1.24.2006

identity politics at its worst


i demand that the NFL retire Dat Nguyen's #59 permanently

jackie robinson's daughter doesn't want roberto clemente's number retired. according to the story, a group called Hispanics Across America (is that like Hands Across America?) is calling for roberto clemente's number 21 to be retired from all league play the way robinson's number 42 was retired. their argument is that he paved the way for the latino ball player the same way that jackie robinson paved the way for black ballplayers. robinson daughter, of course is against this because "To my understanding, the purpose of retiring my father's number is that what he did changed all of baseball, not only for African-Americans but also for Latinos, so I think that purpose has been met." in other words, she saying, "what about my dad?". i don't know which side i dislike more. as if honoring another great ballplayer is going to somehow diminish the honor that was already bestowed upon jackie robinson. that's like saying having a hispanic history month diminished the importance of black history month. it's as if she thinks that jackie robinson and roberto clemente were racing to the slides and jackie got there and yelled "first!"

on the other hand, i also think that it's kinda lame for this hispanics across america group to demand that major leauge baseball honor latino players in this way. while there are plenty of disputes about whether or not jackie robinson was the actual first african american ever to play in the major leagues, his role in the integration of baseball is undeniable. roberto didn't have nearly the same kind of impact in that way. he was a great player and a great humanitarian (which is why the humanitarian award is named after him) but nothing like robinson.

and really, it just seems to me, they chose clemente cause he has the best numbers (which to be fair, is part of the reason why robinson was successful), and if you want to honor the players with the best numbers, there are already plenty of ways they do that (gold gloves, MVP's, Hall of Fames, etc.).

beleive it or not, i actually don't think they should have retired jackie robinson's number because 1) i'm almost sure he wasn't the real first african american in the big leagues as there were several african americans that played in the late 1800's. robinson was the first after the major leauges banned african americans from playing: important, but not first. and 2) it sets up a heirarchy of oppression that does in fact say that african-american intergration is more important than other kinds of integration. i.e. why hasn't anyone retired hideo nomo's number yet for being the first japanese player in the bigs?

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