Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Rainbow Pinata

Forgive me for being a little late on this train, but the local media are having a great time demolishing the straw man that is the Rainbow Coalition's position that the Braves are negligent/racist because of the lack of African-Americans on the roster. The lack of merit of Rainbow's position is so obvious on so many levels that even sports talk radio hosts are quickly able to snuff out counter-arguments:

1. Baseball is a meritocracy in the sense that teams (especially teams like the Braves that do not have limitless resources) do everything they can to find talent and are punished if and when they don't. The Rainbow representative who was interviewed on 680 offered up the argument that the Braves haven't won a World Series since 1995 because their roster has gotten whiter. Yes, that must be it. It has nothing to do with the fact that the Braves had three Hall of Fame pitchers in their prime on that team and now they don't. The Braves also haven't won a World Series since I was living on my parents' dime and attending classes in Ann Arbor, so maybe we need to go back to that state of affairs so the Braves can succeed.

(The Rainbow rep didn't even have the slightest understanding as to how anti-discrimination laws work. For one thing, he referred to them as "EEOC laws," which is wrong since the EEOC is an agency that investigates claims, rather than a body that passes laws. For another, he seemed to be making the argument that the laws prevent workforces from being lilly-white, but not the reverse, which is flatly incorrect. But hey, why would someone from the Rainbow Coalition actually need to understand anti-discrimination laws? I regret sounding like a Republican here, but sometimes, reality requires it. I suppose that Republicans find themselves in the reverse situation any time they discuss Iraq. Zing!)

2. Why would the Braves be prejudiced against African-Americans, but be fine with Caribbeans of African descent like Edgar Renteria and Andruw Jones? What racist is that discerning?

3. Why isn't the Rainbow Coalition complaining about the Thrashers not having any black players? The Rainbow rep I heard claimed that this was a decision that could be left up to Atlanta Spirit, which opened him up to the "so why isn't this up to the Braves' ownership?" counter. Personally, I have no problem with black organizations complaining of the lack of blacks in certain positions and not doing the same for whites. There's nothing racist about that. The last time I checked, whites weren't brought over here as slaves or denied the right to vote or attend properly-funded schools in many areas until the 60s. That said, the Rainbow Coalition ought to be able to express this point properly.

Generally, my problem with Rainbow's position is that it's clearly motivated by a desire for attention as opposed to a desire to actually help African-Americans who need the assistance. If there is one area in which African-Americans have been very successful in America, it's the sports world. (OK, music would be a close second.) Why in the world would we worry about African-Americans being denied access to one particular sport when they are dominant in numerous other sports (and when there are so many other areas in which African-Americans are under-represented and legitimately deserve attention). Isn't this like petitioning David Geffen to redress the fact that there are too few African-American rock bands on his label? Where's the modern Jimi Hendrix? Or Living Color? Or Fishbone? What? You mean African-Americans tend to go into other areas of music now? That can't be right!

All this said, there is a real feeding frenzy aspect to the coverage of Rainbow's meeting with the Braves that annoys me. The AJC and the local sports talk stations know that the race issue will get readers and callers very interested, especially to bash a position as transparently weak as that of Rainbow's claim here, and they give Rainbow more attention than they really deserve. This is an easy sports talk issue in that it does not involve a lot of brainpower and it appeals to the emotions of listeners, but it does more harm than good. In the end, Rainbow continues to be viewed as the spokesmen for African-Americans and African-Americans deserve better than to have their interests attached to this listing ship. (Insert standard statement of white guilt that I feel semi-uncomfortable speaking for blacks when I'm not black here.) Maybe my complaint is really that African-Americans lack credible leaders these days. Or maybe it's that the media like to have Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as easy whipping boys (Sharpton lecturing Don Imus on prejudice was an especially rich farce. Maybe David Lynch can lecture modern film makers on making clear, easily-understood pictures?) and that sucks all the oxygen away from leaders who would be far more credible.


Unknown said...

I've been reluctant to blog this despite a white hot opinion on the absurdity of it.

I dread all the idicoy the topic brings out from the comments. I enjoy your take on it.

My short comment on it is...."Doesn't the Rainbow Push have bigger fish to fry?"

36.7 million african-americans in this country. 800 pro baseball players on active 25 man rosters. Currently, 10% of the league is black. Even if the league double that number....we're only talking 40 new jobs created.

So does this even get on their radar?

Michael said...

Good point. Rainbow's position here is dumb for the additional reason that the Braves not having any blacks just means that there are more blacks on other teams. African-Americans aren't being denied opportunities, unless there is some cohort in the minors hitting .380 that the Braves are letting languish in Richmond so Pete Orr can get at-bats. The fact that Brandon Jones (who is hitting quite well) is still in AA is clear racism!

LD said...

My favorite parts of the 790 clip of the interview between Chick Smith and that dude:

1) When the Rainbow/Push dude said his answer to the problem is "Fire Bobby Cox", and then was told very clearly that Cox wasn't the guy who acquires players, but rather John Schuerholz.

2) When the dude called Chuck Smith "the sort of negro who hates himself" and Chuck responded with "Well, we're sure glad you're making an ass of yourself right here on 790 the Zone." Way to tag the station!

And for the record, if the Braves could add Dontrelle Willis, Ryan Howard, Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter, and Gary Sheffield without taking on additional salary and only giving up players whose positions would be replaced by thses guys... I'd be for it (short term deals, age and all). Have the Rainbow/Push guy get on the phone with those teams and see if he can work a deal. Oh, wait... that would still leave the same raw numbers of African American players in the league, wouldn't it. Hmmm...

Anonymous said...

Kincade got him good in the opening segment of his afternoon show.

When asked what his goal was, the gentlemen said "the make up of the city of Atlanta is nearly 50/50 black and white, I'd like the baseball team to reflect a similar racial make up"

Kincade's counter: "Well, I guess you'd overwhelmingly support the Falcons and Hawks cutting african american players then and hiring more white players to see their ratios get to 50/50 as well?"

......................."well, that's a decision left up to the owners."

peacedog said...

Also, the number of African Americans in sports isn't really indicative of the place African Americans have as a whole in society - possily excepting when none of them are in pro sports (likely indicating it's 1957, if you will).

I mean, even if African American presence in baseball was up at expected levels, *and* there was no other drop off in other sports, what is that saying? That 40 more guys are rich, as LD noted. Is that doing anything for the number of African Americans that are living in poverty, or barely-above poverty levels? I really really doubt it.