Commentary, Sports

Black athlete stories go silent

Reading is meant to be an outlet for education especially non-fiction books that look to inspire readers on a variety of subjects; one being sports.

Many athletes have left an impact long after their deaths; none more so though than Black athletes who were facilitators for change.

The state of Florida, however, does not view them that way, with Duval County making the decision to ban 176 different books from their schools at the end of 2022.

Typically banned books are ones that are considered decisive with the likes of 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 being more commonly included in these lists.

In the case of Duval County though, they felt it necessary to prohibit books highlighting notable athletes who were minorities with a heavy focus being on Black and Latinx baseball players who were pivotal in groundbreaking change across not only the major leagues but other sports as well.

Of the books, the most notable included biographies of Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente. These aren’t even the most divisive books about these athletes as they were targeted at children. Since controversy arose, the stories on Aaron and Clemente have returned to the shelf.

With an entire county making the decision to potentially ban picture books about prominent athletes, it calls into question the reasoning why they found it so important.

What about these athletes was controversial and why did the list not stop there, as they included other significant Black figures like Harriet Tubman?

There was a notable bias on what was banned and though the county has disputed it happening, the books were not on shelves in schools as recently as this month.

Isn’t it valuable to teach the youth about athletes responsible for breaking the color barrier in any state, but especially one whose population is 17% Black or African American?

Take Jackie Robinson for example, what about his story is harmful to be taught in schools? He’s a man who faced adversity and racism at every stop he made during his Major League journey and paved the way in a sport that to this day still lacks diversity in that respect.

Currently, only 7% of the MLB is made up of Black baseball players, leaving Robinson’s historic achievement as something that still needs to be built on.

Educating students on these athletes who risked it all in their respective sports shouldn’t be considered damaging. Florida views it that way and has shown a continued effort to bring down, silence or completely alienate Black figures in history.

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