No, What Hank Aaron Said Was Not Racist

Conservatives hate it when Democrats and leftists shout “Racist!” at the even the most innocuous of statements.

So then why do conservatives turn around and do the exact same thing and make themselves look stupid in the process?

I see all the buzz today about comments Hank Aaron made yesterday and it’s ridiculous to see conservatives getting their panties in a wad over it. For example:

Waking up to discover my hero Hank Aaron is a racist has pretty much ruined my month.

— John Nolte (@NolteNC) April 9, 2014

That’s so egregiously stupid, it defies reality. The comments the result of an interview Aaron did with USA Today. Here are the snippets that have so many in freak-out mode:

“To remind myself,” Aaron tells USA TODAY Sports, “that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record. If you think that, you are fooling yourself. A lot of things have happened in this country, but we have so far to go. There’s not a whole lot that has changed.

“We can talk about baseball. Talk about politics. Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treated.

“We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go in the country.

“The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”

Aaron, 80, looks around and sees few African Americans as CEOs of major corporations. He reads and watches about incidents such as the Trayvon Martin case, a racially charged trial in which George Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, was acquitted after shooting and killing Martin, an unarmed black teen. Zimmerman was accused of racial profiling; he claimed he acted in self-defense.

And, of course, Aaron looks at the faces on the ballfield.

“When I first started playing, you had a lot of black players in the major leagues,” Aaron says. “Now, you don’t have any (7.7% of big-leaguers last season). So what progress have we made? You try to understand, but we’re going backward.”

There is a lot packed in there. The snippets don’t necessarily run together so it’s not really the full interview. Of course, people have taken the comments about Republicans and the hoods and drawn the conclusion that Aaron was comparing the GOP to the KKK.

It’s not that clear. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. So what?

Aaron’s comments may be stupid and if he was comparing the GOP to the KKK, then are stupid.

But does that make him a racist? No. It makes him a person who said something dumb.

It’s also easy to see that Aaron is still harboring some bitter feelings. Read the rest of the USA Today article. He says he can’t look back on the memory of chasing that record, fondly. He wasn’t enjoying what was going on. His life was being threatened on a daily basis. This is not the first time he has spoken about this. From an interview in 1991:

In 1973, as the Hammer bore down on the Babe, the “Dear Nigger” letters, as he calls them, began pouring in—”Dirty old nigger man…. Had Babe Ruth played and been at bat as many times as you, old nigger, he would have hit just short of 1,100 home runs….” Aaron collected the most scurrilous of these disgusting missives to remind him in years ahead of his tremendous ordeal. Altogether, according to the U.S. Postal Service, he received 930,000 letters in ’73, by far the most sent to a nonpolitician. Dinah Shore finished second, with 60,000. “It should have been the most enjoyable time in my life,” he writes, “and instead it was hell.”

So take a step back and relax.