Jackie Robinson, and the American Dilemma
Often, ordinary truths are revealed by extraordinary lives. John Wilson tells a story of Robinson’s fight against racial injustice in the book, “Jackie Robinson and the American Dilemma” and the aftermath of American sports in World War II. Wilson starts the story examining the childhood days of Robinson, advancing with different dynamics that Robinson came up with, of racist white Americans’ perspective at that particular time. Nearing the end of the story, John highlights several challenges Robinson faced due to his family, not to mention the vicious killings in the United States. John hints that merely within three months in 1998, Robison encountered five bad scenarios that hit him personally and politically, with a possibility to drown the spirit of a weaker person (Clayton, Pg. 2). Generally, the bibliography is full of achievements that encouraged African Americans during that particular time and other human races until the present.
Jackie was born in Georgia, at the summit of the segregated South. His parents were sharecropped farmers. Jackie’s father, Jerry Robinson, abandoned his family while Jackie was still a small baby. Jackie’s mother, Mallie, was determined to give her five children a better life, so she joined “the great migration” out the South, which involved African Americans. The vast majority of the African Americans moved to either Washington, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, or New York. However, Mallie traveled to California as her brother advised her. Around the 1920s, it was somewhat uncommon to find people of African American origin in California. Despite the place being inhabited by Mexican-born blacks in the early settlement, only 1% represented African American decency in the state’s population (Clayton, Pg. 4). People dwelling in that region had to deal with the discrimination pattern common to the American West. Only a few laws were subject to addressing matters relating to the black-white relationship, but the limit of tolerance was defined by widely established and accepted practices.
Only a few public and social amenities accepted African Americans. Some restrictive nondisclosure agreements barred African Americans from residing in most whites’ neighborhoods. Job discrimination haltered economic growth, and African Americans faced hostility at right, left, and center from strangers, neighbors, not to mention police officers. Jackie was not an exception as he was raised in quite a similar environment to that of other kids who moved during the great migration. Raised by a single parent, depending on their mother’s income, the family lived in poverty, kept together by the indomitable spirit of their mother, without mentioning a strong sense of religious, moral values (Tygiel, Pg. 1). As a minor, Jackie and his gang could not escape local police confrontation, which led to at least one arrest. South California could not be the best place to live as an African American, but, perhaps it offered opportunities that were not available in most other locales.
The most impactful person in his childhood days was certainly his mom, Mallie. Mallie was so entrenched into working hard and earning a living; more importantly, she was devoted to God. Mallie’s family lived in a white-dominated neighborhood as the only African Americans, but that did not stop her from raising her five children well and not to receive any sorts of complaints from the neighbors. Jackie and his brother did tremendously well in sports since their childhood. As early as middle school level, Jackie was dedicated to sports, and he and other best athletes in the neighborhood teamed up and started to compete with other “gangs.” However, there some mischievous gang members who often stole fruits from the orchards and, at times, threw dirt clods at vehicles, not to mention rocking at the street lights. Luckily, Jack was an exception as he had some role models who always gave him insights and sage and often warned him of any misdemeanor acts. Jackie’s role models encouraged him to be discipline for Mallie’s, and he turned onto educating himself as a primary concern to be a dependable family member.
The fact that there were tenements and single-family house domination made Mallie buy a house for her family. African American athletes did not face severe restrictions on sports participation, thus paving the way for an avenue of success to Mallie’s sons. Mack, one of Jackie’s siblings, starred at both the 1936 Olympic Games and at the University of Oregon. Later, Jack managed to win four sporting events at Pasadena City College and UCLA, and indeed Mallie capitalized on the achievements of her sons. Jackie’s time at UCLA laid a foundation for him to interact with as many people as possible racially.
