Published on
the Bangor Daily News (Maine)

Racial Disparity: A Real Reason to Cry

Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There's no crying! THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!"

Once heard, those immortal words spoken by Tom Hanks playing the part of Coach Dugan in that epic film "A League of Their Own" can never be forgotten. So I'm betting that Rep. Henry Waxman and the rest of the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform never saw the movie. At the hearings a few weeks ago, every one of them looked like they were going to start blubbering like little girls.

What's the matter? Not enough government to oversee? How about figuring out why the administration is sticking it to the injured veterans when they return home? Why not oversee the millions upon millions - in cash - mislaid in Iraq?

Don't get me wrong, I love baseball as much as the next guy. Maybe more so because I'm a Red Sox fan. That means that up until recent memory I had to love a team that could tank, and I mean toilet tank, within minutes of the All-Star break.

Yeah, I learned to love baseball in spite of its flaws, not because of its greatness.

So Roger Clemens and a bunch of other millionaires might have cheated to get their money. Oh yeah, that's a new trend in making money, cheating.

And the batters who bat now might eclipse the Bambino's record because they took steroids - that's some sort of a crime? Big deal! I'll tell you what's a crime: Babe Ruth never tested his talents against a black man. That's crooked ball!

Ever hear of Lucy Poolaw? You might know her by her stage name Princess Watawaso. I saw a picture of her this week. The picture captured her casting the first vote by an American Indian in Maine. Even though Congress granted citizenship to Indian peoples in 1924, they couldn't vote in federal elections until 1954. The state of Maine didn't let them vote in state elections until 1967. That's crooked politics.

How could lawmakers deny people the right to vote, in my lifetime, based on race? The same way they burdened us with unspeakable debt: They're lousy at their jobs. They've got an agenda and it ain't democracy.

OK, so 60 years ago we had a blatantly racist national sport. And 40 years ago we had blatantly racist voter access. We aren't racist anymore? We could ask some New Jersey traffic cops. According to "Driving While Black," a book by Kenneth Meeks, "Almost 73 percent of motorists stopped and searched on a major New Jersey highway in 1999 were African-Americans, even though African-Americans made up less than 18 percent of traffic violators."

Too specific a statistic for you? Well, how about the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin that states, "Disparities in sentencing and incarceration have grown to such an extent that African-American men comprise 50 percent of the U.S. prison population despite representing just 6 percent of the U.S. population as a whole."

Now we have a presidential race with a black guy in it. He's doing pretty well, too. And while the Lucy Poolaws and the Jackie Robinsons have all been enfranchised there aren't enough people of color in the country to win the race for him. So that means that white folks would have to elect a black man president of the United States.

Will they?

The country has elected blacks to high office in the past. In the 19th century, there were two black U.S. senators. In the 20th century there were - umm - well, there were two more and at the start of the 21st century, there is one. OK, so no progress there.

In a recent article in New Black Magazine, Keith Boykin cautions the optimists: "White voters can clearly see that Barack Obama is black. And although they may tell the pollsters that they would consider voting for a black president, history suggests that many of them will be lying."

If we're going to shed our racist ways, we've got to admit our racism and then it's still not going to be easy. But good things are seldom easy.

As Hanks' Coach Dugan said to a player complaining that baseball was too hard, "It's supposed to be hard. ... The hard ... is what makes it great."

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Pat LaMarche

Pat LaMarche

Pat LaMarche is an author, activist and advocate. She is the author of "Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States."  Her new novel, The Magic Diary, is due out in late spring.

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