Unhappy Conservatives are saying that Hank Aaron is racist for comparing them and some of their attacks on President Obama to the KKK in a recent USA Today interview. Well, I hear that there’s a new minority-friendlier, and more inclusive Klan these days… so, yeah, they might be right.
Uh-huh, maybe Hank Aaron is indeed racist.
Heck, the rules of post-racialism are such that calling out racism is the new racism.
The problem with that, however, is that he made no such comparison – no, not directly. What he did was make the point that while there have been much progress along racial lines, the sad truth is that not much has changed. And, he did so only when answering a question about why he kept those racist letters from the year he was chasing Babe Ruth’s homerun record.
Here’s what Hank Aaron said:
“To remind myself,” Aaron tells USA TODAY Sports, “that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record. If you think that, you are fooling yourself. A lot of things have happened in this country, but we have so far to go. There’s not a whole lot that has changed.
“We can talk about baseball. Talk about politics. Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treated.
“We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go in the country.
“The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”
What Hank aaron said is hardly a dog whistle. Well, not the type of whistle intended to get right-wing dogs riled up. (Yes, you know the type of things they say, ao there’s no need to waste keystrokes.)
But, context be damned…
Hank Aaron is spot on in his description of how much the country has changed.
After all, it’s not like they wear hoods and robes when it comes to
racist racially unfavorable policies within the country’s public school system; the criminal justice system; or even with the gutting of the Voting Rights Act at a time when voter suppression attempts by Republican-run states is the order of the day. But hey, don’t tell that to anyone if you don’t wish to be labeled a racist… or, a Republican.
Like him or not, Barack Obama is to politics what Hank Aaron was to professional baseball in the year leading up to breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record. In fact, nobody ever talks about it but Hank Aaron was probably hated more so in later years after hitting home run number 715 back in 1974. And whether you’re brave enough to admit it or not, isn’t a concern of mine. However, it’s obvious that much of the pushback Obama receives is due in large part to him being black.
And even he knows this, as expressed in an interview three months ago with David Rennick:
“There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President,” Obama said. “Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black President.”
“There is a historic connection between some of the arguments that we have politically and the history of race in our country, and sometimes it’s hard to disentangle those issues,” he went on. “You can be somebody who, for very legitimate reasons, worries about the power of the federal government — that it’s distant, that it’s bureaucratic, that it’s not accountable — and as a consequence you think that more power should reside in the hands of state governments. But what’s also true, obviously, is that philosophy is wrapped up in the history of states’ rights in the context of the civil-rights movement and the Civil War and Calhoun. There’s a pretty long history there. And so I think it’s important for progressives not to dismiss out of hand arguments against my Presidency or the Democratic Party or Bill Clinton or anybody just because there’s some overlap between those criticisms and the criticisms that traditionally were directed against those who were trying to bring about greater equality for African-Americans. The flip side is I think it’s important for conservatives to recognize and answer some of the problems that are posed by that history …”
Let’s not get it twisted: The Klan wore suits and ties in the daytime back in the day as they do now. And let’s not kid ourselves. Racism in America is as American as baseball, apple pie, and slaves building the U.S. Capitol and White House (yes, the same slaves who were the engine of the U.S. economy). But hey, if Babe Ruth was black, nobody would give a damn about Hank Aaron.