Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I've been trying to find my own Civil Rights Hero--like an activist from the 50s and 60s that I could really relate to and kind of idolize. You know, someone I could point to and say, "Hey, this person did a lot to further good relations between the races, helped America get over stuff like bigotry, and was neat in personal life too." Now, there are a lot of people who point to activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Malcolm X as the ones we should hero-ize when it comes to Civil Rights. The thing is, all three of those activists did things in their personal lives, espoused ideas, or embraced religions that I don't agree with or that offend me. None of them are people that I can really get jazzed up about, that I can talk about with enthusiasm and fervor. I can't point to any of them and say, without qualms or exceptions, "I wanna be like this person--they did good things and stood for good stuff." So you see why I've been looking for my own Civil Rights Hero.

I think I've found one at last: Jackie Robinson. Yup! The baseball player, first African-American in the Major Leagues. I just finished reading his autobiography, I Never Had it Made, and while I know that most autobiographies need to be taken with a grain (or shaker) of salt, this one contained far less hubris than most I've read. I'll try to find some other books to read about him too, to see if my image of him seems to be a good one. So far I see him as an honest man, a dedicated Christian husband and father--someone who stood up for what he believed in, and was willing to endure all sorts of abuses and insults just to aid his fellow black people to break down the barriers white society had erected. And he also didn't gloss over the mistakes and errors in judgment that he made throughout his athletic, business, and political careers. The chapter in which he discussed the death of his son, Jackie Jr, moved me to tears several times.

So here are two things he says in this book (Robinson, Jackie with Alfred Duckett. I Never Had it Made. New York: Putnam, 1972.) that I really really like:
"The first freedom for all people is freedom of choice. I want to live in a neighborhood of my choice where I can afford to pay the rent. I want to send my children to school where I believe they will develop best. I want the freedom to rise as high in my career as my ability indicates. I want to be free to follow the dictates of my own mind and conscience without being subject to the pressures of any man, black or white. I think that is what most people of all races want." (pg 103)
and

"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." (265)

I may elaborate more on this later. For now, I'm tired, it's been a hard day's night, and Cowboy agrees it's time for sleep.

2 comments:

  1. And he also didn't gloss over the mistakes and errors in judgement that he made throughout his athletic, business, and political careers.

    I went and looked this up (searching on "candidate") and found him talking about why he never quit Richard Nixon's campaign: "I admit that the Kennedy ticket had begun to look much more attractive. But I have always felt that blacks must be represented in both parties. I was fighting a last-ditch battle to keep the Republicans from becoming completely white. Nixon lost his campaign, and four years later I lost my battle when Goldwater was nominated."

    Ouch! You made him sound like the inoffensive hero choice, but he's actually kind of fiery! He almost got in a fight at the Republican convention.

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  2. Well, I meant he was inoffensive in that he didn't cheat on his wife, become a Muslim, stuff like that. Morally inoffensive, to me. However, he was definitely not afraid to fight for what he believed in--in fact, the press gave him a reputation for being very fiery and outspoken.

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