Negro League paraphernalia and racial sensitivty
August 16, 2011 9:29 PM   Subscribe

Is it offensive / tactless / rude for a white male to wear a re-issue of the Negro Leagues baseball cap for what would have been his hometown team?

I really like the design of the Detroit Stars Negro League re-issue ball cap but, as a white Detroiter, am curious if folks would find it tactless (at best). I am especially interested in hearing from black MeFis about their reaction to seeing a white dude sporting a Negro Leagues hat. It is a combination of hometown pride and liking the aesthetic of the hat, at least for me. Yeah, not a super-critical question or anything, but one I would like sincere feedback on. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think it shows support for civil rights and black history.
posted by jb at 9:31 PM on August 16, 2011

but I am not black, nor American.
posted by jb at 9:31 PM on August 16, 2011

Not black, not white, am American and a sports fan, and I think your motivations sound awesome -- as long as the hat doesn't say 'negro' ON it, I think you're ok, only because people won't understand the context right away.
posted by sweetkid at 9:38 PM on August 16, 2011

I'm American, though not black, but I would not consider that insensitive at all. If anything, the guys that played in the Negro leagues deserve more credit, not less.
posted by Gilbert at 9:39 PM on August 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

How you talk about it if anyone has questions is probably what will determine how rude/tactless/offensive it is perceived to be.
posted by hermitosis at 9:43 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

If it sparks even one person who doesn't know about the history of this league to google and learn about what things were like back in the day, how far we've come, and how much farther we need to go(!) as a society... BUY AND WEAR THE HAT.
posted by jbenben at 9:45 PM on August 16, 2011 [11 favorites]

You can't predict the reactions of everyone. I wore a Philadelphia Stars jersey myself and no one had a problem with it. But I can see a rare person being uncomfortable.

That said, most people won't know or care. Most who do will likely think it's a good thing.
posted by inturnaround at 9:46 PM on August 16, 2011

As someone who owns a Detroit Stars hat, and happens to be white (and bought/wore it in America), 99% of people won't recognize it for what it is. I never got a single sideways look.
posted by GamblingBlues at 9:50 PM on August 16, 2011

I think it is a good reminder of how far we've come and since I feel like you'd say that if asked, you're fine.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:52 PM on August 16, 2011

Swarthy, but still white Anecdote Filter:

Wore my Homestead Grays jersey for a couple of years in college. I was, and still am a massive Josh Gibson fan, and I had a black professor ask me in class why I was wearing the jersey, and I admitted my budding man-crush on Gibson, gave me a stern "See me after class!" Turns out he grew up in/near Pittsburgh, and his dad would tell him stories about the Grays from when he was young, and was a huge fan of Josh Gibson.

Sometimes I think that if he'd have stayed at the school, I might be teaching History right now.
posted by Sphinx at 9:55 PM on August 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

I owned a Birmingham Black Barons baseball cap. A black friend saw me in it, cocked an eyebrow, and commented, "You're trying too hard." I replied, "Fuck you, Satchel Paige was the greatest pitcher ever." He laughed, and then we drank a bunch of beer.

I think reactions will vary, and it's good to be aware of that.

That wasn't very helpful, was it?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:59 PM on August 16, 2011 [22 favorites]

My father, a white male, proudly wears his homestead grays hat. He feels like many of the Negro league players (Roy Campanella, Satchel Page (especially Satchel page) never got the recognition or the pensions they deserve. So he's showing support for them.
posted by bananafish at 10:07 PM on August 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you're wearing it as a baseball fan with real appreciation for the Negro Leagues, you're well-equipped to respond to any raised eyebrows.
posted by desuetude at 11:01 PM on August 16, 2011

BitterOldPunk has it. There was a trend for this gear in the early 90s; I had a "New York Black Yankees" cap at the time. If anything, it indicates a white person trying really hard to be "down" and show respect for African-American heritage. I never heard of anyone considering it racist or exploitative in any way.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:22 PM on August 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think it'd be too different than a white person wearing a Jackie Robinson jersey (or white Major Leaguers wearing it on Jackie Robinson Day). If someone has a problem with it, just don't take it personally, but if you're wary enough to ask the question...

