We Must Continue Jackie Robinson’s Fight

            I hate the Yankees. I have ever since Roger Clemens hit Mike Piazza in the head with a fastball after Piazza had taken him deep for the about the fifth time in a row.

            I used to love the Yankees when I was a kid. The worst day of my childhood was August 2, 1979. Yankee fans will know what that means. But now, they can’t lose enough, be dumb enough, or alienate America enough.

            So when Josh Donaldson, the Yankees third baseman who manages to wear out his welcome in a matter of months wherever he plays, chided an opposing player by calling him “Jackie” last week, I shook my head in disgust.

            His reference to “Jackie” was a reference to Jackie Robinson. In my mind, Jackie Robinson is the greatest man to ever play the game of baseball. Not only could he play, but he helped bridge the gap between Black America and White America at a time when race relations in the country were at a turning point.

            In any event, this meathead Donaldson, who is on his sixth major league team in twelve years, mocked Tim Anderson, the Chicago White Sox Black all-star shortstop, by calling him “Jackie” multiple times during a game last week. The reference was to Anderson talking about himself as a modern-day Jackie Robinson as he tries to bring the game of baseball back to Black children and young men. Anderson is the only Black player on the current White Sox roster.

            Today, only seven percent of MLB players are Black. Anderson wants to enhance those numbers through his style of play and his promotion of the sport. He is from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He did not start playing competitive baseball until his junior year of high school. He finally got drafted by the White Sox and made it to the big leagues.

            During his career he has started a charitable foundation that supports children in school and at home while targeting bullying and school violence. He is involved in charitable work in poor communities in Chicago and recognizes Jackie Robinson as a hero.

            So why would Donaldson feel the need to mock Anderson by calling him “Jackie?” The two don’t get along. From my perspective, the mockery was intended to minimize Anderson’s impact in his community and among his fellow professional baseball players where Black players are a clear minority again after enjoying a steady increase through the middle of the last century.

            Anderson has recognized a problem in baseball and its failure to popularize and bring the game to Black communities and young Black athletes. That may have been intentional. Anderson called it out.

            And for some reason Donaldson decided to mock him for it.

            This is how racism works in the workplace. It is rarely overt. Instead it is slow and steady and insidious. It rears its ugly head through mockery and disdain. It happens via “jokes” or simple “misunderstandings” among friends.

            What is the lesson for employers? Training is important. Employees need to know that their words have effects within the workplace. And those effects impact productivity and the bottom line.

            When employers become aware of the minor indignities and mockeries, they need to act to put a stop to it. That does not necessarily require termination or suspension. It may simply require discussion and training.

            But if the mistrust and violence of racism is going to end, it has to end in communities, and workplaces are an important place for it to start.

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