Sunday, March 20, 2011

Scenes in a nearby diner deepen the social context, revealing more of what Benny is up against. A frequent customer is a star big league baseball player, Willie Hawkins, played by Michael Dorn (Worf.) Black players had been in the majors for only 6 years at this point. Like Hawkins, Willie Mays was playing for the New York Giants in 1953 and as in this story he was a popular, outgoing figure in the black area of Harlem.

Hawkins is asked why he stays in the old neighborhood when “a famous ballplayer like you, you can live anywhere you want.” “The hell I can,” Hawkins replies. And with evident pain beneath his genial manner he continues in a soft voice: “They can hardly get used to the idea of me playing alongside them. Living next door to them, it’s a whole other story. Besides, around here when people look at me, it’s because they admire me. To them I’m just another colored boy who can hit a curve ball.”

The “them,” of course are members of the dominant white society. The prejudice that marks African Americans as “the Other” has its corresponding demarcation of “us and them” in the segregated black community. He’s talking about his reality.

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