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.