Change Finally Comes To Augusta
When it comes to African American history we celebrate many black firsts. We celebrate Jackie Robinson as the first black major league baseball player. We celebrate the late great Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall as the first, and in many respects only, black to serve on the nation’s highest court. Many blacks who are the first to achieve a certain status or a specific goal are in our history books to be remembered.
The same holds true for women. Everybody knows Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman on the high court. Madeline Albright was the first woman to serve as the nation’s Secretary of State. Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman to run as number two on a presidential ticket, beating former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin by about seventy five IQ points. We celebrate a lot of female firsts as well.
Firsts are an integral part of our culture. Neal Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon. George Washington was the first President of the United States. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first men to successfully reach the top of Mount Everest and climb down to talk about it. Charles Lindbergh was the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic. Yuri Gagarin is acknowledged as the first man to fly into space. Chuck Yeager was the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound. First is something people often look back on as something significant. But sometimes, someone is first to do something and people have to scratch their heads and ask why would somebody want to be known for that.
When it was announced that Condoleezza Rice, the second Secretary of State in the George Bush, Jr. administration after Colin Powell, the first black Secretary of State, resigned, and Darla Moore, a highly successful executive in the banking, would be the first women to join the infamous Augusta National Golf Club, I wondered to myself why would they want to be members of a golf club that worked so hard for so long to deny women the privilege of membership. What would be the attraction of being the first women in an organization so discriminately sexist?
Obviously, at least for a lot of people who follow the happenings in professional golf that extend beyond the usual Tiger Woods blather, membership at Augusta is about as close to the holy grail as it gets. But it should also be obvious that these same people who hold Augusta on such a high pedestal really don’t care about such things as gender equality. Treating women fairly is secondary to membership in an organization with a history of blatant discrimination. And when people are so willing to tolerate this anti social behavior in our midst, when we reward prestige to those who openly practice discrimination, it becomes harder to inspire such an organization to change. That type of discrimination might have been acceptable back when pilgrims landed on Plymouth rock. But today, such a practice belongs in our past like the bubonic plague.
I have to admit, if I was offered membership in an organization with a history of racial or gender discrimination, I doubt if I would bother wasting my time trying to become a member. Maybe if the organization took steps to show proof of a change in some significant way and make some type of amends for past behavior I might think differently. But to just say that we now changed our mind and women and/or minorities are now welcome to join falls a little short in my book. That’s probably why I’d never be the first one to benefit from all the hard work put forth by others to change injustice.
Jackie Robinson did a lot to help integrate baseball along racial lines. Although he was the first black to benefit from the change in the rules barring black people, a lot of white people weren’t so ready for the Rainbow Coalition and went out of their way to try and make Mr. Robinson’s baseball life a miserable hell. And he knew that he had an obligation to suffer through it if he wanted other black people to follow in his footsteps for an opportunity to professionally play the game.
With all that said, I have to congratulate Ms. Rice and Ms. Moore for becoming the first female members of Augusta and for helping to break down the walls of gender inequality. I’m sure they will have their trials and tribulations from being first. But then that’s why their achievement will be recognized in the future as another step towards a more perfect union between men and women. Many future women, men, golfers, and a lot of other people are counting on them.
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