The Jackie Robinson of American Politics


On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson made his Major League debut, breaking the unwritten but all-too-visible color line.  Branch Rickey, General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the visionary behind this move, had the foresight to see the tremendous untapped talent represented by African-American ballplayers.  Ignoring social norm, Rickey placed winning above racial divides and hatred.  More importantly, Rickey had the foresight to see that Robinson would have to do MUCH MORE than win on the diamond with his running, fielding and hitting.

Rickey knew that as the first to break the color line, Robinson would face day after day of vicious insults, of players refusing to play with him on the field, with hotels refusing him service, with death threats, and more.  On the field, Robinson would face pitchers throwing at his head, opponents crashing into him spikes-first at second base, and with a torrent of racial slurs and epithets directed at him loudly and unashamedly.  Robinson, in short, would have to be MORE than an exceptional ballplayer.  He would have to be an exceptional man…standing tall in a hailstorm of hatred, ostensibly so that no other “colored” player would have to endure the same.

We all (should) know the rest of the story.  Today, Mr. Robinson is in the baseball Hall of Fame, not only for his statistics (which alone would have placed him in the Hall), but for his role as an American hero and icon.   In 1997, in an unprecedented move befitting his accomplishments, Major League Baseball retired Robinson’s number 42 for ALL teams.

Fifty-one years after Robinson broke the MLB color barrier, Senator Barack Obama did the same in American politics when he became President Obama.  Fifty-one years after Mr. Robinson endured a racially charged, hellish quagmire that many of us would fail to navigate, President Obama is enduring a constant, withering attack not just on his policies and politics, but on his place of birth, his nationality, his work ethic, his race, his religion, and more.  In public and in open forum, including in the chambers of Congress, President Obama has been called a liar, lazy, a Muslim (I still don’t see how that would be a crime in politics), a terrorist sympathizer and more.  The only thing left would be to openly call him the “N” word.  Who knows what he’s being called in private.  His enemies have thrown political hard balls directly at his head, and have come at him spikes-up.  And yet, in the tradition of Jackie Robinson, President Obama has stood tall.  He has demonstrated an incomprehensible level of patience and self-control that many of us would fail to muster.  Somewhere in his heart and mind, he must realize that he HAS to endure this, if only so that the next Presidents who are not White and male won’t have to.  Both Mr. Robinson and President Obama had strong and courageous wives to help them endure.  But there is no Branch Rickey for President Obama.  There is no Old Guard member of the establishment that turned said establishment on its ear by introducing him to the world and standing by his side.  He is the American President, leader of the free world, and he stands alone.

The latest jaw-dropping insult came when Colorado Congressman (R) Doug Lamborn equated being involved in negotiating policy with President Obama as being stuck to a “tar baby.”

See article regarding this incident here.

While this story has been largely ignored by the national media, African-American outlets have rightly brought this to light, and Americans have responded.  Congressman Lamborn’s office phones have been flooded with angry messages and calls for his resignation.  Some Americans disagree with the idea that Congressman Lamborn’s statement constituted an attack, and don’t understand the level of anger within the African-American community.  For those that don’t, I offer this statement:


While the community rises up in arms in anger and resentment, what does our President do?  Research it.  In short, he has simply ignored it.  Look for any response on the part of the White House to this attack.  Look at President Obama’s responses as he’s suffered indignities unheard of for an American President.  Then think of Mr. Robinson, and his ability to shine his positive spirit over all of the hatred and vitriol.  Then look at our President again.

May we as Americans never see this level of disrespect for our President again.  No matter what SHE looks like.

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4 Responses to "The Jackie Robinson of American Politics"

  • WOW! What a great article and very well written. I’ve never thought of politics in this light, you’ve given me alot to think and look at…Thank You!

  • Deon Berlack says:

    Amazing analogy!!! President Obama IS the Jackie Robinson of the 21st century! Jackie Robinson was chosen not only for his athletic ability, but especially for the (kind of) “man” that he was. For his family background, education, character, etc. Many can argue that there were many baseball players in the Negro League with more talent and experience than Jackie. However, it took much more that talent and athletic ability to endure and achieve what he achieved.

    President Obama is the perfect MAN for the job…our nations first African American president. It’s simple…only a man with a certain kind of character, demeanor and attitude, can handle what our President must face on a daily basis. He stands tall and confident with the shadows of King, Garvey, Evers, and X, behind him. They stand behind him daily. Holding him up, reminding him why HE is so important. Why it’s an HONOR to be the first.

    I, as a black woman living in America, am proud that God chose Barrack Obama. It was not by accident, luck or Oprah Winfrey! He was chosen, and it was written…on the day that he was born!

  • steveberlack says:

    Thank YOU Dr. Warren. And you’re welcome.

  • steveberlack says:

    Deon: Hear, hear! You make great points about the many talented Negro League players who could have been chosen, and about the many leaders whose shoulders President Obama stands on.

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