Opinion: Columnists

Gregory Kane: Drop the litmus tests against Jackie Robinson

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Opinion,Gregory Kane,Columnists

Baseball great Jackie Robinson being subjected to a political litmus test of racial loyalty?

Apparently that's the case. Robinson, who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947, was black, Republican and somewhat conservative.

That's more than some blacks today can bear.

One of them is named Yvette Carnell, an editor and contributor to the website yourblackworld.com. Carnell wrote a piece she called "Why I Won't be Going to See the Jackie Robinson Movie '42.' "

Carnell cuts straight to the chase in her second paragraph, explaining what her problem is with Robinson -- and his politics.

"For those who don't know, Jackie Robinson testified against black activist and artist Paul Robeson before the House Un-American Activities Committee, backed Richard Nixon against John F. Kennedy, backed the Vietnam War, and even questioned the patriotism of Dr. Martin Luther King when he announced his opposition to the war. This is who Jackie Robinson was. For him, it was the white man's way or no way."

There are so many things so very wrong with Carnell's assessment that it's hard to know where to start. But let's begin with Robinson's support of Nixon over Kennedy in the 1960 election.

Even as recently as 1960, it was the Republican Party, not the Democrats, that was viewed as the party that protected the civil rights of African-Americans. Indeed, many Democrats of that era were Dixiecrats who opposed civil rights legislation and advances at every turn.

Kennedy ran with the support of many of those Dixiecrats. Robinson should have endorsed Kennedy for what reason, exactly?

And don't get me started on Kennedy's civil rights record once he did become president, which was, at best, mediocre and which some consider downright poor.

Now on to this matter of Robinson "testifying against" Robeson. First, notice Carnell's characterization of Robeson as a "black activist and artist."

Robeson was indeed those, but he was much more. Carnell could have been just as accurate if she'd added "hard-core communist" and/or "dedicated, zealous Stalinist" who had no problems with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's policies that sent millions to their doom.

But Carnell is guilty of a couple of sins of omission. She neglected to tell readers that Robeson had testified in front of HUAC's members before Robinson did. And he told them something that, no matter what you think of Robeson as an artist or activist, had to be regarded as utter nonsense.

American blacks, Robeson told HUAC members, would not fight for America in a war against the Soviet Union.

The man presumed to set himself up as the sole spokesman for a black American population that, at the time, numbered around 12 million people. It was colossal arrogance, even for a leftist.

Robinson was invited to testify before HUAC to provide some balance, to give an alternate view of how blacks felt about the possibility of fighting for America should the country have gone to war against the Soviet Union.

That is not "testifying against" Robeson in any normal meaning of that term.

Carnell's column reflects the worldview of far too many black Americans of today: that there is a black way of thinking and a white way of thinking, and blacks who don't think the "right way" have some sort of problem.

In Carnell's world, support for the Vietnam War was the "white way" of thinking, the mostly white anti-war movement notwithstanding.

So how dare Robinson criticize King's opposition to the war? Or support a Republican for president? Or correct the leftist fantasies and delusions of a Paul Robeson?

The great African-American Racial Credentials Committee -- I'm sure Carnell is a member -- has charged, tried and convicted Jackie Robinson of not being black enough.

Washington Examiner Columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

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