Appropriation or Tribute?
April 16, 2016 8:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm a big baseball fan, and I have a big interest in cultural history. I own lots of ballcaps and t-shirts from minor league teams of the present and past and from different reigons and countries. But I've never worn any Negro League gear, since as somebody said once, i'd feel kind of like I'm wearing a Purple Heart without getting wounded. On the other hand maybe, I'm showing disrespect by not wearing my fandom like any other team. I dunno. Maybe I'm in plate of beans territory.
posted by jonmc to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This has been asked here before: Is it ok to wear Negro Leagues gear?

And mod note: This thread won't be a good place to philosophize about cultural appropriation generally. Please keep answers narrowly on the specific question, or offer links to stuff to read elsewhere.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:22 AM on April 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Wear it as long as it doesn't say "negro" on it.
posted by arnicae at 8:30 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

palmcorder_yajna linked in the cultural appropriation FPP to an earlier comment by Miko, who linked this document that seems to be a good starting point.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:34 AM on April 16, 2016

I think there were good answers in the previous thread. But for what it's worth this black person who is not a baseball fan thinks you'd be fine (seconding that you should probably avoid wearing things that actually say "negro").

And as someone with military ties, to me this seems less like wearing a purple heart, and more like wearing a POW-MIA t-shirt even though you have no personal connection to any POWs or missing in action personnel. POW-MIA gear is intended to be, and universally read as, a sign of respect.

This next bit is going to reveal my ignorance of baseball history, but what I *might* find problematic, is if there were a team whose gear from the era when racism made the Negro League necessary was distinct from their gear post-integration, and you went around wearing a cap or jersey from an explicitly "white's only" team.

You might though, get a better answer from someone for whom the history of the Negro League is an important part of their heritage. I'm sure there are authors/bloggers out there who write about that era of sports history, some of whom may even be black/POC. Maybe since you, to your credit, care about being respectful, it might be worth the effort to reach out to those people specifically as you inform your decision.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:42 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I own t-shirts from both Stax and Fania records and never recieved any grief about it. And I'd wear a modern hat from a japanese League team, no problem. I'm not sure why this feels different.
posted by jonmc at 8:50 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you're a fan, I think that's enough of a justification to wear it. So wear it (even if it says Negro League)! If anyone says anything to you, you can engage them in a conversation about why it bothers them.
posted by serenity_now at 8:57 AM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that even though it was born out of segregation, it was black run and owned. So it represents something far less exploitive.

Also the MLB does negro league jerseys from time to time (or at least once that I can remember?), so if it is taboo no one is talking about it.

Your Japanese example is bad, it's not forced segregation, and people flow between the two leagues.

Also as far as I'm aware there were no segregated record companies, but there's a whole host of other issues with black musicians and contracts. Baseball is older than mass distributed music and also has a history of barnstorming.

So you might be a racist in the Deep South and not buy black music, but you're probably not going to boycot RCA. But you probably wouldn't be comfortable with an integrated team even though someone in upstate NYC wouldn't care. And when you're traveling from city to city you have to play to the lowest common denominator.
posted by geoff. at 9:00 AM on April 16, 2016

Do you know the history of the teams and players fairly well? Go ahead and wear your shirts proudly. Please! So few people celebrate the achievements and struggles of past generations. If you admire these teams and don't wear the gear, you are falling into a trap that defacto means the team gets forgotten, or forgotten by a larger audience. Fuck that noise. Embrace your favorite teams, their history, and when folks ask you please tell them all about it with that particular passion only baseball fans possess.
posted by jbenben at 10:08 AM on April 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Keep in mind that even though it was born out of segregation, it was black run and owned. So it represents something far less exploitive.

I think, though, that the Negro Leagues were black run and owned and not, say, a parallel league run by the MLB owners, is part of what makes my immediate reaction 'appropriation'. I'm having a hard time articulating what my gut is saying. I don't think it's clear line--it seems like there's a difference between your rationale for wearing it being "I have this particular shirt/hat because X" and "Well, I like baseball history [generally, not the Negro Leagues specifically]" or even just "I like baseball".
posted by hoyland at 10:39 AM on April 16, 2016

Donate a first class title or 2 from the variety of books on the topic available on Amazon to the local library and in doing so restore balance to your love of the game.
posted by Freedomboy at 12:48 PM on April 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I felt my ears burning...

You're fine. Although I'd probably steer clear of the teams that were explicitly styled as the "black" version of MLB teams, like the Black Yankees, the Black Senators, the Cuban Giants, etc.

The Philadelphia Stars and the Homestead Grays were owned by African Americans. I recommend honoring those teams, or others. And there's this guy you may have heard of. Played for the Grays.

what I *might* find problematic, is if ... you went around wearing a cap or jersey from an explicitly "white's only" team.

May I recommend that you become a New York Yankees fan? Because the Boston Red Sox were famously the most racist organization in the MLB, a legacy that went on long after the Negro Leagues were a thing of the past.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:26 PM on April 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

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