The Marc Anthony Internet Reaction: Did Jackie Robinson Teach Us Nothing?

Singer Marc Anthony was chosen to sing “God Bless America” at Citi Field during All Star Game festivities. The reaction on Twitter by some people was downright shameful. (Image source: http://media.tumblr.com/31a763abd18e9eb2b9f66d5a54122a95/tumblr_inline_mq3gcpY5cT1qz4rgp.jpg)

In an age where it would seem we have come so far in terms of racial equality, acceptance and tolerance, we are reminded in the aftermath of Marc Anthony’s singing of “God Bless America” just how far we have left to go.

The Twitter reaction to Anthony was harsh, and filled with misinformation and outright bigotry. *Disclaimer.  Please use caution when clicking that link as some of the language and terms used may be offensive.  The Blog does not endorse or in any way condone the sort of language or views expressed by the Twitter posts contained within that link.

Making this even more sad, Marc Anthony was born here.  He is, in many ways, the sort of person that people in this country should aspire to become: a man who was given a natural-born talent and a passion, pursued a life course with that, and became wildly successful.  Isn’t that the “American Dream”?

Isn’t that the sort of thing we should all aspire to?

What we’re getting instead is a whole slew of Twitter hatred.  Among other things, people expressed (in much harsher terms) the following:

-Marc Anthony shouldn’t sing a Patriotic song because he is not of American descent.
-Marc Anthony is a Mexican (as if that term in and of itself is meant to be insulting.
-People who are of latin heritage have no business singing about love or well-wishes for this country.
-Being someone who speaks Spanish is, effectively, a bad thing.
-An “American” should sing songs like “God Bless America” (the fact that Anthony was born and raised in New York City does not appear to dawn on these people.)
-Only American citizens should be allowed to sing patriotic songs (again, Anthony was born here, showing a real lack of research on the posters’ part.)
-Baseball players who are not born in the U.S. are “not American.”

*EDIT*  Reader Ernest Reyes of dodgersblueheaven.com reminded me that “God Bless America” was written by Irving Berlin, who was Russian-born.  That’s right.  People were complaining that it was “UnAmerican” that an American-born singer was singing a Patriotic song written by someone who was not born here.  Thank you for pointing this fact out to me Ernest.

I have chosen to leave the actual color of the commentary for the link above to the article about the Twitter posts as I do not feel this blog is a forum for calling out individual Twitter users or to directly quote racial slurs and outright bigotry.

I have to ask.  Isn’t this the sort of bigotry that Branch Rickey was trying to chip away at when he brought Jackie Robinson to Brooklyn in 1947?  Did we not just see a major motion picture that in many ways was about this very topic?  It’s the same story as before.  We’re watching people show the ugly side of humanity by effectively telling someone that they don’t belong based on the color of their skin and, in this case, also the language that comes off their tongue.

Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson shaking hands upon Robinson joining the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. 66 years later, criticism and outright bigotry directed at Marc Anthony and Sebastian De La Cruz for committing the simple act of singing Patriotic songs show that the fight for racial equality in the United States still has a long way to go. (Image source: Smithsonian Magazine at http://media.smithsonianmag.com/images/jackie-robinson-branch-rickey-friendship-631.jpg)

Didn’t we learn anything only about a month ago when Sebastian De La Cruz sang the National Anthem before Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat?  It becomes clear that the spirit of segregation and bigotry continue to reign strong in the American psyche.

It often seems as if the pervading attitude in American society is to act in a hateful or hurtful manner toward people who are different.  The Blog would like to share a bit of a personal touch to this story.

You see, the reason I believe so strongly in Jackie Robinson is because I face adversity in my own life over a disability that people cannot even see.  When I was fifteen years old, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Type II.

Bipolar is not the sort of thing that you can see, feel or touch.  It’s a mental health issue, or a mental “illness” if you choose to use that term.  It’s a diagnosis that affects about 4% of the population.  To put that in tangible terms, if you know 100 people, statistically speaking, 4 of them are Bipolar.  My Facebook friends list has a little over 600 people on it, so of those 600+, 25 of them are likely to be Bipolar.  Not one of them have ever committed a serious crime, killed anyone, or caused a major social disruption because of their disorder.

Yet they are stigmatized because of that one-in-a-million incident where someone with the disorder will act out and cause a major public situation.  I have never had a problem letting people know my diagnosis, but many people live in fear of revealing that they have been diagnosed with the disorder, that they may be receiving treatment or that they may be struggling.

