Jackie Robinson, Ben Chapman, Morgan Freeman, and Paula Deen

Phyl CampbellStarred Page By Phyl Campbell, 2nd Jul 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Celebrities>Scandals

I just saw the movie 42 and I thought it was even better than The Blind Side, which from me is saying a lot. But it got me thinking about the recent Paula Deen controversy as well, and I thought it best to try to create an article about it.


Also known as the Jackie Robinson Story, the movie 42 features the young black ball player Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey who got Robinson from the Negro Leagues to the big leagues.

Now, I don't care one whit about the game of baseball. I do care a great deal about inequality -- racial or otherwise. What often turns me off about movies featuring strong black characters is (for example, in movies like "The Help" or "To Kill A Mockingbird,") that one white protagonist is set apart while the rest of the people in the whole white world do everything they can to trump the dreams of some back person or people -- who really aren't characters so much as they are "things."

Not so this film. Although we do see racism and violence, and plenty of white male petty thugs, over and over we see that the way was paved by whites who were as disgusted by inequality as everyone should have been and should be and because they were disgusted, they were doing something about it. Not just the owner. Not just a few brave men. But a turning tide of people.

This tide includes: ball players who stood with Robinson so their families could see them; a man who left his lamppost to tell Jackie he was being rooted for; white kids who wanted to play like Jackie; players who faced down other bigots in support of their teammate; players who changed their minds about wanting to be traded. And one could see the shifting of hearts and minds as the movie progressed. In that, it was more like The Blind Side. However, even in The Blind Side, the NCAA investigation and subsequent running away of Michael Oher from his family cast doubt that any black person could ever accept help from someone else without second guessing motives. Jackie Robinson says it best when (in the movie), he says something to the affect of "I don't like needing people. I don't like having to rely on people." It's good that this weakness is admitted. Everyone needs to lean on someone else from time to time. Accepting help from those who CAN help is a sign of strength. Demanding that someone help or that one is entitled to be helped through no effort of one's own is what is weak.

When talking about American History, the people who help those in need are as important as the people who struggle -- Louis Brandeis is as central to the women's movement as any Suffragist. And rather than making every white boy or girl ashamed to be white, as often happens, our children deserve the rich images of our complete history. It is OK to be born privileged if you use that privilege to help others. A white child can't help being born white any more than a black child can be born something other than black -- and neither should be cause for life-long shame.

Ben Chapman

I figured there had to be a character LIKE Ben Chapman, portrayed in 42 by Alan Tudyk, but I hadn't realized how famous Chapman was for this downfall and atrocious behavior. (Search for Allen Barra + Ben Chapman for an article from the Atlantic. The article says that the acting and character are spot on for Chapman, and no, they didn't change the name.

But I want to talk about Ben Chapman and the kind of unfair shake he got. And before you come lynch mob me -- hear me out. Chapman was acting out in exactly the way his fans, his supporters, and his bosses were expecting him to. And it cost him his job. When the flight attendant in the movie didn't allow the Robinsons on the plane, she didn't lose her job, though her action was (in my view) more detrimental than Chapman's words (terrible as they were). The hotel where the Dodgers were denied their reservation -- we don't hear that it became defunct or that people stopped staying there. All those other managers who called Branch and privately wheedled, cajoled, and threatened him and Jackie Robinson -- nada. A few Dodgers players who were hateful got traded. And they (rightly so or not) will continue to blame black people, symbolized by Jackie Robinson, for taking away what they had. This fueled vitriol does not help the cause of anyone, and the reason it doesn't help is because there is some justification for it. They were following the expected norms and doing what they thought was right. So why do we have unspoken laws and codes that we expect people to respect, and then punish those people who follow them -- as "we" change the rules midstream? It teaches nothing but intolerance and hate. And those are things "they" already know well.

In fact, this is the biggest objection to EEOC. In a purely capitalist-driven society, the best people should win out and get the best jobs, and race should never be a factor. But once race is seen in an interview or whatever, it can't be unseen. Likewise, the best people may be hardest to work with because of arrogance or other factors. And different jobs require different talents. So throwing in one more caveat -- X percentage of employees should be non-majority -- can overly complicate that which ought to be simple.

Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman says "Black History is American History," and to end racism we should "stop talking about it."
I love Morgan Freeman, even if he wasn't in 42. I love his voice and his passion. And I think he's absolutely right to impress to other black people what Ricky Branch impressed upon Robinson in both the movie and real life -- this is not a situation where fighting back will help. If every racial slur, every slight, real or imagined, ends up in a fist fight or a lawsuit, we cannot ever hope to come out better on the other side.

The American Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865. The North says it was fighting for freedom and equality; the South says it was fighting for States' Rights. However, without the Industrialism of the North -- where companies enslaved, injured, and killed many people, most of them impoverished and immigrant women, for example, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911 -- not quite 50 years after their great fight for equality, the North might not have been so keen to eliminate slavery and therefore raise the South's price of doing business, hoping to eliminate the competition. As a result, I can't say either side truly had equal rights at the heart of their conflict. I think money issues dominated events, as usual.

So Mr. Freeman is perfectly right to say "we" should stop talking about this. He is black. He must deal with being black everyday. Granted, as a well-paid Hollywood actor with a voice everyone wants, and an immediately recognizable face, he probably doesn't have the same immediate concerns about his skin tone affecting his quality of life as others might. I know I am a woman everyday. I don't want to change it, but I certainly have to keep talking about it until the playing field is equal. And there are a lot of otherwise fine people who don't like that. I'm so glad my husband isn't one of them.

My son and I don't live in Hollywood. We live in a fairly white community. There are more Latin American and Marshallese people than black in my community. I'm not sure there are ANY black children in my son's grade
(out of about 100 children) at school. I think I had three black classmates in a senior class of over 400 a few decades ago. My hometown is more diverse, but that diversity really hasn't included the black community. We have had our share of racial controversy with a university basketball coach who got fired because his (practically) all black basketball team (the demographic of his team did not match the demographic of the University) didn't have enough students graduate in a timely manner. He said he was treated unfairly due to race. And people -- not racist people, I don't think, just average people -- were upset that star players from the largest high schools in the state were being passed over by this coach because they were white. Not everyone can be the Jackie Robinson of basketball.

Since we don't have exposure, since we are insulated in some ways from diversity, it is imperative that we talk to our children about it -- the same way we talk about gender equality, marriage equality, and other forms of discrimination and bullying. We have to talk about it, because when we don't, we don't realize that some of the words and phrases we have heard and used all our lives are racist, ignorant, and inappropriate. We raise folks like Ben Chapman -- or like Paula Deen.

Paula Deen

Now, I'm no more a fan of the celebrity cook Paula Deen than I am of the sport of baseball. And I couldn't care less if 20 or more years ago, she admitting to calling someone a racially inappropriate name or that further evidence suggests she was racially inappropriate in other ways. But when I saw this article in Huffington Post, I knew I had to respond.

Janus Adams has every right to be hurt, on behalf of her childhood, her children, and victims everywhere, about things Paula Deen admitted and behaviors Paula Deen committed. And perhaps like Ben Chapman lost his job and place in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Deen's being dropped from countless million and billion dollar contracts is justified. But I'm about to attempt to give Deen a more fair shake than I think she's receiving in the press. Here's why:

1) Deen did not own slaves, even if she admitted that she dreamed she wanted to. Who hasn't, at some point in his or her life, fantasized about being wealthy enough to have a houseful of servants? Even Tevye, in Fiddler on the Roof (at 3:02) dreams of being able to (have his wife) boss around servants:

2) Deen helped put black men to work at a time (and when isn't there a time?) when it may have been harder for a black man to get a job than a white one. Deen may have used poor terminology when she decided to host a reception, hire only blacks, and dress them up as slaves. Had I been in her position, I might have called it a "Gone With the Wind Theme" instead of referring to it in the non-PC way she did. At the same time, I know of no white people who sued her for only hiring blacks -- did they get upset that their jobs were being taken? Were the men (and women, if any) used at this reception paid slave wages or actor's wages -- were they slaves at the party, or were they actors playing a part?

3) I don't think one gets where Deen is without having ruffled some feathers. So some have sued her and then complained about what another employee or relative of hers did -- good people are hard to find. If she found that the work was being done -- in spite of someone deciding to bring porn to work with them or whatever -- she may have decided it was worth it to keep that person. But the knowledge that it was going on may have made her extra cranky in how she dealt with everyone.

