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Hammerin Hank Aaron and the battle against white supremacy

Hank Aaron died this weekend at the age of 86, after a lifetime of breaking barriers. 

 Funny thing is, most of us have no idea what Hank Aaron did or what it meant, or why a baseball player would be so important. But here’s the reality. Baseball is a sport that’s defined America from the very beginning.

 It was a game that was supposed to be fun. Throw a ball. Hit the ball. Run some bases. Beat your opponent. But that last part was too much of a risk for an America built on white supremacy. An America that told itself that whites were better than blacks, an America that did all it could to feed that lie to the masses.

 If Blacks were able to compete fairly for jobs, or houses, or money, or even in sports, we just might beat our opponents, and that meant the lie of white supremacy would be shattered. So, the plan in baseball and most other sports was simple. Keep blacks from competing, and they can never win. 

 When Jack Johnson beat every white boxer they put in front of him, it proved that white supremacy was a lie. When Joe Louis tore through the heavyweight division, it proved white supremacy was a lie. But when Hank Aaron broke the home run record of a racist named Babe Ruth, it set the world on fire. 

Here was this Black man from the south—a man who lived through a culture of lynching and hatred, a man who quietly refused to stay in his place—this proud Black man took the one record that mattered. And when he did it, Black excellence reigned. Lebron should thank Hank Aaron. Jordan should thank Hank Aaron. Serena should thank Hank Aaron. Every Black American, whether or not we are athletes, should thank Hank Aaron, because he kicked the down the door of racism for us all.

Photo: Kris Bryant, Hank Aaron, Rob Manfred and David Ortiz during the Aaron Award ceremony. By. apardavila

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