Race & Sports 3

Through considering Latinos in baseball, how can we see changes in the color line and what does this teach us about race? Be sure to use the ideas of power and racialization to explain your answer.

While baseball’s color line is often portrayed in a black/white binary, Latino players proved there was a distinct gray (or in their case – brown) area.  Latinos pushed the boundaries of the color line, but in doing so, became highly racialized figures.  They were marketed as curiosities and were categorized not only racially, but also phenotypically and ethnically.  Latino and African Americans experienced solidarity – especially in organically diverse communities such as Harlem – but lighter-skinned, Spanish-bred Latinos were positioned as distinctly non-black.  The Latino baseball experience proves that discrimination and racialization are more than just black and white, cut and dry issue, and their presence in the game not only helped break the color line, but is still felt today.

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Race & Sports 2

Explain how Jackie Robinson has been mythologized, how the myth is false, and what the myth of Jackie Robinson can teach us about race in America.

The myth of Jackie Robinson depicts an African American athlete who patriotically served his country in the war and broke the color barrier in Major League baseball by listening to and learning from Branch Rickey and staying out of trouble and only speaking up after he had earned permission.  His story is a legendary example of how anyone who puts their mind to something can really make it in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  However, the true story of Jackie Robinson is much different.  Robinson’s life was embroiled with racist discrimination both in the military and in the Major Leagues.  He was much more intelligent and outspoken than folklore would portray, and while his story is an amazing testament against segregation and discrimination, his triumph is by no means an end point.

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Race & Sports 1

How does Zirin argue that sports have functioned historically to define social categories? Cite examples and explain.

Throughout the history, there have been many different functions of sports, many of which directly related to social categories including class, race and sex.  Sports were outlets to escape the realities of work and war, prepare young men for battle, keep these same gentlemen out of pubs and away from other so-called negative activities and assert oneself in a larger community.  With this, there are many distinctions between good sports and bad sports and which sports minorities and women were allowed to participate.

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The fight for power, pride and whiteness

They fought.  They fought for freedom of religion.  They fought for power.  They fought to become more integrated into White society.  But while fighting those who oppressed them, they also began to fight their fellow oppressed.  The antebellum era in which The Gangs of New York takes place was a violent, tumultuous period of time in which groups attempted to assert themselves through the illegal activities that made them infamous.  Irish immigrants departed their homeland hoping to leave the famine and religious persecution that plagued them in Ireland.  Unfortunately, they were not warmly embraced by Lady Liberty’s arms when they stepped off the ship.  Instead of being assimilated into a land of opportunity, they were sucked into the underbelly of American society.  They were instantly oppressed due to how they looked and the cultural differences that they brought with them.  Consequently came a criminalization associated with not only the area they lived in, but also the poverty that they had no real way of getting out of.  In turn, many immigrants became gangsters, trying to show their worth, trying to earn their way to “Whiteness.”

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Joaquin Murieta: Sinner or Saint

Joaquin Murieta was a man shrouded in myth, mystery and romanticism.  It’s impossible for readers to not become fully enveloped in his adventures of violence and revenge.  At times, the reader sympathizes with Joaquin as a victim of injustice and bigotry.  Other times, the reader is easily disgusted by the brutal, oft unwarranted violent acts of Joaquin and his comrades.  By some of these depictions, Joaquin becomes somewhat of a heroic character and martyr to his fellow Mexicans in California.  In the same token, he is also largely demonized by the Anglo-Americans of the area.  Any crime committed in the state is deemed to be the workings of “Joaquin” – no last name necessary, although Murieta was only one of many bandits named Joaquin during that period – regardless of how far away the incidents were from each other.  The story of Joaquin Murieta fits in perfectly to the changing times of California and the idea of Mexicans vs. Anglos.  Based off the early depiction John Rollin Ridge presents of Joaquin, it is easy to see why the bandito did many of the things he did, and at the same time, the story clearly shows how easily the Anglo-Americans could vilify such a character.  Ironically, the author of the story has a somewhat similar story of rising from injustice and seeking out his own form of vengeance.  Ridge/Yellow Bird’s life story makes him unable to be an unbiased storyteller.  His depiction of the racialization of certain ethnic groups speaks volumes about his own personal experiences and tells a sub-story in which Ridge uses certain characters to represent deeper issues.

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