The next time you think your voice doesn’t count, look back on this telegram from Jackie Robinson.
This article originally appeared on 09.21.15
Jackie Robinson was an amazing baseball player with serious conviction.
He had the same level of conviction in his demand for real, substantive legislation about civil rights.
He was the first black player, EVER, in baseball’s major leagues in America — he would know.
Real change doesn’t happen all at once. But we get there faster when voters speak up and say they expect more from our elected leaders.
Take the slow path of civil rights in America. Voters like Robinson helped push for real equality when he sent this telegram to The White House and President Eisenhower in 1957:
In the wake of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling stating that segregated schools were not cutting it, the 1957 Civil Rights Act began taking shape under Eisenhower.
Eisenhower signed the half-loafy 1957 bill, but that was just the beginning of a nation setting itself up to specifically make rights more available to everyone (and to make denying people those rights subject to some real penalties).
The 1957 act was the first civil rights legislation passed since the mid-1800s, but it was was mostly lip service; it didn’t do enough to tackle the huge problem of racism and prejudice in America.
There’s no doubt about it, Robinson was hardcore. He did not sleep on the quest for equality.
You gotta admire athletes and people in the public eye who stick their neck out and use their public voice for equality!
And the fact is, they did have to wait a little bit longer. In 1960, another civil rights act passed. Then again in 1964, another civil rights act. We’re talking two separate presidents to get America at least starting to get in front of that whole racism thing. And we’re still working.
Robinson may not have gotten what he wanted right off the bat, but demanding more and not giving up hope was vital to keep the momentum going and build real change.
Bit by bit, we’re building a more equal country.
Think of marriage equality. We weren’t getting all wins in the court system over the years, but each fight helped to change public opinion until polls started showing that the majority of Americans believed in marriage equality.
And then, finally, that beautiful Supreme Court ruling in June 2015. Yay! Conviction and equality win, and so does love.
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