No, that headline isn’t from 1974, it’s from right now.
Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, Atlanta Braves Senior Vice President and true Major League Baseball home run king, got to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day by opening up racist hate mail prompted, ironically, by his remembrances of the blistering racism he endured as he chased down Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. Talking about racism may be terrifying to some, and off-putting to others, but the hate that Aaron is receiving is also not very nice.
In case you missed it, conservatives everywhere wet their pants last week when Aaron made remarks that they interpreted/misread as an accusation of racism against all Republicans, and declared Hank Aaron the actual racist. Bob Nightengale, the USA Today writer who interviewed Aaron on the anniversary of his record-breaking dinger, now reports that Aaron and his ballclub are receiving angry, racist hate mail:
Sheer racism, exposed in vile letters directed to Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, have poured into the Atlanta Braves offices over the past week.
Yes, it was like 1974 all over again, the year Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, with letters laced with the most hateful epithet known to African Americans.
“Hank Aaron is a scumbag piece of (expletive) (racial slur)” a man named Edward says in an e-mail to the Braves front office obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
Edward invokes the epithet five times in four sentences, closing with, “My old man instilled in my mind from a young age, the only good (racial slur) is a dead (racial slur).”
Nightengale also notes, as I did here, that “Never in our 50-minute conversation did Aaron suggest anyone critical of President Obama is racist. Never did he compare the Republican Party to the Ku Klux Klan.”
The conservative freakout that followed Aaron’s remarks died on the media vine, thankfully, and didn’t result in shrill demands for an apology from Hank Aaron or his team. The white panic that grips some people when they hear talk of race was likely outweighed by the near-universality of affection for Aaron, and a correct sense that he has earned the right to speak his mind.
Even Fox News barely touched the controversy (Greg Gutfeld did helpfully whitesplain to Aaron that the Ku Klux Klan used to be Democrats, but none of The Five got very worked up about it), and Rush Limbaugh offered only some measured disappointment, but down on the conservative ground, Aaron was immediately branded a racist. To #whitetwitter, every hint of a conversation about race looks like a nail, but everyone know that Hank Aaron is the Hammer.
This is actually an excellent test case for the current mainstreaming of the narrative that accusations of racism are more terrifying than actual racism, because now, Hank Aaron has been subjected to both, and this week, at the same time. Was it more terrifying to receive death threats, or to be called a racist by a Breitbart editor? Someone should ask him, because I’m sure he could use a good laugh.