I've been a Red Sox fan my entire life. Picture a 10-year-old kid crying on the couch in 1986 after that ball passed Billy Buck. Image a 20-year-old kid being subjected to the VHS tape of said error in 1996 upon meeting his future father-in-law for the first time (he's a New Yorker).
The Sox were in my blood long before I had any understanding of their unfortunate history regarding race relations. So these situations aren't objective to me; I take them personally and I genuinely want to contribute to the turnaround of this narrative.
In case you missed it, a group committed to social justice hung a banner over the Green Monster this past Wednesday night that read Racism is as American as Baseball. I have absolutely no idea how they smuggled that thing into the park. I was just at a game this past spring and we were preoccupied with our small backpack so bigups for that heist. The activists were promptly escorted from the park and I'm presuming this was due to recent implementation of a no tolerance/ban policy regarding fan behavior (racist epitaphs and discriminatory remarks, etc.) Their intentions were clearly misinterpreted.
This was of course an anti-racism quote borrowed from Shaun King of the Black Lives Matter movement. Sports Illustrated had a good take:
"It was meant to call attention to the prevalence of racism in American society—not, of course, to endorse it—and to compel some blithe baseball fans to take stock of the world around them. Perhaps some of the confusion comes from the fact that some understand 'American' to be a synonym for 'good' or at least to have some sort of positive connotation baked in. It isn’t and it doesn’t to the people who unfurled that banner, and its meaning becomes entirely uncomplicated after accounting for that."
I've already written a chapter about Boston's history of racism and sports that's I'll release shortly. Turn on local sports radio the morning after such an incident and you'll hear a string of callers insisting Boston should not be labeled as a prejudiced city because the 1970's busing desegregation days are behind us. Yet these incidents continue to cast a shadow over our region. I don't defend us, though because my perspective is through a lens of experience: I've witnessed the dog whistle statements more times than I care to count. Just this week, two public figures spoke negatively of a local school in my presence. They made the mistake of presuming I was on their page:
"It's not the staff over there," one of them said, "I don't like the population."
"We're the minority, now," the other replied.
I wanted to ask them to define "we," as their last names indicated heritages from very different European countries. The unspoken presumption was that I agreed. Such statements are unsurprising. I expect them. But they hurt my heart.
The incident is a strong reminder that we need to stop insisting racism isn't a reflection of who we are in Massachusetts, and we need to continue to attack the problem. I'm Photoshop illiterate so I had to slap this logo together with what software I had available. Please share and let's get to work. #bebetterboston #reversetheracism