by the laissez faire attitudes in society that deregulated home lending. “Letting the markets decide” and opposing government regulation created this crisis that threatens the American dream. Allowing people to keep their homes and recasting their loans is the right thing to do. This shouldn’t have to be explained. But it is a problem that is not only explained - but rationalized beyond belief. If the market created the problem, the market should fix the problem - and not by victimizing people.

Race relations matter. The master race mentality that created a race caste system in America is in regression in many segments of American society, but it holds firm in other parts of the society. A society that has made a history of telling people who to love, and conversely - who to hate, finds itself in a time where love is in need of love - but is now complicated by sexuality (even hypersexuality) and stratification of caste (immigration). We don’t need to explain that cultural understanding is the best way to societal peace. But we find ourselves stuck in another century from time to time - trying to escape our own phobias.

Sport (and music) matter. Sport is the dominant societal escape that allows us all to forget about the injustices of the world, where we expect the competition will be fair, the rules will be public and the understanding that everyone will play with the same set of rules. This was not always the case. In the first part of the 20th Century, sports took on societal norms, excluding blacks from the games that society revered. This all changed in 1947, when the Brooklyn Dodgers put Jackie Robinson on the field to integrate the national past-time. Jackie Robinson wasn’t the best black baseball player of his time. Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige were. He wasn’t the most experienced. He only played only one year in the Negro Leagues (1945).

But he may have been the most prepared for the social experiment of integrating society around sport, on the field and off. His UCLA experience as both a student athlete and an all-around sportsman, his upbringing in all-white Pasadena, his military (and court marshalling) experience in Texas, all pointed to the intelligence of a man who had survived and thrived in inter-racial environments. The Jackie Robinson experience very easily could have failed, which may have prolonged segregation in sports another 40 years - not really knowing that there was a civil right movement on the horizon. However, Jackie Robinson showed us that blacks and whites could co-exist on the same intellectual, emotional and physical planes. America had to see it before they could “see it.” It shouldn’t have had to have been explained; some things are just unexplainable. Sometimes, you can show people better than you can tell ‘em. That’s what Jackie Robinson did for America - showed them better than he could tell them. Jackie Robinson didn’t show America that blacks could play ball. He showed them that blacks could be their equal, despite hostility and rejection. He showed blacks humanity to an America that didn’t believe it and didn’t want to see it.

That’s why Jackie Robinson still matters, and will always matter. Support the film, “42”.

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, Dr. Anthony Asadullah Samad, is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum and author of REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics In 21st Century Popular Culture and Saving The Race: Empowerment Through Wisdom. His Website is AnthonySamad.com. Twitter @dranthonysamad. Click here to contact Dr. Samad.