Guest Author - Lorraine E. Chavis
There is a saying in black America: “you have to be twice as good as anyone and if you aren’t you won’t make it.” What does it mean to be twice as good? It is a process of gaining respect in life, all areas of life. Gaining respect can mean losing friends or in the case of Henry “Hank” Aaron, fans. Many fans were upset, that a black man would surpass Babe Ruth in home runs.
Aaron received thousands of parcels full of hate mail from fans as he closed in on breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record. He was doing his best and Aaron’s best was going to surpass Babe Ruth’s best.
Aaron had to accept the anger coming from fans and still do his best. He had to do his best because what he was doing wasn’t just for his fans. It was for his team and also for his community. Aaron had to accomplish great things because that is why he was playing professional baseball. Aaron played to win, he could not allow hate to win.
On April 8, 1974, Aaron hit his 715th home run. He surpassed Babe Ruth’s record of 714 home runs. Aaron retired two years later. Aaron did what he was supposed to do; he won a major victory that showed baseball he would not be denied a win. He showed America he existed and that he would do the game of baseball justice by going out on the field and giving it his all every game, no matter how hateful some fans were. Aaron showed black America he was worthy, he would not buckle under pressure. Yes, blacks need to show each other they are worthy too.
“I had to break that record,” he said, I had to do it for Jackie [Robinson] and my people and myself and for everybody who ever called me a nigger.” Aaron’s quote found in The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage.
Aaron is not the first black American to face this kind of pressure and he won’t be the last. No matter how far blacks as a people have come from the days of Slavery and Jim Crow they will always have this internal struggle. They have to make it for those who came before them, for those who stood by them, for themselves and for everyone that tried to stand in their way.
Blacks have to show their peers in their profession that they are worth it. They have to show America that they are worth it. They have to show other blacks that they are worth it. This pressure is the very real circumstance of black America. This is the part of the Civil Rights legislation that can’t be regulated, because it’s the part that deals with character.