Besides his excellence in sports, Jackie received recognizable honors, which led his colleagues to acknowledge Jackie as a gifted African American. Jackie overcame many challenges in his quest to convert the institutions and attitudes defining race relations in America. Rarely did history ever put much emphasis on an individual. Jackie’s trials and triumphs were crucial to American racial differences following World War II. It proved that Jack was a prominent figure fighting for the civil rights of the minorities and brought together the baseball faithful irrespective of the race. Many people loved Jackie, and a significant number also hated him. Any appearance he made during the match was vital regardless of facing boos or applause from the crowd. Jack was excellent in baseball; even the racist and unsupportive fans failed to recognize his race and had to acknowledge him.
Jackie’s senior year at UCLA was somewhat significant as that time he found his soulmate, Rachel Isum. At the time, Rachel was a freshman and relatively younger than Jackie, and dwelled in a secure African American neighborhood. Rachel formed part of a third-generation Californian, which was an uncommon status among black communities and had received a UCLA scholarship, maintaining the excellent performance of straight As. Jackie’s fiery impetuousness complimented by Rachel’s warm and calm manner. Together, their mutual love bond and support were to prepare them ahead of challenging years. Similarly to others at Rachel’s and Jackie’s time, their dating life was interfered with by World War II. Jackie’s services in the army proved the experience of African Americans in the military.
Jackie was drafted in 1942 and posted at Fort Riley, Kansas. He faced a never-ending gauntlet of racial discrimination. He was unable or instead barred to access Officers’ Candidate School, restricted from participating on the baseball team in the camp, and blocked to private facilities. Jackie’s aggressiveness and credibility played a vital role in helping him to demand better and equal treatment. Jackie managed to rise into lieutenant ranks and spearheaded a movement to improve living conditions for African American soldiers at Fort Riley. Following Jackie’s transfer to Ford Hood in Texas, he rejected the orders of sitting at the back of an army bus and ignored the disciplinary actions by one of the top-ranking soldiers (Tygiel, Pg. 5). Consequently, Jackie was taken to a court-martial charged with a dishonorable discharge. Jackie was acquitted of all the charges, but the encounter did not go unnoticed as they intensified his commitments towards racial discrimination and other social injustices.
Jackie’s release from the army and encountered a familiar dilemma for African Americans. Before his athletic talent reached its peak and the time he was good enough to shine in any sporting event in America, Jackie was no different from his brothers Kenny and Mack, as he had limited options in terms of professionalism. Baseball teams, basketball teams, and the National Football League could not accept African American players. The best viable option for Jackie to go with was baseball Negro league, and ended up signing for Kansas City Monarchs in the spring of 1945. Arguably, there was a high level of baseball displayed by the Negro Leagues, that featured some all-time greatest stars of the game. Perhaps, the experience at the Negro league was somewhat distasteful to Jackie. Jackie was used to highly structured training sessions, and fixtures that involved major college sports, and joining the Negro Leagues was an obvious step down as opposed to a leg up (Tygiel, Pg. 6). What discouraged Jack even more, was long traveling hours, the degrading acts at filling stations, not to mention the informal league approach by the players to most nonleague contests. Jackie was somewhat a misfit among the monarchs as he merely enjoyed the “social ramble” with his team.
Jackie could later join one of the best teams in the country courtesy of Rickey, where most of his colleagues were whites. Irrespective of the insults he might encounter from opponent players or the crowd at the beginning of the baseball career, Jackie was slow to react and managed the situation warmly. He understood the magnitudes of obstacles facing him and was naturally combative. In 1946, Jackie and Rachel wedded. Soon after, the couple to Florida for spring training, also launching “baseball’s great experiment.” Jackie joined a South practiced rigid discrimination, lynching, and all kinds of racial injustices, and it was now somewhat a distant dream to dismantle the Jim Crow laws practice. After two years, President Harry ordered the desegregation of military personnel. Barely after eight years, the supreme court unanimously ruled in favor of Mr. Brown in the infamous case of Brown V. Topeka Board of Education. Jackie became recognized as “a one-man civil rights movement” (Tygiel, Pg. 7).
Clayton, Obie. An American dilemma revisited: Race relations in a changing world. Russell Sage Foundation, 1996.
Tygiel, Jules. Extra Bases: Reflections on Jackie Robinson, Race, and Baseball History. U of Nebraska Press, 2002.