On the evening of Aug. 7, 2007, history was made. Period.
History was made because a professional baseball player surpassed Hammerin’ Hank Aaron’s record of 755 home runs. The fact that the history-maker, Barry Bonds is a Black man should not be an issue, nor should the fact that Bonds’ accomplishment is tainted with controversy of alleged steroid use…not now anyway.
What matters is on that windy evening in San Francisco, Bonds achieved an enormous feat: he hit his 756th home run – something that has taken him every game of his 21 year career to do. Bonds’ achievement is something that even the most novice sports fan such as myself should not only recognize, but also appreciate.
Don’t get me wrong: if it’s discovered that Bonds did use steroids, than he should be punished and his home run record erased from the history books. Wrong is wrong and although the baseball league didn’t begin testing for steroids until 2002 unless there was cause, anyone using the performance-enhancing drugs limits the chance of someone else who hasn’t indulged in steroid use at breaking records. That’s not fair.
Although the alleged steroid use has been the primary issue for many surrounding Bonds’ ascent to home run king; race was the issue for his predecessor, Hank Aaron.
It was 1974, though only 33 years ago; times were dramatically different, particularly for Blacks, and especially for Black professional baseball players. April 8 of that year was the day that Aaron hit his 755th home run and surpassed Babe Ruth’s record. Aaron endured hate mail and death treats from racists who felt that a Black man wasn’t worthy of breaking a record set by a white man everyone in the country loved.
As I contemplated Bonds’ triumphant moment, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride that two African-American men are currently ranked first and second in the baseball history books. I also couldn’t help but feel a sense of irritation, as I thought of how controversy surrounded both of these talented men while accomplishing their feats: for Aaron it was race, for Bonds, it’s the alleged steroid use. I can’t wait for the day to come in baseball where a Black man makes it to the top and that’s it – no issues, no controversy regarding his rise.
Countless people (both familiar with sports, and not) have felt that Aaron distanced himself from Bonds’ pursuit. However, when the respected elder offered his congratulations to Bonds during a pre-recorded interview that was played on the scoreboard Tuesday night; it put all the naysayer comments to rest. Aaron empathetically said that Bonds’ 756th home run was “…a great accomplishment which required skill, longevity, and determination.”
Aaron’s effort was monumental for Bonds and the world of baseball; but also for Blacks because it defied speculation and showed unity. So often, particularly through coverage by traditional media outlets are Blacks pitted against one another. It was incredibly refreshing for me to see Aaron, in a sense, dispel those myths and stereotypes.
Speaking of Blacks pitting against one another, unfortunately, the same thing is taking place locally.
Appearing on a Web site hosted by a Black Indianapolis attorney was a picture that superimposed the faces of Mayor Bart Peterson (who is white), IMPD Sheriff Frank Anderson, and City-County Council President Monroe Gray (both Black) on the bodies of apes.
This depiction of any human being, particularly Blacks is incredibly inappropriate and distasteful. For years Blacks have been degraded by whites, from stereotypical portrayals of maids to characters in “black face,” the crude behavior was and continues to be extremely hurtful to our community. The fact that this recent assault was displayed on a Black-hosted Web site is even more insidious. I long for the day when Blacks can display more love towards one another. And during those instances when we disagree with each other or our policies, we can do so in a mature and respectful manner. Until then, we’ll continue to perpetuate the stigma of self-hate.