Cabreras Open win could shift sentiments

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Looking back on civil rights struggles in the United States, a lot of what is to come as far as acceptance of certain groups who are struggling to find a foothold in the social scenes of the county parallels what is happening in sports.

For example, following the Civil War, the black community in the United States had a time during reconstruction where they were on an almost equal footing with the more populace white persuasion. This acceptance soon slid with the enacting of John Crow laws in both the North and more particularly the South.

This continued for some time as the black community was subjugated to unfair laws that cheated the group out of equal standing with their fellow Americans. It wasn&8217;t until the 1930s or thereabouts that this rescinding of freedoms became a largely debated public subject, particularly in the North.

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It was during this time, at the beginnings of a renewed struggle for rights, that the black community made waves in the professional baseball arena by moving out of the established Negro leagues. The black players like Jackie Robinson, in 1947, and later Hank Aaron, in 1954, came into a league that in 1868 banned &8220;any club including one or more colored persons.&8221;

The group of players from the black community struggled ahead in the sport, enduring death threats as well as fellow players stating they would resign from their teams rather than play with a person of the black persuasion. Slowly and determinedly the group proved they were on equal footing with their fellow professionals and in 1959 the last hold out of integration in the league, the Boston Red Sox, conformed to the trend by signing Mike &8220;Pinky&8221; Higgins.

The struggle for black civil rights was wagged less than a decade later, and the black community saw the passing of legislation across the United States that ensured its rights were on equal grounds with that of the white community.

It seems what happens in the arena of play influences public perception of a culture. When a group, or even player of a certain ethnicity, emerges as a popular sports figure the public perception of that group follows suit, eventually leading to an acceptance of the culture.

With the recent debate over immigration and the prejudices springing to life over the Latinos entering the United States, this trend of acceptance through professional athlete&8217;s performances could come in handy for the ethnic group. Especially seeing as how a Latino, Argentinean to be more exact, won the U.S. Open this past weekend.

In a sport that has been historically know as the &8220;white man&8217;s game,&8221; first Tiger Woods broke the racial barrier and now Angel Cabrera won arguably the biggest golfing event in the United States.

If Cabrera can retain his rags to riches image, going from caddie to winner of such a prestigious event, he might be able to win the heart and minds of the U.S. population &8212; something that is needed for his ethnic persuasion.

Brandon Glover is the sports editor of The Times. He can be reached at