April 15th, as it is in most years (2020 excluded, naturally) is Jackie Robinson Day, the day Major League Baseball remembers the man who broke the color barrier when he played his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
This game, of course, comes at a fraught time in race relations in the United States, but particularly in Minnesota, where Daunte Wright was shot by a Brooklyn Center police officer, all while a former Minneapolis police officer is being tried for murder in the death of George Floyd. This is in the wake of other contentious officer involved shootings in the Twin Cities, including Jamar Clark and Philando Castile.
Officer involved shootings or otherwise culpable deaths happen nationwide, but they seem to happen more often and with more questionable causality here than anywhere. Last summer, there was a unified voice calling for reform and improved public safety, but with prolonged exposure and more incidents, there are definitely signs of community fatigue in the effort for racial equity.
Perhaps it’s only my perception, but the frequency of these cases and the resulting, wholly justified outcry is exposing fault lines and threatens to make these issues yet another us versus them fight, when it seemed like their was momentum to make this a real opportunity for social justice with buy in from all sides.
So it’s too bad today’s game was a day game. It celebrated progress in race relations in a bygone era, when we are so frequently confronted with the failings in racial relationships. In truth, in itself, Robinson’s debut was a small event, as only 1 player started playing in an otherwise all white game, but it broke a seal, and the game integrated. The rest of the sports world eventually did so as well. Lamentations of a black presence in baseball are loud and clear today, but thanks to Robinson’s lead, African Americans are well represented across the American sports landscape.
The struggle remains, with a lot of ground left to cover. I’m not going to pretend I have any answers, but I do know that through small steps, like Jackie Robinson stepping on to Ebbets Field for the first time, progress has been made. If we don’t want to lose hope, sometimes we need to set aside time to remember those moments we moved forward.