October 12, 2014

And We'll Get Back to Those Slain Black Youths Right After Baseball

Did Dr. King have to share billing with the Washington Senators? (I mean, the ones that swung bats and caught fly balls.)  When George Wallace blocked the doors of the U of Alabama in the attempt to thwart integration, how many of those stories or photos were laced with references to the prowess and the prospects of the Crimson Tide?

Given the cultural eminence of athletics, recognized today as the essence and bedrock of American civic pride, it’s no wonder nobody in official St. Louis thought twice about the visual impact of the Ferguson march terminating in the city’s Keiner Plaza. (That’s adjacent to the Old Courthouse, where back in the day the slaves were sold.) It was merely (as elaborated in this LAT piece on the Ferguson/St. Louis sports/civil rights mash-up) a gesture of solidarity for the boys of summer, a geyser of hope for the Cardinal’s World Series prospects. I mean, who would have anticipated that the fountain display might bear any reference to Ferguson or the fate of Red Bird’s fan, Michael Brown.

I understand the protests in Ferguson aren’t the only thing on the calendar in the St. Louis area. I also understand the protest story and the success of the Cardinals formally intersected when protesters demonstrated outside Busch Stadium during the team’s recent playoff games. At the same time, however, it’s a troubling commentary on our cultural and media priorities that the civil rights story and the playoff hoopla have been so seamlessly grafted.

I imagine if we had our priorities straight — especially after three more fatal shootings of black youth by St. Louis-area police officers since the killing of Michael Brown — the baseball playoffs, and the presence of these street banners would have either been largely irrelevant to the march and the hundreds of protesters on the ground. Priorities being what they are, however, the photo — published as part of an AP Ferguson update by, in this case, the newspaper site in the similarly playoff-crazed San Francisco, couldn’t help divvying up the attention. As the caption states:

Banners celebrating the St. Louis Cardinals’ post season baseball success line Market Street as protesters march during a protest against gun violence and the shooting of Ferguson, Mo., teenager Michael Brown, Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St Louis. The morning’s protest is before the St. Louis Cardinals host the San Francisco Giants in the first game of the National League Championship Series.

As you can see from both, the baseball series is truly the banner event, subordinating the demonstration in order and focus. Thus, with all the social preliminaries out of the way, what’s left to say but, “play ball!”

(photo 1: Charles Rex Arbogast. caption: A fountain dyed red — as it has often been during Cardinals playoff runs — made an unsettling image to some protesting police violence. photo 2: Tanen Maury / EPA.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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