News » Ask a Negro Leaguer

Ask a Negro Leaguer Column

Week of May 24, 2006


Hey Joe: I just had to write this letter. I think that the concept of race needs to be rethought. For one thing, many people of color are put into the "black" or "African American" category, and of course we accept it. The problem is, many Americans, not just African-Americans, feel entitled to more. That's whites, Chinese, everyone. The American way is, "I'll take what I can get." With that in mind, some of us who are black and come from different countries (for example, the Caribbean) do not necessarily feel discriminated against. Just one thing: Being colored is the one thing that you never forget you are.

Françoise Sajous-Stoddard, Chesterfield

The only solution I know relative to rethinking the concept of race is truth. The sole place it is manifested is the Bible. It says that God rules the human race. In His sight, color is only a complexion. But through ignorance, mankind has committed a grave injustice against the law of God by distorting His word to fit his own purpose. Many minds have been led astray socially and spiritually, because the truth is evaded to satisfy selfish ambitions.

From what I gather, you and many people of color object to being put in the "black" or "African American" category but have no choice other than to accept it. If this is correct, you are unfamiliar with America's history. Before the civil rights movement, signs on public accommodations throughout the South designated what was for colored and for whites. This manmade rule was a transgression of God's law. Therefore, it was the ruling class that put people of color in "black" and "African American" categories.

You give me the impression that you know you are black but refuse to accept it. Many blacks of African decent do likewise. However, whites don't need your representation. They are the ruling class. They are in the majority and have done a pretty good job of representing themselves. For instance, when they needed more, they put white females in the minority along with African-Americans, Chinese and Caribbeans. (When blacks needed more, someone initiated Affirmative Action, and the cry of reverse discrimination among whites was heard.) Since you don't necessarily feel discriminated against, why not submit applications to become part of the majority? If rejected, then file lawsuits against white females in the minority — which is blatant discrimination.

Prince Joe Henry, one of professional baseball's original "clowns," was an all-star infielder for Negro League baseball teams in Memphis, Indianapolis and Detroit throughout the 1950s. But up until the late 1940s, Prince Joe didn't know anything about the Negro Leagues. His knowledge of organized baseball was limited to the Cardinals and Browns games he attended during his preteen years at Sportsman's Park, accompanied by lifelong buddy Eugene "Gene" Crittendon, who could pass for white.

Perhaps Henry's most vivid memory of those games: Upon entry, white ushers would politely escort the boys to a small section of the left-field stands reserved for "Colored." After climbing past several tiers of bleachers, they'd arrive at their stop, rows and rows behind their white counterparts.

Even at a young age, the boys were conscious of the double standard -- and determined to vent their disdain. The opportunity would arise with the urge to urinate. Rather than head for the latrine, the boys would edge their way to the front of the section and let fly. As the liquid foamed its way down the concrete steps toward the white kids, Henry and his pal would ease back and relax, politely rooting for the visiting team to beat the hell out of the Browns or the Cards.

After all, Henry and Crittendon hailed from Brooklyn, Illinois, a small, predominantly black township just east of the Mississippi River. So hospitable were the residents of Brooklyn that they were known to take in a rank stranger, treat him to breakfast, lunch, supper and a night out on the town -- and afterward, if he messed up, treat him to a good ass-whippin'.

Direct questions on any and all topics to If we don't like yours, we'll hit Joe with our own.