In an interview with USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale on Tuesday, Hank Aaron reflected on how racism has evolved since he broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record on April 8, 1974.
He saved the letters he received at the time, one of which read “[y]ou are not going to break this record established by the great Babe Ruth if I can help it. Whites are far more superior than jungle bunnies. My gun is watching your every black move.”
When asked why he kept the letters, he said “[t]o remind myself that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record. If you think that, you are fooling yourself. A lot of things have happened in this country, but we have so far to go. There’s not a whole lot that has changed.”
“We can talk about baseball. Talk about politics,” he continued. “Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treated. We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go in the country.”
“The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”
John Nolte, one of the editors of the conservative outlet Breitbart.com, reacted to Aaron’s words with a series of heart-broken tweets:
The Breitbart Sports article linked in those tweets claimed that “Aaron’s remarks are similar to those that agitator Al Sharpton repeatedly makes about those who oppose Obama or the Congressional Black Caucus’s agenda, likening them to Jim Crow’s sons. Or, in Sharpton’s words, ‘James Crow, Jr., Esq.’”
["Hank Aaron At The Los Angeles Premiere Of '42' At Tcl Chinese Theater On April 9, 2013 In Los Angeles, California" on Shutterstock]
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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