4) All these companies dropping Deen -- what are they doing with all the money they've been making off Deen's name all these years? I would be very surprised if these deep-seeded racist antics were totally unknown to these companies until just now. Are they taking Deen's dirty money and turning it into scholarships and gifts for disenfranchised people? I didn't think so. Contracts were coming up, Deen is not getting any younger, so let's jump on the bandwagon and kick her while she's down. That makes her a subject for sympathy -- as Harrison Ford's character Mr. Rickey explains to T.R. Knight's character Mr. Parrott (whom I have found to either be fictitious or just not important enough to warrant attention). These companies are providing the model Ben Chapman and Paula Deen have followed, but they are getting away with it. With the controversy at my university -- the ball club didn't press the issue of players not graduating until my Hogs started losing games and they were selling less season tickets. No fund was created to help these players graduate, or help other disenfranchised young people make a better life for themselves through a solid post-secondary education. Yet there is more than enough money in the coffers for a new and improved arena. People still spend tons of money on tickets, concessions, and merchandise. No one is really learning anything.

5) Deen isn't being racist when she says her relative killed himself as a result of the South losing the war. That is as real to her as racism is. It's a Ben Chapman kind of self-pity. While others can say things like "the South lost" and "get over it," not everyone heals that quickly. And despite the reasons why, people with more to lose took (take) it worse than those plebeians who lost (lose) nothing either way. The North did not offer rebuilding aid to the South -- Reconstruction was more of a means of ensuring Northern dominance than about helping the South recover. And parts of the South, to this day, are recovering still. Some will never recover. That's not Paula Deen's fault.

There are certainly more reasons, but if anyone (besides the poor moderator) gets all the way to the 5th, s/he is in need of much adulation.

Paula Deen will be fine. There are plenty of people who have successful lives with a lot less money and fame. And she's got two sons in the business who can now afford to take care of her. But what about all those people working at WalMart and still qualifying for food stamps and government assistance -- those who couldn't hope to afford Paula Deen cookware before (but might now if it goes on clearance)? The message(s) they are receiving -- the message I understand clearly -- is that the big dogs will continue to use people as playthings, and everyone is disposable. A new star will rise in the wake of Paula Deen's demise, but for the rest of us, little will change.

Photo Credits:

42 -- from Wikipedia
English: The Butch Huskey memorial inside the Jackie Robinson rotunda at Citi Field. The object is a simple 3D conceptualization of 2D text, which offers no originality for copyright protection.
Date 8 May 2009
Source Own work
Author Jtesla16
Using this photo from Wikipedia and attributing it to Jtesla16 does not suggest Jtesla16 endorses me or this article.

Jackie Robinson -- from Wikipedia
Description Jackie Robinson swinging a bat in Dodgers uniform, 1954.
Date Published in LOOK, v. 19, no. 4, 1955 Feb. 22, p. 78.
Source US-LibraryOfCongress-BookLogo.svg This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ppmsc.00047.
This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information.
Author Photo by Bob Sandberg Look photographer
(Reusing this file)
Public domain This is a photo taken by a staff photographer of LOOK Magazine, and is part of the LOOK Magazine Photograph Collection at the Library of Congress. Their former owner, Cowles Communications, Inc, dedicated to the public all rights it owned to these images as an instrument of gift.
This license does not apply to pictures from the collection which were not taken by the magazine's own photographers.
Some photographers made additional restrictions. If the photographer is listed there it is because, with a few exceptions, they do not allow their photos to be used for trade or advertising purposes, i.e. commercial use. Their work is not allowed on Wikimedia.
Note: Cowles has expressed its desire that these images not be used for "trade or advertising purposes". However, this request cannot be meant as a legally binding copyright restriction on their re-use, as all the rights to this image were released; rather, it is a caution against the use of celebrity images to imply product endorsement, drawn from civil rights law, and is unrelated to copyright. See {{Personality rights}}.
Achtung-yellow.svgIt may be the case that the copyright to this photograph may be retained by the actual creator or his/her heirs.
Please, inform the photographer's name with {{PD-Look|photographer=Jimbo Bomis}}.
As above and below, using this image does not imply that the creator of this image endorses me or my article.

