For all of you who dislike Trump and think of this as a political stunt, I understand. But nevertheless, a great injustice was addressed today when President Trump pardoned Jack Johnson for allegedly violating the Mann act.
Clearly, one of our greatest athletes and heroes was railroaded by the testimony of a coerced woman and a very racist government that disliked Johnson. If you don’t know anything about him, I suggest you watch the Ken Burns’ documentary, Unforgivable Blackness.
My favorite quote from Johnson was that the way he dealt with racism was to “Act like it doesn’t exist.”
Some might find this naive or even counterproductive but I believe that such a stance is neither. As long as we are stuck in our identity politics and victim stories, we cannot rise above.
Indeed, Jack Johnson knew better than anyone that racism was real. The international misguided attempts to field “Great White Hopes” against the best boxer of his day proves it. His conviction on trumped up charges proves it. Donald Trump’s own father was an inveterate racist and member of the KKK and yet he today, he made a powerful gesture today that helps to heal our country. Every president before him had the opportunity to do the same symbolic gesture yet none ever got around to it.
I am a fan of people, regardless of their race or what accusations they face, when they do the right thing. Johnson was a hero by any measure and we would all do well to remember that “acting like it doesn’t exist” is not being a doormat but rather giving others the opportunity to rise to the occasion and behave according to higher principles.
This is a deeply racist world and country that we live in. My only question is do we transcend that by perpetuating racism or by being better? Biologically, race is an invalid construct. It arises from appearance and bias alone. Perhaps it is time to believe in one race: the human race? Now that we are being fed a narrative of unforgivable Russianness and unforgivable Chineseness, we perceive that there is always somebody who wants to generate xenophobia.
In the memory of the great Jack Johnson, it is incumbent upon us to understand that we are all part of a world that will rise together as more connections are made. Resist the simple narrative. Expect to be treated as an equal and don’t be overly quick to condemn. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s not that you are naive…you are simply “being the change you want to see in the world.”