The venerable Todd Boyd contributed a wonderful must read to Page 2 on ESPN today. And, of late, a must read on Page 2 is about as common as a Negro not named Tiger at Augusta National.
Dr. Boyd indoctrinates us on the intricacies of race and how it relates to public perception of Barry Bonds' home run chase. He illustrates the trials and tribulations that faced Henry Aaron during his own home run record chase. The hate mail he received, the fact that the Reds would not honor Aaron's request for a moment of silence before a game on the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr's death and general national feeling of resentment over a Negro replacing Babe Ruth at the top of the home run mountain.
He then goes on to illustrate that race is factor in Bonds' current chase, despite the fact that 30 odd years have passed since Aaron assumed the apex of the list.
A recent ESPN/ABC News poll suggests there is a racial divide in the nation around people's attitude towards Bonds and his attempt to set the new home run mark. In the last few years, we have been treated to grand jury investigations, congressional hearings and best-selling books, all of which have placed Bonds at the center of a much bigger steroid controversy in baseball. This being the case, in spite of all the speculation to the contrary, it has never been proven that Bonds is guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs.
Dr. Boyd brings forth the oft proven proposition that whenever a Negro reaches the top of his field, there is a concerted effort by those not in the Negro community to bring that person down. He goes on to describe the unwavering attack on bringing Bonds down: the Grand Jury investigation, the investigative reporting efforts, congressional hearings and all the books written on the subject. All this effort to bring Bonds down, yet no interest in playing by the Golden Rule of the American judicial system. Innocent until proven guilty. Bonds has not tested positive for anything, and as we post this, has been convicted of nothing.
Bonds now finds himself incarcerated in a prison of racial suspicion, animosity and resentment. One imagines that this resentment will be most evident on that day in the near future when Aaron's record
And this would certainly seem to be the case. Particularly since the polls broke down sentiment towards Bonds breaking the home run record almost completely along racial lines. It seems logical that the white participants weighed Bonds Negro-ness heavily in their desire to see Bonds' ultimate record setting be qualified with some sort of caveat or to be completely ignored by MLB.
One of the reasons that Bonds has never been accorded the benefit of the doubt is because of his personality and his public persona. Whereas Aaron was always a humble gentleman who had grown up in the segregated South, Bonds is a second-generation baseball prodigy who has often come across to many as entitled, selfish and disrespectful -- a poster child for the stereotype of today's overpaid, self-indulgent black athlete. In times past, some would have called Bonds an "uppity Negro." In today's parlance, though, Bonds might best be described by Ice Cube's moniker, "the n----- you love to hate."
Again, this is probably reflected in that poll. An unapologetic Negro. We can think of few things that the white man finds as infuriating. The fact that there have been incredible piles of evidence suggesting more than an unwitting participation in the BALCO scandal are irrelevant here. This is clearly about skin color and about whites being miffed at Bonds' attitude.
At the end of the day, it would be great to see people put away their childish racial resentment of Barry Bonds and give the man his due, but as an adult I have no illusions that this is going to happen.
And we call for the same thing. Put race aside. Treat Barry with the respect that should be accorded to such an historic accomplishment. Bud Selig should put his racist tendencies aside and be on hand to celebrate this awe inspiring feat. The color of Bonds' skin shouldn't matter. Selig should be sitting right next to Hank Aaron when Bonds hits the record breaking home run. He should be standing next to him when a proud and joyous Hank Aaron, in an act of solidarity, shakes Barry's hand, hugs him and congratulates him on this once in a generation happening. Anyone not willing to give Bonds his due certainly can be characterised as childish and racist.
We'd call for one more thing in all this. Fairness and equality. Bonds hasn't failed a drug test and has not officially been implicated in any way. All we ask is that he be treated the same way a white super star home run hitter would be treated if the powers that be suspected his numbers were tainted.
It's hard to believe. We live in a country in which there is a legitimate Negro contender for the presidency, yet Barry Bond's can't get his due because of the color of his skin.