Ben Chapman -- from Wikipedia
English: 1933 Goudey baseball card of Ben Chapman of the New York Yankees #191. PD-not-renewed.
Date 1933
Source http://www.vintagecardprices.com/card-profile/44465/1933-Goudey-Ben-Chapman-191-Baseball-Card-Value-Prices.htm
Author Goudey
(Reusing this file)
Public domain This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 with a copyright notice, and its copyright was not renewed. It is not in the public domain in the countries or areas that do not apply the rule of the shorter term for US works, such as Canada, Mainland China (not Hong Kong or Macao), Germany, Mexico, Switzerland, and other countries with individual treaties. See this page for further explanation.
Flag of the United States.svg
Goudey: This image or file was extracted from a baseball card produced by the Goudey Gum Company. According to The University of Pennsylvania's Catalog of Copyright Entries, and supported by this article, copyrights belonging to the Goudey Gum Company were not renewed within the required period for filing. Thus, all baseball cards printed by Goudey have lapsed into the public domain and are free for use.
File history
Click on a date/time to view the file as it appeared at that time.
Date/Time Thumbnail Dimensions User Comment
current 02:44, 11 November 2010 Thumbnail for version as of 02:44, 11 November 2010 316 × 386 (18 KB) Secret {{Information |Description={{en|1=1933 Goudey baseball card of Ben Chapman of the New York Yankees #191. PD-not-renewed.}} |Source=http://www.vintagecardprices.com/card-profile/44465/1933-Goudey-Ben-Chapman-191-Baseball-Card-Value-Prices.htm |Author=Goude
File usage
Use of this image does not imply support or endorsement of same.

Morgan Freeman -- from Wikipedia
This image was originally posted to Flickr by David Sifry at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dsifry/283110655/. It was reviewed on 20 December 2006 by the FlickreviewR robot and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0. Using this photo from Wikipedia and attributing it to David Sifry does not suggest David Sifry endorses me or this article.

Paula Deen -- from Wikipedia
English: Paula Deen throwing out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals baseball game in Washington, D.C.
Date 19 May 2010, 18:55:24
Source originally posted to Flickr as IMG_3822
Author dbking
Using this photo from Wikipedia and attributing it to dbking does not suggest dbking endorses me or this article.

Youtube video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBHZFYpQ6nc -- I don't own it, and the uploader does not endorse me or this article.


Ben Chapman, Jackie Robinson, Morgan Freeman, Paula Deen, Racisism, Racism, Racism Hate People, Racism In America, Racist

Meet the author

author avatar Phyl Campbell
I am "Author, Mother, Dreamer." I am also teacher, friend, Dr. Pepper addict, night-owl. Visit my website -- phylcampbell.com -- or the "Phyl Campbell Author Page" on Facebook.

Share this page

moderator Peter B. Giblett moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


author avatar Phyl Campbell
3rd Jul 2013 (#)

Thanks, Peter! But I don't know what's going on with the missing line "42 features Jackie Robinson and" and why that whole first section is bold. When I went to edit it, it looks OK. I hope maybe it's just something on my end.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
3rd Jul 2013 (#)

That was exactly as I saw it in moderation, perhaps you missed a somewhere.

Reply to this comment

author avatar cnwriter..carolina
3rd Jul 2013 (#)

great piece this...one day we will see that we are ALL One...no matter what colour, race shape or size...

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
3rd Jul 2013 (#)

Yes, ma'am!!

Reply to this comment

author avatar Delicia Powers
3rd Jul 2013 (#)

you Phyl presented this showing both sides, back and front- up and down...a thoughtful and thought provoking article with the spice of your attitude towards life thrown in- you are an amazing writer with an uplifting style that allows all opinions room for thought and growth...:0)

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
3rd Jul 2013 (#)

Thank you, Delicia! I tried!

Reply to this comment

author avatar vpaulose
4th Jul 2013 (#)

Interesting. Thank you dear Phyl.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Connie McKinney
4th Jul 2013 (#)

Very thoughtul and insightful, as always, Phyl. I think I need to see the movie "42." It sounds wonderful. I also liked "The Blind Side."

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
4th Jul 2013 (#)

Clearly I thought it was worth watching. And as soon as I can buy a used copy, I will own it... ;)
Thanks, Connie and vpaulose!

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Can't login?