Editorial Roundup: Robinson left a profound legacy

Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2022

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The legacy of Jackie Robinson seems somehow more important than ever today as America regresses as a nation with “liberty and justice for all.”

Robinson became the first Black player in baseball 75 years ago today when he took the field as the first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers. There was no shortage of challenges in baseball and in society to a Black man playing in what had been a white man’s league.

Robinson was steadfast in his beliefs and stalwart in his game. Robinson’s Dodgers went to six World Series in 10 years. Robinson was named Rookie of the Year in 1947, Most Valuable Player in 1950, was selected to six All-Star teams and was a first-ballot inductee into the Hall of Fame.

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The quote emblazoned on his statute in front of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles speaks simply to the need to accept all people, no matter their skin color.

“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me … All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”

As a story in today’s Free Press shows, Black players to come after Robinson —like Hall of Famer Jim Rice, who was one of the few Black players on the Boston Red Sox in the 1970s — carried his words with them throughout their careers.

“That’s all we want, African-Americans, whites or whatever. That’s what we all want. Respect me has a human being,” Rice told CNHI New Service reporter Bill Burt in today’s story.

Taking that simple idea in the context of today’s race relations creates a discordant, complicated picture. Robinson couldn’t have imagined an entire movement like Black Lives Matter would be needed to protect the very “respect for humane beings” that seemed so simple 75 years ago.

The 75 years since Branch Rickey brought Robinson to the Dodgers have wrought some obvious success for Black Americans, like the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s and things like anti-discrimination laws in housing and employment later.

But some of those pillars of equality are crumbling. The U.S. Supreme Court rolled back enforcement mechanisms of the Voting Rights Act, allowing governments to change voting laws even when discrimination is apparent.

And American society is just now coming to grips with discrimination in policing, with numerous extreme examples shown on the screens of every cellphone across the world.

And there have been many heroes who followed Robinson in government and politics, religion and education. All were needed because what Robinson started had not been finished.

Nor is it finished today. As we remember this historic day in baseball and its broader implications, we should hope that in another 75 years, the problems addressed by Robinson’s legacy will be history rather than reality.

—Mankato Free Press, April 14

About Editorial Roundup

Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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