I can’t get away from this topic of race. It’s so heavy on my mind these days. (check out my other posts on racism to understand where I am on the topic currently. This was the big turning point.). Friday night my family of six had our first family outing to a Braves game here in Atlanta. The four kids are older (youngest is now five) and we thought we’d risk taking the whole family. It went really well (for the most part), but something about the experience made me sad. Made me wonder why. Made me want to take a moment and challenge you (thinking mainly of whites at this moment) to observe your surroundings and also ask why.
The Braves played in Turner Field in south Atlanta until last season (2017) when they moved to the brand-new stadium called SunTrust Park in northwest Atlanta. I haven’t been privy to all the reasons for the move. I do know of at least one African-American who is boycotting the Braves because of the subtle racism he thinks is involved with the stadium move. The new stadium is built in an affluent heavily white populated area completely opposite of the surrounding area of Turner Field which had been in a poorer area that was predominantly populated by African Americans. So, I approached SunTrust Park Friday night wondering what the new stadium experience will be like.
Hoards of white people are headed down the sidewalks to the stadium as we reach the surrounding area. Whites, whites, whites. An occasional African American. Whites, whites, whites. Ok. Whatever. It is what it is. I keep looking, noticing, observing.
We finally find our parking. Who is working the parking lot? Young African Americans. Every single worker I saw was black. Why?
We walk towards the stadium with the hoards of whites and the occasional African American. Are the majority of Atlanta African American’s boycotting the Braves? I don’t know. Sure seems like there would be more attending the game than this.
The new stadium area is nice. We check out the Battery. Shops, shops, shops. Whites, whites, whites. No, wait, several black men are spaced out muttering “tickets, tickets, tickets” as we pass. No whites offer tickets discreetly. Just blacks. At least four of them. Why?
We finally enter the crazily packed stadium itself. Who works security and scanning tickets? African Americans. Why?
We join the herds of whites with the occasional other races represented towards the upper decks where our seats are located. By this point, we’re all starving, so we get in the long line of mostly whites to order an amazing foot-long hotdog. Who is working this concession stand? Several African Americans. No other races represented. Why?
As I meander through the crowds towards our seats, I notice the occasional cleaning member passing through is African American. Why?
I sit down and try to enjoy the game. I did enjoy it. We lost. But, it was still fun. And, I’m thankful #42 has been retired from all the Major League teams in honor of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier back in 1947.
But…I leave feeling frustrated. Frustrated with race relations in our country. What do I want? More African Americans attending games and more whites working? I don’t know. But, I know that what I saw bothers me. It doesn’t feel right to me. So, I write this to let you know my frustrations and that while I don’t have all the answers (or even many answers), I am taking notice of my environment. I am thinking. I am researching. I ask you to do the same. Don’t just accept the status quo. If something doesn’t feel right to you, examine it further.
See the guy in the bottom left of the picture? He’s a stadium worker. Is that a problem? No, I guess not. But, something about almost all the workers being African Americans and almost all the attendees being white just seems not right to me. It’s a symptom of many wrongs in the past. Feels like something still needs to change.