A change is gonna come

I was born by the river in a little tent
And just like the river I’ve been running ever since

It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes it will

It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die
‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there beyond the sky

It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes it will

From “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke (1964)

Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd this afternoon.

A white police officer was convicted of killing a Black man. That happens so rarely in the United States that, even in 2021 and even after watching the incontrovertible video footage and emotional eyewitness testimony, there was no guarantee that the jury would return a guilty verdict. But they did, and justice wins – this time.

As a white man approaching the end of six decades living in America, it may be that my satisfaction over the outcome isn’t important. I grew up in Pontiac, Michigan, in the 1970s, just as the schools were desegregated by court order. Since third grade, I’ve watched as my Black friends, despite Congress passing and the legal system attempting to enforce laws designed to promote their civil rights (and by extension my own), continued to face discrimination and racism. I’ve seen us slide backwards over the past decade or so, from the election and re-election of Barack Obama (which was so hopeful and was, frankly, something I didn’t expect to see in my lifetime) to the nakedly nationalist and xenophobic Trump presidency.

I’ve tried throughout my life to remain an ally for civil rights of all people. Unfortunately, white people are often self-satisfied by their symbolic gestures of support while not really doing very much of substance to change things in America, which leaves a justifiable skepticism on the part of those who have been repeatedly let down by the system. As Stevie Wonder sang in “You Haven’t Done Nothin'”:

But we are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong
‘Cause if you really want to hear our views
You haven’t done nothin’.

Stevie recorded that song in 1974, 47 years ago. Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” was ten years before that. And here we are in 2021, still wondering whether a jury will find a white police officer guilty of murder, even though we could all see it as it actually happened. Even now, Chauvin’s attorney thought criticizing George Floyd for not being perfect, for having character flaws and personal demons, for being, you know, different and not worthy of respect, might just get Chauvin off in the eyes of the jury. At least this time it didn’t work.

A change is gonna come. Perhaps a small step in that direction happened today. But not if we – and particularly white Americans – think the job is finished because of a single verdict. President Kennedy, almost sixty years ago, said “[T]his nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.”

This is not an ending, but instead another chance to begin.

Some quickies on a Thursday

Let’s see if that headline works as clickbait. 🙂

Racism is still alive and well in baseball

A quick followup from yesterday’s post about MLB “recognizing” the Negro Leagues. Craig Calcaterra goes into more detail about how, even though the color line was broke in 1947, the damage from baseball’s racist policies continued and still has effects on the game today:

MLB’s skimming off of only a small handful of superstars in the 1940s and 1950s, while shunning the vast majority of its players and workers, was enough to crater the Negro Leagues as a business, leading to their destruction and leading to the end of countless on-the-field and off-the-field baseball careers. It also led to a much, much slower and less comprehensive integration of the game than we may have otherwise gotten. That foot-dragging foreclosed the would-be careers of multiple generations of Black scouts, coaches, managers, and executives which, in turn, foreclosed the sort of intergenerational role modeling and mentoring which would’ve led to a greater number of Black scouts, coaches, managers, and executives than we have in the game today. Which is to say that even if the sort of racism that motivated MLB’s failure to properly assess the worth of the Negro Leagues back in the 40s and 50s is not apparent in the game now, the legacy inspired by that racism persists.

Craig writes a newsletter on Substack called “Cup of Coffee,” and this is from today’s free edition. Check out the whole thing if you’re interested in a different take on baseball, sports, and everything else. If you like it, subscribe!

Trolling for a pardon

It’s hard to argue (unless you work there, I suppose) that Google might be a just a tad too big these days and that antitrust laws ought to be brought to bear before they (along with Amazon and Facebook) have effectively taken over commerce. But I’d feel a lot better about this lawsuit if it wasn’t being led by the same guy who did this a few weeks ago:

Paxton is under investigation for bribery and abuse of his office. He fired several of his senior staffers awhile back because they might have been collecting information for a whistleblower complaint. Between the nonsense lawsuit (which was quickly dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court because Texas had no standing to bring it in the first place) and now this salvo against Google (another frequent Trump target), it looks like Paxton is trying to show how deserving he is for a pardon. Which means I have some doubts about the legal competence behind this otherwise welcome investigation into the range of influence of one of the world’s most powerful corporations.