Abusing Roberto Clemente as a Woke Tool

Recent media headlines have focused on grassroots attempts in Florida to stem the tide of leftist indoctrination in schools.  Establishment media has objected strenuously to the review of LGBTQ books and books focusing on professional athletes, including a children’s biography of Roberto Clemente entitled Roberto Clemente: The Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The book is aimed at children in grades k-3. It contains as many illustrations as it does text passages. 

The book tells its child audience that unnamed “White” newsmen called Clemente a “Latino ‘hothead,’” and “lazy.” It accuses these “White” newsmen of not liking Clemente and mocking his Spanish accent. An unnamed stadium announcer is accused at length of mispronouncing Clemente’s name. It is doubtful that any real evidence exists to support these inflammatory claims. But impressionable children reading this book will undoubtedly experience negative racial passions as they discover baseball and the Pirates’ baseball hero.

One school board in Florida now has this book under review.  (Other books are under review also, giving us some hint at the work that needs to be done.) None of the media articles condemning the Florida investigation have quoted these passages. As usual, the general public has not heard what is truly at stake. The public will not learn how childrens’ minds are being conditioned by this and other books.

The leftist media establishment has made race the main point of attack in almost every issue from elections to court appointments to taxes to crime to the economy. This book is merely one more pebble in that avalanche.  But now national media has taken up the cause and used the book as leverage to condemn the entire Florida reform effort.  

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has misleadingly written that the book has been “banned” and has not revealed any reason for officials’ review.  A Post-Gazette reader would never know of the attacks on unnamed “Whites.” The Post-Gazette implores the Pirates and all of Major League Baseball to stop using Florida for spring training. Other media outlets predictably follow the same playbook -- failing to report the vague but inflammatory attacks on “Whites.” 

Clemente was revered as few athletes have been in Pittsburgh sports history. Fans sought seats in the right field section just to be near him. I and my friends prized his baseball cards above all others. Local media sought interviews with him more so than his teammates. He received honors and awards during his lifetime.  Fifty years ago, my family and friends were glued to the radio and television as we waited in vain for rescuers to find him after his airplane disappeared.  He was immediately elected to the Hall of Fame as Major League Baseball waived the usual five-year waiting period.

This history has attained legendary status since his death. There are awards, museums, at least one major bridge and other structures named after him.

In that same time, those who profit from racial division have been hard at work.  Documentaries have claimed that Clemente was, in fact, resented and opposed by the blue-collar workers of Pittsburgh. Those that revered him are now accused of hating him for his skin color.  They are said to have resented his success instead of cheering him on as they did. We are shown images of some of his baseball cards indentifying him as “Bob” instead of “Roberto.” The use of the more familiar “Bob” is cited as proof that his Pittsburgh fans did not respect him.  Not only is the informal version labelled racist, but it is blamed on local fans instead of the Topps company in Philadelphia.  The Pittsburgh fans of that era had no way of knowing that their cheers would one day boomerang into vile accusations against them.

The campaign has reached its target. My own experience is not unique. When I see an old baseball card with the name “Bob” instead of “Roberto,” I must confess to a sense of guilt for enjoying an item that now stands as a target of racial accusations. That guilt has since turned to resentment and derision at those that launched these attacks.  The guilt is one of the goals of the modern leftist movement. The resentment and derision reveal the limitations of these political attacks. All of it is unnecessary and harmful.

Another goal is to inculcate the culture of victimization into young children. This culture will pay dividends to leftists for decades to come. Children so indoctrinated become adults who are expected to be soldiers in a cause. Schools no longer provide education but recruitment. Their job is to recruit young children into a war that will one day destroy their country.  

The attack on the “White” people of the Clemente book is a microcosm of the weaponization of “racism” that dominates modern politics.  “Racism” has long been the ultimate weapon in the Left’s arsenal. Rather than explore actual policies and their consequences, leftists (and some Republicans) are content to wait for their opponents to say something “racist” so that they can say “gotcha” and defeat their opponents without really trying.  

The “racism” accusation is not a product of reason, but of power. The leftists use it because they can -- not because their opponents are actually racist.  The old blue-collar fans in Pittsburgh can do no harm.  But they represent old values and a different America. They -- and the rest of the country of that era -- are a symbol that must be destroyed. That symbol must remain convicted if leftist policies are to prevail and advance.  The “racism” movement needs a devil to keep its followers motivated.

But leftists must do more than recruit k-3 children.  They use their media empire and  the bread-and-circuses culture.  MLB and the entire professional sports world wields incredible power.  They have the power to force local governments to adopt certain policies.  If local governments refuse, professional sports threaten to withdraw their Bread-and-Circuses and the revenue that such games bring.  Like the rest of the welfare state, bread-and-circuses comes with a price. At least some in the media believe that spring training in Florida is enough of a weapon to force race-baiting books upon young children.

The rest of us must decide if it is worth the price. Is the ability to watch men play baseball worth having our children twisted through picture books?  Must we allow our children to be weaponized so that we can sit in a ball park, eat hot dogs and drink beer?  If we decide that our children are more important than our politicized entertainment, we must be willing to endure threats and, possibly, the loss of that entertainment.  

We must not be fooled as to what is really at stake. The Left wants more than mere race-baiting books in school libraries. They want to derail the entire reform movement, including efforts to prevent schools from sexualizing our children. They hide behind Roberto Clemente’s name and the entire baseball industry in order to protect their broader agenda.  We must remember that broader agenda as we endure attacks on every effort we make to protect our children.    

Image: McArthur

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