Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron died yesterday, January 22, 2021. As soon as I learned of his death, I was deeply saddened. He was one of my childhood heroes, and when I played Little League Baseball I wore his “lucky” number 44.
“Hammerin’ Hank” was still chasing Babe Ruth’s Major League Baseball (MLB) homerun record when I was playing Little League Baseball. I remember hitting my first homerun, to right field, how exhiliarating it was! I could not even begin to imagine how Hank Aaron was feeling as he closed in on the Babe’s record. At 13, I did not know that Hank Aaron was receiving numerous death threats as he closed in on the MLB homerun record. As someone who played a couple of sports, as someone who is a fan of sports, even today I cannot imagine why people would threaten a sports star as he closed in on an iconic record. The proper response is to root for the person, to root the person on, and to celebrate the accomplishment.
As a Black man born and bred in America, you come to understand that almost everything is colored and overshadowed by race, even, and perhaps especially, sports. Black success, even in sports, is often met by a white backlash. Thus the death threats Hank Aaron received. It might not seem obvious, but all forms of Black success threatens theories of white supremacy (read white “fragility.”)
I will keep hammering away at this point: that the January 6th Insurrection is connected to theories of white supremacy and white fragility, and that it plays out in hard ball, on the field, and in the body politic, in almost everything imaginable.
If they play baseball in Heaven, I know that Hammerin’ Hank Aaron is already on a team, not the Angels, but the Braves. What a brave soul he was. Rest in Power, Hank Aaron, rest in Power!