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Ask a Negro Leaguer Column

Week of April 13, 2006


Hey Joe: What do you think about the NAACP supporting Dave Lenihan, the KTRS (550 AM) radio host who called U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a "coon"?

Al Campanis, Crypt 520, Loma Vista Memorial Park, Fullerton, California

Seemingly, it was only yesterday when I was watching the NAACP's nationally televised awards banquet. This one in particular occurred a few years back. After being called to the podium to accept his award, one black recording star stunned audience and TV viewers alike by bashing the person who placed Condoleezza Rice in the same row as him (along with making it clear that he didn't like wars). Of course, at the event's ending, Kwesi Mfume, at the time the NAACP's national chairman, smoothed over the difference by lauding her. Recently she was bashed again, this time by Dave Lenihan, who in essence referred to her as a highfalutin coon. No sooner said, executives at the station fired him and the St. Louis chapter of the NAACP came to his defense.

It made no difference to me either way. After all, I'm completely unaware as to what provoked the incident. I do know, however, that outbursts of this nature should be aired all the way until the public is well informed. In America acts such as this should not be secluded. I love the philosophy of say what you have to say and let the chips fall where they may. Otherwise the public is deprived of truth. I support the NAACP's position and although the effort put forth failed to get the guy rehired, the fairness illustrated by the group represented the true meaning of the word "liberal." This is something Rice is unable to do in reference to the true meaning of the word "conservatism."

All in all, everything served its purpose. The recording star at the NAACP banquet was outspoken about his feelings toward Rice. Mfume, based upon his response, seemingly tried to protect her reputation. Could it have been because we as a nationality are addicted to titles, regardless of who is the enemy? Lenihan was protected by the Constitution: No white person is bound to respect any black person throughout America. The radio station proved that no legislation covers its territory as far as having the final word.

And now to Rice. There is something about her that disturbs me, especially in wake of the controversy surrounding the person formerly of the Islamic faith who converted to Christianity only to be threatened with death. When interviewed during Meet the Press approximately a month ago, Rice's position was that freedom of religion is a fundamental right of democracy. After hearing this I flinched. Almost a year ago, I heard a young black female say Christopher Columbus came to America with the idea of freedom of religion. I disagree with both. The Moral Majority and the Christian Right — these groups fit in the category of man's law. God did grant man free will but warned against that which differs from His teaching. If wrong in her assumption, especially with her high-profile position, Rice could have easily conveyed a very destructive message.

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.

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