While We Wait for the Next Jackie Robinson to Step Up to the Plate
Branch, G. E., Diverse Issues in Higher Education
I plan to see 42, the biographical movie about trailblazing baseball icon Jackie Robinson. Let's be clear, I am not a baseball fan, but I am fascinated by history and the challenges Robinson faced as he became the first African-American to play Major League Baseball on April 15, 1947.
That accomplishment was just one facet of the life of one of the most extraordinary men in recent history.
He attended UCLA. He was court martialed - and acquitted - as an officer in the U.S. Army for pulling a Rosa Parks before the world came to know of Rosa Parks. He was a Hall of Fame baseball player. He was a political independent. He was an ardent supporter of the NAACP. He was a ground-breaking broadcaster. He was a pioneering corporate executive.
Robinsons story has an inspirational element for all of us.
Every person who attends the film should make an effort to bring someone of a younger generation in hopes that they would gain a greater appreciation for what the racial climate of our society was like "back then" and perhaps gain perspective as to how far we've come and how much more work there is to do in this alleged post-racial America. Bigleague baseball, for example, is under scrutiny these days for the dearth of African-Americans on its playing fields and board rooms, even as it annually celebrates Robinson's contributions to the game and society on April 15 with all uniformed players and umpires wearing Robinson's No. 42.
And while the movie, gestures and tributes are fitting and important, we are left to contemplate: Who is the next Jackie Robinson, and in what arena will they operate?
You might argue that No. 44, President Barack Obama, is the current Jackie Robinson. I could not stop myself from tearing up during his acceptance speech on election night of 2008 as I witnessed someone who looked like me accomplish something I thought I would never see in my lifetime. However, having a person of color elected president was something I viewed as inevitable at some point. After all, presidential candidates such as Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson and Carol Moseley Braun had been paving the way toward that goal. As a child, I had been accustomed to my mother telling me that I could be whatever I wanted to be - including president.
The same goes for being the first woman to become president. It will be a historic day, but demographics and shifting sentiments already indicate it will happen. …