A strange bit of Dayton history and race relations

Apparently, being a Dayton cop and beating up African Americans was a punchline in 1938- and the perception still remains that this is what cops do- all the way 70 years later.

The thing is- it was manufactured then- and now, it is still hinted at.

Read the entire story on the NYT site- it turns out, that Powell wasn’t a cop, and died a common criminal-but that his comments, helped start the integration of pro baseball.

No plaque or distinction will ever be accorded Jake Powell — nor should they — but his racist comment 70 years ago broke the conspiracy of silence that protected segregated baseball.

Jake Powell, claiming to be an off-season police officer, said he used a nightstick on blacks.

During a pregame interview at Comiskey Park in Chicago on July 29, 1938, the WGN Radio announcer Bob Elson asked Powell, a Yankees outfielder, what he did during the off-season. Powell replied that he was a policeman in Dayton, Ohio. When Elson asked him how he stayed in shape, Powell, using a common racial slur, replied that he cracked blacks over the head with his nightstick.

A Public Slur in ’38 Revealed Baseball’s Racism – NYTimes.com.

The real question is why, after all these years, we still have a public that believes that our department is full of racists who want to beat or shoot African Americans?

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3 Responses

  1. Jeff July 28, 2008 / 7:29 pm
    David, you can’t be serious about discussing the history of race relations here by hanging your hat on the tale of this wierdo ballplayer.

    I agree with your point that times have changed, but there is a history here, too, that isnt fabricated like this guys off-season job.

  2. David Esrati July 28, 2008 / 8:03 pm

    Jeff-
    I just found it interesting- esp. since we’ve just had this recent event. Thought I’d share.

  3. J.R. Locke August 4, 2008 / 5:12 am
    I had a class at WSU with a federal agent of some sort. Anyway he was a fairly conservative guy but he said that the vast majority of the people he had worked with had some type of predisposition to see a black male and think a higher level of threat than a white male.

    Anyway, once we except that all of America is racist we can understand these things more. Racism exists everywhere and in everyone and it isn’t always a bad, evil grotesque thing.

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