Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hard Look

Barry Bonds asked a fair question: “Why are you booing me?”

We owe him an answer beyond the hateful notes, slanted stories, nasty signs and endless boos that echo across this country. An honest look has to acknowledge that race has played a role in our perception of Bonds and his quest to break the all-time home run record.

FACT: Bonds is black.

FACT: Nearly a quarter of black Americans live below the poverty line, which is more than double the rate of all Americans.

FACT: The current unemployment rate for blacks is double that of whites.

FACT: Blacks comprise 13 percent of the population, but are 30 percent of the people arrested and 42 percent of the people in jail.

FACT: More than 13 percent of black males have lost the right to vote because of felony disenfranchisement laws.

Baseball is played alongside these facts. We all live alongside these facts. It’s time to face them.

Race has plenty to do with how Bonds is treated. It has plenty to do with what happened in New Orleans. It also has plenty to do with poverty. And it has plenty to do with what happens every day on the streets of San Francisco and St. Louis and Atlanta and Chicago and Philadelphia and New York and every other city and town in this country.

Too many Americans think they are above it all. “I’m not a racist,” they shrug.

Individually that may be true, but our racist society rolls on and on and on.

The boos keep coming, too.

“I feel disappointed in some of those fans who were influenced by a [media] judgment and have not [taken] the opportunity to know me,” Bonds said yesterday. “People in San Francisco know me. The fans here know me. Fans outside the city only get to see me for three days [at a time]. To judge me based on a third party, that’s what disappoints me, when actually I’ve done nothing wrong to you.”

FACT: It’s time for this country and this game to take a hard look at itself.


Henry said...

You are probably right, but the majority of people will not take a hard look at racism any more than they will take a hard look at the war. It does not affect them so they just don’t care.

Ross said...

I agree with what you said about race in this country but I don't agree with what you said about Bonds. Many other black ballplayers are far more popular than Bonds and receive universal praise. Ryan Howard is a hero in Philadelphia and was the darling of baseball last year. Torii Hunter is also extremly popular in Minnesota and around the country. Everyone loves Griffey (even when he was plagued by injuries in Cinci, he never lost the fan's support) I could go on and on about popular black players. Bonds is hated by some for the steroid rumors and because he is perceived as nasty, arrogant, and rude. Just read Jeff Pearlman's book to get a perspective on Bonds. If Griffey was going to pass Aaron, no one would think to boo.

Todd Drew said...

Your points are fine, but race plays a role in how those players are viewed as well. It plays a role in how we are all viewed and that needs to change.

The problem with using Jeff Pearlman’s book to gain perspective on Barry Bonds is that Pearlman doesn’t personally deal with the same issues of race. What got me thinking about this was a Mike Lupica column were he went on and on about how the treatment of Bonds has nothing to do with race. How ironic that someone who works for a newspaper that covers a largely minority city with a largely white staff would think they have such insight into this issue.

Todd Drew said...

Also... When Barry said, “To judge me based on a third party, that’s what disappoints me, when actually I’ve done nothing wrong to you.”

He is asking people not to prejudge him through the eyes of journalists who, for the most part, have never had to deal with the prejudices he deals with every day. I just don’t think any of us should bank on the opinion of Jeff Pearlman or Mike Lupica or anyone else. Lupica has covered this city for years and I’ve never seen him do anything in the Bronx but dash for his fancy car in the parking lot.