Updated: Jul 2, 2019
Today across all of major league baseball every player on every team in every game is wearing No. 42 on their uniforms in honor of baseball great Jackie Robinson, the first black player ever to play in the big leagues.
Robinson broke the baseball color line when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base on April 15, 1947, heralding the end of racial segregation in professional baseball that had relegated black players to the Negro leagues since the 1880s. Robinson overcame unspeakable racial bias during his career, but he let his baseball skills speak for themselves.
As a result, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 and today hundreds of African American and other people of color benefit from his courage and are having productive and lucrative MLB careers..
But despite the advances indicated by the recognition of "Jackie Robinson Day" in MLB, racial bias flourishes in America and a new report from Pew Research Center shows 40 percent of Americans believe the country has not made enough progress toward racial equality. Moreover, most Americans feel that President Trump has made race relations worse, rather than better.
While it’s true that Trump didn’t create racism in America, he certainly stokes it regularly and seemingly enthusiastically. We see this time and time again in his campaign rallies, tweets and public remarks about people of color, particularly immigrants.
We’re all familiar with the comments, most of which are so obviously offensive and uncouth that they should never be repeated. Some would argue that the president is one individual and can’t solely be responsible for declining race relations in America.
However, the president of the United States, much like a corporate CEO, sets the tone and tenor for our national discourse in America. If his language is consistently insulting, offensive and racially divisive, that only gives license to those within America who quietly harbor racist views and who actively promote white nationalism and reject equality.
In fact, Pew’s research shows that two-thirds of Americans say it’s become more common for people to express racist views since Trump became president. Frankly, it is evident in every day life.
It’s almost unfathomable that the tenure of America’s first black president was immediately followed by the election of Trump, who will likely have the most racially divisive presidency in modern history. Yet, here we are.
Whereas Obama’s tenure was to represent a “post-racial America,” where blacks and other minorities would be judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin and be given equal opportunity to advance in America, Trump’s rhetoric before, during and after his arrival in the Oval Office demonstrates that he has little interest in advancing anyone who isn’t white or wealthy.
Thus, white supremacists protesting in Charlottesville are “some very fine people,” while black reporters and politicians are labeled “low-IQ, losers who ask ‘stupid’ questions.”
Comments on the former display a level of esteem, while remarks about the latter serve only to perpetuate a history of racist tropes used to denigrate blacks.
So I ask, is it any wonder that race relations aren’t improving? Is it any wonder, that, according to Pew's research, blacks are particularly gloomy about the country’s racial progress?
Pew's study showed that more than eight-in-ten black adults say the legacy of slavery affects the position of black people in America today, including 59% who say it affects it a great deal. About eight-in-ten blacks (78%) say the country hasn’t gone far enough when it comes to giving black people equal rights with whites, and fully half say it’s unlikely that the country will eventually achieve racial equality.
Moreover, 56% of all adults say being black hurts people’s ability to get ahead at least a little, and 51% say the same about being Hispanic. In contrast, 59% say being white helps people’s ability to get ahead. Views about the impact of being Asian or Native American are more mixed.
According to Pew, Democrats and those who lean Democratic are more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say it has become more common and more acceptable for people to express racist and racially insensitive views since Trump was elected president.
Among Democrats, 84% say this is now more common and 64% say it’s more acceptable; fewer than half of Republicans say it has become more common (42%) and just 22% say it has become more acceptable for people to express these types of views.
Until we get to a place where the President of the United States stops his racist dog whistling, we’re not likely to go very far toward equality in America. Were he to change his actions, that alone would not solve the problem, but it would definitely be a solid step in the right direction.
Clearly, there is still a long way to go.
Stacy Fitzgerald is a Washington, DC area Gen Xer whose obsessions include politics, traveling and food and wine ventures.