Okay, I have abandoned not one but *two* draft posts tonight, but this has to be finished because it’s just so amazing.
Congratulations #JRW! You are a credit to your race, your city and your county! pic.twitter.com/a1UeBzaskl
— Toni Preckwinkle (@ToniPreckwinkle) August 27, 2014
I’m going to choose to interpret this as a piece of truly inspired trolling on the part of Ms. Preckwinkle, who is extremely smart and not averse to some good trolling now and then.
Who is she trolling? She’s trolling the people that Natalie Moore is talking about at the end of her appearance this week on Chicago Newsroom:
MOORE: I didn’t love [Kenny Williams’ speech at the Jackie Robinson victory rally downtown]. I think telling an audience – this assumption that every black youth is going to pick up a gun. Inspiration is good, but these boys are – you’re preaching to the choir. “Pick up a book, not a gun!” This is the rally for kids who have done that!
It’s not, of course, just about Kenny Williams. The JRW Little League team’s US championship has been mostly reported on through the prism of the boys’ race and fictitiously terrible neighborhoods, because even when black kids excel at the most normal, all-American thing there could possibly be – Little League baseball – we require elaborate storytelling to explain how it’s actually all about how these kids are rising above their broken black communities, not just doing something that’s exceptional by the most universal, mundane standards of American childhood.
Now, that’s more than a little unfair. To begin with, the presence an all-black team at the Little League World Series is not a normal event. Moreover, the South Side does, in fact, have more than its share of problems, and even if the particular areas where these kids are from have fewer of those problems, it’s not unreasonable to see this as a particularly happy thing to happen in that broader context. Certainly, many of the people on the South Side feel that way.
On the other hand, I think it is even less fair to a) tell a bunch of children who have only barely hit puberty that they carry the burden of representing to the world that black kids on the South Side can do something other than shoot each other, and then b) turn around and lecture them at their own victory party about how they really should be sure not to shoot each other.
In short, we have utterly refused to untether from these boys the albatross of being black, and particularly of being black from the South Side of Chicago. At every turn we’ve communicated to them that what they’re doing matters first and foremost because of where they’re from, and what they look like; that excelling at something ordinary is the farthest thing we expect from black children, an achievement that surely requires constant vigilance, lest they revert to their natural state.
In other words, this whole time we’ve been telling the pre-teens on JRW that they’re a credit to their race. If it sounds offensive and outdated when Toni says it, that’s only because we haven’t bothered to listen to ourselves.