The reactions I get to my diagnosis are far-ranging.  Even some of my most tolerant friends (as far as things like racial equality are concerned) sometimes express some fear.  There’s a clear non-understanding of what it means to be Bipolar.  One of the strangest comments I get is “oh, well, you’re not like other Bipolar people, you’re not crazy like them!”  Why is this strange?  Because being Bipolar in and of itself does not make one crazy.  I have been party to several conversations where people, some of whom have been good friends to me over the years, talk about “crazy people” and make comments like “he’s Bipolar” or “why would you trust a Bipolar person with your children?” or “you need to stay away from her, she’s very Bipolar.”  I was even told by an employer when I worked in the mental health field that they had concerns about promoting me to a higher position out of fear that I would be ineffective working with people with mental health issues because I not only had a mental health issue but was public about the fact that I had it.  (By the way, some people might have sued over that incident,  but I did not feel it would be fair to the clients that I served if the company’s financial resources and energy became tied up in a court battle over my employment situation.)

Some people will argue that this is somehow different than racism.  The point is, it really isn’t.

I was raised in a family that supported the Dodgers and everything the franchise stood for.  My earliest influences, when it came to learning about Jackie Robinson, indicated to me that the Los Angeles Dodgers stood for equality and for the rights of all people to pursue their dreams.  The enduring message that Jackie Robinson’s contributions gave me were that no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter what circumstance may hinder you in life whether it be socially or professionally, none of that should matter.  People are born, in fact created equal.  The most sacred pledge in this country, one that we are taught and brought up with from an early age, ends with the line “with liberty and justice for all.”

The Dodger organization stands for that message.  When Major League Baseball retired the number 42 for all teams, they stood in solidarity with that message.  Major League Baseball, by that act, said, in effect, a line that was apparently wrongly attributed to Pee Wee Reese in the movie “42” (this according to several sources, though the word on who the actual quote should be attributed to remains mum,) “maybe tomorrow we’ll all wear 42 so they won’t tell us apart.”

I stand in solidarity with Jackie Robinson.  I stand in solidarity with Marc Anthony.  I stand in solidarity with Sebastian De La Cruz.  I stand in solidarity with the millions of men and women who have fought for the right to be treated and acknowledged as equal in this country, to acknowledge that not only have things changed in this country but that the change toward acceptance of all people, regardless of race, sex, gender, orientation, ability or disability is a good change.

At a time when we celebrate the contributions of Jackie Robinson, we still see and feel the nails driven by those who continue to perpetuate the myth in this country that we are not all created equal, that there is somehow an unwritten rule that some people are greater or “more American” than others.  To them I only can say this: the Puritans landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620 to escape persecution.  Ever since, millions of people have crossed oceans and land boundaries seeking a better life, a chance to live free and to pursue their dreams.  We even erected a statue in New York Harbor dedicated to this pursuit of liberty and freedom, and many of those who posted these sorts of misguided, hateful posts on Twitter and other forms of social media look to that very statue for inspiration.

To them I only can quote the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus which sits within the base of that great statue.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Not only Dodger fans, but baseball fans throughout the league should be angered that this very message, the message that brought Jackie Robinson to the major leagues and has opened the doors to players of all colors and nationalities to play this great game within the boundaries of this great land, is being ignored, disregarded, and outright spat upon by others.  Any true fan of the game of baseball, any true patriot who loves this nation and what it stands for, and any person of upstanding moral character, knows that the sort of attitude that has been taken toward something as simple as people of latino descent singing songs of Patriotism toward the country that they reside in is ridiculous and can not be tolerated.

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4 thoughts on “The Marc Anthony Internet Reaction: Did Jackie Robinson Teach Us Nothing?

  1. Thanks for writing this. I’ll add, with regards to the song “God Bless America”, it was written by Irving Berlin. Berlin was not born in America either. He was Russian; more specifically from Belarus.

    1. Thank you for the added history, Ernest. I went into a bit of a rant/vent with the thing, but your point is well-taken. In fact, I’m going to do a quick edit here and note that you brought that to my attention.

    2. Also Ernest, if it’s okay with you, I’m going to add you to my roll of other blogs I recommend that people read when I do some edits to it this weekend. Thank you again for pointing out that Irving Berlin wrote the song and was not native-born. Completely slipped my mind. I went ahead and plugged your site in the editor’s note, too.

      1. no sweat and thanks for the link. I thought your rant was great and well said- heck, it’s the kind of thing that must be said. I just find it hilarious (and ironic) that the song created such deep seeded racism from folks who don’t even realize it was written by a immigrant.

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