And not that you'd have to "justify" wearing the hat, but it couldn't hurt to delve a little more into the history of the league if you're not, or heck, watch Ken Burns' Baseball series just for Buck O'Neil's anecdotes.

Also, the comic strip Get Fuzzy has a cat named Buck and a dog named Satchel, and the main human character Rob occasionally wears Negro League jerseys. The strip's creator, like Rob, is white, and I'm sure he's gotten more positive feedback about it than negative. (Although he's gotten negative feedback about other stuff.)
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:02 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Black mefi here. I think it would be great and would show not only support but awareness.
posted by lunachic at 3:09 AM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

Tied in with the comment made above by Sphinx, I have friends who are active supporters of the Josh Gibson Foundation (tangential family members of his). They know that I'm a baseball fan, and if anyone was going to tell me that my fandom and support of the Homestead Greys was inapproprate (as a white woman, with t-shirts not hats), it would be them. If anything, broadening the public awareness and showing respect where it is so very due, is welcome.

Anecdotal - I wore one of my Pittsburgh Crawfords shirts one afternoon while getting my oil changed in the car. An older gentleman came up to me and said "you're to young to even know what that team was." I nodded in agreement about my age and then spent an utterly delightful hour discussing "the old days" of sports in the city. I think we were both sad when our cars were done.
posted by librarianamy at 5:21 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

My morning coffee for an edit window. GRAYS. Good lord, I drive across the fracking bridge named after them every weekend. GRAYS.
posted by librarianamy at 5:23 AM on August 17, 2011

As long as you're not wearing it for ironic 'street-cred', you'll be fine. Make sure you know something about the team just in case someone tries to give you shit.

posted by chara at 6:36 AM on August 17, 2011 [7 favorites]

It's not rude or offensive and if you like it, wear it. In other news it is also ok to listen to Louis Armstrong, Bo Diddley, or Jay-Z. In all the discussion about race and political correctness, it is sometimes overlooked that we are all American and that people like Dr. M.L. King Jr. belong to all of our identities.
posted by JJ86 at 7:15 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wear it. Do it. Own it.

You wouldn't offend me at all, as long as you know something about the team, players, etc beyond the surface level. Also, as long as you're not trying to wear it, going around trying to make eye contact and get cool points for it. I like that you asked.
posted by cashman at 7:50 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

White girl from Chicago here. I used to have a American Giants cap that I loved. No one knew what it was about and when they asked/I told them it sparked good convo. No one ever gave me crap about it. Then again, I love baseball and I love Chicago. And I love me some history too. I live in Denver now and would love to get a White Elephants cap but for some reason that one is proving a bit harder for me to embrace.

So I say wear it with pride.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:57 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to see black teenagers in New York City wearing hockey jerseys from defunct teams, including one guy who passed me in the street wearing a Kansas City Scouts jersey and cap. As someone who has quite a few defunct-team jerseys and is way into that sort of thing, I really wanted to stop him and ask how he came to be wearing the jersey and cap, when I'd doubt he had any idea about the team. Some years ago, I saw a middle-aged black guy wearing a Los Angeles Sharks t-shirt and did ask him if he knew anything about the World Hockey Association team and he said he didn't, that it was just a fashion thing. Long story short, sports paraphernalia from old-time teams is cool, and you shouldn't worry about wearing any of it.
posted by AJaffe at 8:52 AM on August 17, 2011

Hi! Black person here (you were asking us, right? :) )

As long as you are purchasing and then wearing the hat because you have a genuine interest, respect and appreciation for the team, go for it; in that context, you are not being exploitative.

Thank you for posting the question. I cannot tell you how many times I've had to deal with someone who just "assumed" I would (or worse, should) be okay with their behaviour/appropriation of my culture/whatever...Kudos.
posted by Ashen at 2:45 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get Fuzzy has a cat named Buck

Oops, I meant Bucky, of course.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 11:03 PM on August 18, 2011

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