After further reflection, I now strongly believe that the Boston Red Sox were right to push the City of Boston for the Yawkey Way name change.
Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com: (April 2, 2017 – Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America)
Last April I wrote an article entitled “Yawkey Way Being Renamed for the Wrong Reasons.” I argued that Tom Yawkey himself wasn’t personally a racist. I also stated that “I feel that the Red Sox are doing this in an effort to preserve their own image than they are concerned with promoting diversity.” Looking back at my own words, I now think that my ideas were misguided at best. I wasn’t taking the time to look at the bigger picture. If anything, I was too focused on one particular idea about Yawkey himself. This kept me from seeing why asking the city to rename Yawkey Way was so important.
It’s difficult to argue that instances of white supremacy aren’t on the rise across America. White supremacists feel more enabled than ever to spew their hatred towards anyone of color. The Anti-Defamation League recently reported that over the last year white supremacist propaganda has increase 77 percent on college campuses. This statistic is one of many that strongly suggests that racism is becoming more and more problematic in America. Personally, I’m concerned that it’s not only becoming more problematic, but I’m more concerned that little to nothing is being done about it. If anything, it seems to be getting worse. White Supremacists will never engage in an intelligent dialogue about race in America for a few reasons. First, they’re not intelligent to begin with. Secondly, they see race as a zero sum scenario; either be white or get out. You can’t talk to someone with that kind of mentality.
Those thoughts were what made me think twice about the Yawkey Way name change. The Red Sox weren’t doing this to make themselves look good. If there’s one team that knows what the ramifications are for not doing more to integrate and diversify it’s the Red Sox. They were trying to get ahead of an issue that’s becoming more explosive with each passing month. That’s only part of the issue though. I think the Red Sox asked for the name change in order to send the message that racial intolerance of any kind will not be tolerated within their organization. You can argue that Tom Yawkey wasn’t personally a racist, like I did in my original article. But the point that I was missing was that it wasn’t about whether he was a racist or not. It was about the fact that he did next to NOTHING to fix that problem. Keeping Yawkey Way in place would remain a symbol of inaction.
I once saw the Yawkey Way name change as a bad idea. Now I see it as one of the most important things the Red Sox have ever pushed for. Doing so sent a message to white supremacists that racial intolerance will not be tolerated by their organization. The Red Sox exemplified this notion last year when they banned a fan from Fenway Park for life over racist comments he made to another fan. That’s more than good enough for me (though they don’t need my validation).
My colleague Dave Latham was right when he said, “Dedicating Jersey Street in [Yawkey’s} memory was a way to celebrate his life, idolize him and brush over his flaws. As a city, Boston deserves better.” I don’t think Yawkey was the monster many claim he was. However, his lack of action towards racial diversity is too great to ignore. I hope readers who shared my initial sentiments will reexamine their own views on the Yawkey Way the way I did.