CHICAGO | We’ll get our fill of history when the White Sox host Major League Baseball’s annual Civil Rights Game Aug. 24 at U.S. Cellular Field.
The contest against the Texas Rangers will be the culmination of a multi-day, All-Star festivities-style schedule that will remember the giants of history who fought for basic human dignities we now take for granted.
The consciousness-raising program, already successful for two years apiece in Atlanta and Cincinnati, will have the necessary benefit to showing that civil rights didn’t stop with a burst of 1960s legislation and social acceptance in ensuing decades.
It’s an organic, never-ending process, the job undone in 2013 just the same as it will be in 2113 and beyond.
“Civil rights is not something of the past,” said Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams, who had an easy sell in persuading diversity-conscious team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to host the game.
“It is something that is continuous. It is something that is evolving. There are fights in many different avenues of our lives. What’s being fought for in Congress right now and the Supreme Court, you can see that there are limitations on people’s civil rights.”
A re-education angle is important in the Civil Rights Game. Too many simply weren’t old enough to experience the history. Reinsdorf cited Jim Thome, then Sox’s oldest player, as being born two years after Martin Luther King’s death in 1968 when the team visited the King museum in Memphis a few years back.
Remember, 2013 is the 50th anniversary not only of The March on Washington, but also President John F. Kennedy’s landmark televised speech placing the government formally behind civil-rights enforcement.
It was a “moral issue,” he said, rooted in the Scriptures. JFK had enough, watching fire hoses and police dogs turned on civil-rights demonstrators in Birmingham only a month earlier.
So many local civil-rights angles must be remembered. There was King’s year-long residency in Chicago in 1966, his hazardous march through Marquette Park and the empty platitudes he got from Major Richard J. Daley.
A year later, Richard Hatcher of Gary became one of the first African-American mayors of a sizable U.S. city. And, of course, no one can forget Harold Washington.
“We had some times together,” Reinsdorf said of Washington, who timed his 1983 election as Chicago’s first African-American mayor with the Sox’s famed “Winning Ugly” season.
“But it’s part of the bigger story. The important story is the role that he (King) played and other people played in getting people to equality. Martin Luther King said he couldn’t have done it without Jackie Robinson. And there were others.
“The long-term goal is to make sure people don’t forget what went on in the old days. And to eliminate what racial prejudice still exists. We need to get to be a country where it’s complete equality of opportunity.”
This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at DGemsNet@aol.com.