Bursting the Jackie Robinson bubble – because it’s distorting history

USA Today says that major league baseball now has the “lowest percentage of African-Americans since the early days of the sport’s integration”, down to 8% of players compared to 17% in 1959.

Which is very embarrassing for baseball, since they instruct every player to wear #42 on April 15 every year, in an annual effort to over-eulogize Jackie Robinson.

The story even points out that fewer black kids are playing the sport today, especially in dense urban areas. Well, then this is the natural result. So it is sloppy and intellectually dishonest to equate a voluntary lack of participation in baseball to the institutional racism of the Jim Crow era.

The rest of the article spends way too much time talking about baseball as some kind of affirmative action jobs program, rather than a sport that is down in popularity among blacks because they have freely chosen to participate in other sports such as basketball and football, where they now dominate in huge numbers. Somehow, this narrative-destroying and essential fact escapes notice.

Meanwhile, millions of people read and hear this kind of dumbed-down and over-simplified story, and know nothing about Branch Rickey or Larry Doby or anybody else in this rich and complicated story, and by absorbing distorted history that over-emphasizes Jackie Robinson in comparison to all the other people that are important to the story, they are less-informed because of it.

This is how our culture continues to get dumbed-down: the media sucks, but most of us are too ill-informed to notice.

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