Horne's Burden Then is Latinos' Now

Ironically, Lena Horne was going to be
honored at this weekend's Major League Baseball's Civil Rights Weekend
in Cincinnati. The film and stage performer who died Sunday at age 92
was to Hollywood what Jackie Robinson was to baseball. Robinson broke
baseball's color barrier and endured many indignities in doing so.
Horne was the first African-American to earn a long-term contract with
a major movie studio, yet primarily sang in MGM musical cameos that
were cut when the films were played in the South.

she set her own terms as much as the times allowed. Prior to her
emergence, black women primarily were seen in subservient or primitive
roles. In a 1997 interview with PBS, Horne recounted that her father
negotiated with MGM in 1942 by saying, "I can get a maid for my
daughter. I don't want her in the movies playing maids.'' Horne would
write with melancholy in a memoir, "They didn't make me a maid, but
they didn't make me anything else, either.''

refused to comply with wrong customs in other ways. During World War
II, she was censured by the USO after she refused to perform at an Army
camp show in the South. She was incensed when she saw German POWs
seated in front of black soldiers. When Robinson entered the major
leagues in 1947, Horne said she was so "frightened'' for him because of
the scrutiny he too would face as a pioneer. "You can never forget
you're a Negro . . . It's our burden,'' she said.

still remain for entertainers and athletes to shoulder in the spirit of
Horne. The most important issue of the moment is Arizona's new
immigration law that requires police to stop and force anyone on a mere
suspicion of being undocumented to immediately produce papers. The law
is so fraught with the potential for racial profiling that the Phoenix Suns
basketball team wore "Los Suns'' jerseys at a recent playoff game on
Cinco de Mayo. National Basketball Players Association President Billy
Hunter said, "A law that unfairly targets one group is ultimately a
threat to all.''

Arizona is thinking is anyone's guess. It was so laggard in approving
the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday that the National Football League
removed a Super Bowl game from Phoenix. The immigration law is so
primitive that baseball players, particularly Latinos, who comprise 30
percent of players, have begun saying that they will boycott the 2011
All-Star Game scheduled for Phoenix and are concerned about spring
training next season. The baseball players union, noting that half of
spring training sites are in Arizona, warned that it "will consider
additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our

The next step is
apparent. If Arizona does not rescind this law, baseball should move
the All-Star Game to another state and baseball teams should set up
spring training in other warm-weather states. The National Collegiate
Athletic Association should move next season's national football
championship game and other bowl games from the state. Even the most
rabid right-wing anti-immigration politician might think differently.

is refreshing is to see athletes as part of the protest. Horne once
said, "Nobody black or white who really believes in democracy can stand
aside now; everybody's got to stand up and be counted.'' She would find
this challenge to democracy ironic as Latino immigrants, legal and
undocumented, do so much of the dirty work of our wealthy society.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, undocumented workers make up 5.4
percent of the nation's labor force, but 28 percent of dishwashers and
27 percent of maids and housekeepers.

became a pioneer by rejecting menial stereotypes. Today, athletes are
beginning to speak out because they reject a law that lumps Latinos -
from maids to millionaire ballplayers - into one brown mass. A threat
to take away the All-Star Game should end this suspicious policy.

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