To commemorate the Jackie Robinson day, the first black man to play in the US Major League Baseball (MLB), Deborah Malac said societies must always be all-inclusive and refrain from racism and discrimination, to ensure harmony, social growth and equal opportunities for everyone.
The US ambassador to Uganda made the appeal on April 13 during commemoration of the Jackie Robinson Day at the Allen VR Stanley Secondary School in Nakirebe, Mpigi, off Masaka road.
On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black player in Major League Baseball (MLB). He signed for the Brooklyn Dodgers, ending the racial divide that had kept black players out of MLB, dating back to the 1800s.
Against this background, the United States Mission in Uganda also chose to re-echo the message of no discrimination in all spheres of life.
“The colour of one’s skin, tribe or language, say in the case of Uganda, should never matter. Everyone should be given equal opportunity to thrive,” Malac told an audience full of hundreds of children and teenagers.
Discrimination begins and thrives among youngsters. That is why Malac felt children need to be discouraged from embracing the vice. Notably, most of the teenagers at the Jackie Robinson memorial, the first such event in Uganda, were all baseball trainees.
Ron Hawkins, the public affairs officer at the US Mission, said sport, by its nature, is an aspect that unites people. No wonder, Jackie Robinson was able to use baseball to transcend borders of division.
“Because of his good performances on the pitch, all those who hated him for his colour, fell in love with him. He became a star of the sport, a legend. And the shirt number he wore, 42, is a symbol of the celebrations. It was retired and no one can ever wear it again in the MLB,” Hawkins said.
Jackie Robinson’s influence opened doors for more black players in the MLB, which had been a preserve for only white players. Yet, even with that breakthrough, racism remains a big problem and more profoundly in sport today.
There have been several cases of racial abuse against black players in Europe. But also, there have been cases of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, where indigenous blacks have assaulted economic asylum seekers from other African countries.
Socially, Uganda itself is not free of tribal undertones and discrimination. On social media, it is not uncommon to find members of certain tribes being profiled. There is also a lot of stereotyping.
Such hate and divisions foster crime. That is what Jackie Robinson and the celebration of his legacy is all about – ending discrimination against people for who they are.
To foster unity and togetherness, the Jackie Robinson day was crowned with a baseball match between the Uganda national team and a select side of American citizens working in Uganda. The game ended with a 5-2 Uganda win.
Dennis Kasozi, president of the Uganda Baseball and Softball Association, said, “We may be of different colour and race. But we are one people, and baseball brought us together.”
The Martin Luther King American civil rights movement that started in 1954 may remain more famous, for enforcing the legal and constitutional rights of African Americans. King’s efforts helped outlaw racism and discrimination.
However, Jackie Robinson, who was inducted in the MLB Hall of Fame cannot be underestimated for fostering oneness, that the US Mission in Uganda is propagating today.