“You know… I don’t know, to be honest.”
It’s the only thing Tim Anderson could come up with for an answer on Saturday, because, unfortunately, it’s the only response that Black men who play professional baseball in this country can give.
The question that led to that answer?
“How did you manage to contain yourself based on that kind of comment?”
That’s what a white reporter asked Anderson at his locker after Anderson had just revealed that he’d already spared Yankees’ infielder Josh Donaldson’s racist “Jackie” comment in the first inning.
How do I know the reporter was white? Because only white people ask questions like that. Little do they know that dealing with microaggression or overt racism is something that Black people do daily, while never being allowed to address or confront it the way we really want to. So, when “managing to contain” yourself is part of your DNA, it’s really hard to explain it to someone who has no concept of it. So when Anderson said, “You know… I don’t know, to be honest,” it was the best he could do.
There’s another conversation that should be taking place about whatever you feel did or didn’t happen to Anderson over the weekend. It’s a conversation about whom it happened to, and what sport they play. Especially since fans in New York made sure to repeatedly boo Anderson on Sunday night.
This is baseball, the sport we call “America’s pastime” because it’s dead set on staying connected to the racist and discriminatory past — and present — that this country tries to ignore, or belittle, on so many occasions. Every season it feels like something overtly racist happens in baseball, and that’s because it does. Over the last few seasons we’ve seen white pitchers receive standing ovations from crowds after their old racist tweets were exposed, watched as Major League Baseball donated $5,000 to Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith after she publicly stated to a crowd, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” and listened as a white announcer made a slavery reference during a playoff game that Anderson played in. And these are just a few of the incidents that have happened over the years.
On top of that, a few years ago, Anderson was at the center of a cultural incident that took place on a baseball diamond that MLB had no idea how to handle, when he was suspended for one game in 2019 for calling a white player — Brad Keller — a “weak ass fucking nigga.” Think about that for a second. A white league run by white people suspended one of the few Black stars in its league all because he used the only word that white people can’t say that so many desperately wish they could.
That’s beyond unfair. No wonder why Anderson once said, “I kind of feel like today’s Jackie Robinson.” However, Anderson was talking about trying to break the fun barrier in the sport, not the color barrier. But, given that people love to use “gotcha quotes” without context in this day and age, people just skipped right over that part.
If Anderson decided to one day prematurely hang up his cleats because he was mentally drained from dealing with situations like what happened this past weekend, or tired of being the bad guy because he loves bat flips, I wouldn’t blame him. We’ve seen a similar situation in tennis with Naomi Osaka as that sport has continuously proven that it doesn’t really want the young Black and Asian phenom around.
Just a few weeks ago, people all across the world were celebrating the fact that it has been 75 years since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, which led to other barriers falling to the wayside. But, 75 years later, Tim Anderson is proof that not much has changed. Because at the end of the day, can we really say progress has been made if one of baseball’s signature Black players still can’t properly express how and why he has to “manage” and “contain” himself just to play a game? ...Nope.