Although it feels like a lifetime ago, I was nine years old when the Los Angeles Lakers selected Magic Johnson with the first pick of the 1979 National Basketball Association (NBA) draft. Upon reflection, it is possible for me to convince myself that my developing interest in the NBA and embrace of the Los Angeles Lakers as my favorite team was ordained by God. However, such conjecture would make me a liar because although Magic Johnson and “Showtime” was a significant factor in my deciding to support a team located nearly 2,400 miles away, I was merely following the lead of a black community in throwing my support behind the Lakers.
Although I did not understand all of the history and inner-workings of the L.A. Lakers feud with the Boston Celtics, one thing was certain; if you were African-American, you were expected to support “Showtime” and despise the Celtics. Within a black community that was far from monolithic, we all seemingly agreed that the city of Boston and each of their sports franchises were to be despised with an extreme hatred; not even the presence of black Celtics like Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, or Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell lessened our piercing disdain.
In actuality, the virulent racial animosity that characterizes Boston contradicts its storied history as the epicenter of colonial resistance to British tyranny. During the moments immediately before the Revolutionary War, a group of Bostonians was attacked by British troops in an attack that resulted in Crispus Attucks, a black man, being the first casualty of a prolonged conflict that resulted in the birth of America. Considering the history of racial bias and animosity that has come to characterize Boston, it is ironic that it was Attucks death that framed colonial rebellion against British rule. Put simply, the killing of Attucks serves as “the straw that broke the camel’s back” in regards to colonists determination to not be “the slaves of Britain.” Such a backdrop makes Boston’s current well-deserved reputation as a bastion of racial hostility all the more unfortunate.
When African-Americans are queried regarding their perspective of Boston, it becomes apparent that they long ago decided that it was a comfortable rest haven for racial prejudice, bias, and virulent racism. Considering that perception is the reality, it is safe to say that the vast majority of African-Americans view the city in as negative a light as the British troops dispatched to the North American continent to quell the colonial rebellion. Hence, the recent incident of Red Sox fans hurling racial expletives toward Baltimore Orioles player Adam Jones was not surprising.
For most African-Americans, this rather mundane racial incident is yet another verification of what we have always known; that being, those who attacked Jones have much company in regards to their views of racial matters. Although African-American optimists believe that whites stirring up racial conflict are merely a vocal minority that reminds them of racial antagonists within their community, however, even they must concede that racial prejudice and bias among whites is rather prevalent. There is not much room to debate the belief held by the vast majority of African-Americans that racial bias and animosity is endemic to not only the city of Boston and the fans that support their storied franchises, but also a significant omnipresent factor in every American city, institution, and segment of society.
Although not laudable, major cities throughout this nation have been incredibly consistent in regards to the prevalence of racial bias.
Even a cursory examination of American History proves that the thanks provided by white fans and owners to African-American athletes for their athletic contributions and service to the team is eerily reminiscent of that given to black servicemen returning from World War I. Unfortunately such thanks included a weighty post scriptum (P.S.) that reminded these black men that although their valor, commitment, and courage was recognized, it was not significant enough to alter their second-class citizenship status. Consider the following treatment afforded to two of Boston’s most notable sports stars.
K.C. Jones, a Hall of Fame player who later became the head coach who would lead the Boston Celtics in their titanic racially-tinged battles against Pat Riley’s “Showtime” related the following incident while purchasing a home in Boston. “We were living in Framingham when I was a player. I went to buy a house about five blocks away … The neighbors said they didn’t want any blacks to move into the house.”
In another incident that exposes the significant underbelly of racial animosity in Boston, Dee Brown, a recent first-round draft pick of the Celtics, along with his fiancée were accosted by nine law enforcement officers while seeking to purchase a home in the affluent suburb of Wellesley. For some unknown reason, local law enforcement personnel arrived on the scene and accosted Brown. Officers would later allege that Brown matched the description of a bank robbery suspect. This matter was not resolved before Brown, and his fiancée was forced to lie facedown in the street by officers who had pulled their weapons out.
The plentiful racial prejudice and bias found in Boston were characterized by the legendary Bill Russell as a “flea market” of racial animus in his book Second Wind: The Memoirs of an Opinionated Man. According to Russell, Boston racial bias and prejudice appeared in “all varieties…The city had corrupt, city hall-crony racists, brick-throwing, send-em-back-to-Africa racists, and in the university areas phony radical-chic racists.”
Considering that black athletes far-and-wide were aware of Boston’s racial climate, it is not surprising that a chosen few established stars such as Dave Winfield (Yankees) David Justice (Braves), and Gary Sheffield (Padres) included clauses in their contracts that forbid their present employer from trading them to the Red Sox.
As if things could not get any worse for the city of Boston, former Red Sox Pitcher Curt Schilling has unveiled himself yet again as the village idiot assigned the task of publicly refuting the city’s infamous history of racial bias. Via a perch provided by Breitbart, Schilling stated the following, “If somebody did say it, we’re going to see it and hear about it, and I would apologize to Adam Jones for doubting him, but until then, I think this is bulls—t. I think this is somebody creating a situation.” According to Schilling, Adam Jones is not a victim of racial hatred, rather an opportunist seeking to cash in on the fame, glory, and notoriety that attaches itself to politicized athletes such as Colin Kaepernick.
It is the general ignorance of figures such as Schilling that has historically proven counter-productive during discussions of racial matters. Schilling’s “demand for definitive proof,” as if an elongated history of racial bias in this nation is insufficient for such purposes, not only derails any movement toward the decline of racial animosity but also emboldens white racists in sneaky ways. The only way to counteract such individuals is for “good white folk” to denounce their antics via tangible actions such as ostracizing them socially and economically. Failure to make such individuals pariah makes “good white folk” accessories to America’s most gruesome crime. The alluded to actions should be willingly adopted by whites as a litmus test to evaluate their integrity. “Good white folks” failure to denounce racial bias and animosity leaves African-Americans no other choice than to group them with their boorish brethren.
A close reading of African-American history or even entrance into a middle-class black neighborhood will reveal to whites that the vast majority of African-Americans resist an urge to haphazardly classify them as racists with every fiber of their being. However, such efforts to find “good white folk” are not only exhausting but also have historically placed African-Americans in significant peril. So if nothing else, it is time for “good white folk” to stand up and make a move against those within their midst that continue to damage the brand of whiteness not only in this nation but also around the globe. Failure to make a significant move against those who stoke the fires of racial animosity leaves us with no choice to conclude that all whites are racists and every place is the same as Boston.
The ball to change these realities is most certainly in “good white folks” court.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017