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Ask a Negro Leaguer Column

Week of March 30, 2006


Hey Joe: Why is it always about race? I cannot even begin to understand what minorities go through (although, as a woman, I am still considered a minority, but you know what I mean). But after I moved here, I saw how people can become prejudiced. A coworker told me that when she goes for a job interview, she knows almost 99 percent that she will get it because she is black. She told me that her son was being bused to a west county school and should get "special treatment" because he is black. She said she "deserves" special privileges in the community and at the workplace because of that. I was floored that she was prejudiced against whites much more than I had ever heard my friends talk about blacks! Yes, I am a 47-year-old white who grew up in a small Iowa town. I had one black person in my graduating class of 450.

Sue Wallace, Wildwood

Racism is a legacy left by the founding fathers several centuries back; it was incorporated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Both were designed to separate blacks from whites spiritually, socially and economically. Case in point, your graduating class. Most whites have always been able to tolerate one or two blacks but as more move in, whites are ready to move out. This stems from the racist attitude created by those documents. Additionally, had America not been set up under the guise of "One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all," you wouldn't have had to dignify your nationality. Instead you'd say, "I am an American female."

I think your question is very educational, though. It reflects feelings of both blacks and whites. For instance, how you aren't able to understand what minorities such as blacks and Indians go through. But you say as a white woman you are still considered a minority. I love how you said "considered." History has recorded that the only minorities in the country back then were Europeans and blacks. "Indians" were inhabitants of the land.

By the time white women were considered a minority, the country had undergone a metamorphosis. Indians had been deposited on reservations, blacks had vacated the slave quarters to occupy similar places within black America, and whites were the ruling class. Neither Asians, white women or any other minorities shared work with blacks during slavery. Now white women share in both the majority and minority, the latter specifically for job purposes — which should keep you from understanding what so-called minorities undergo.

Sometimes people stray from the truth by putting yeast into stories to blow them up. It is hard to believe that a black female once told you that 99 percent of the time after a job interview she said she would get it because she was black. Or saying her son should get special treatment. Or saying that she deserves special privileges because she is black. Anyone familiar with the black or even white community knows this is a no-no.

You say you can understand why people become prejudiced — meaning white people — because the black female is prejudiced. Statutes based on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution qualify all whites. Since it is thought by many that blacks are chronic complainers, the solution is to work to abolish these separate but unequal documents and replace them with equal laws, to see if whites complain.

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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