I watched the movie, 42, a few nights ago; the story of Jackie Robinson. This movie really resonated with me. I felt I could relate.
Here’s a black man we all know as one of the greatest baseball players of all time, although that’s not always the way he was seen. He was born and raised during a time in our country where “blacks” were not treated like human beings. They were thought of as dirty, worthless, diseased, ignorant, and lesser people. His lack of whiteness defined him in the eyes of those around him; the white men.
A kind hearted coach with a strong political agenda and desire to change the way things were, signed him to the major leagues knowing Jackie would face adversity, but also knowing he had sick talent! He intuitively knew when to swing, he could get under the pitcher’s skin, he hit the stuffing out of the ball, and he played with heart! But, his skin wasn’t white enough to gain the respect he deserved in the sport. He still wasn’t white.
In one particular game playing against the Philly Pirates, the manager goes to great lengths to let Jackie know just how much he was hated. The things he says and the words he used brought tears to my eyes. He didn’t see Jackie as a person or a man, much less a ball player. He heckled him and tormented him with racism and because Jackie was a black man, he couldn’t legally fight back. He just had to take it and get over it.
Just like his lack of white skin defined him, I often feel defined by what I don’t have. No matter how hard he hit, how fast he ran, or how well he played, he couldn’t earn the respect he deserved. No matter how many children I nurture, how many moms I support, how much knowledge I share, at the end of the day, I’m not a mom.
And, I too, have been heckled:
- “Chelsea, you’re not even a mom, how would you know?!”
- “Your personality is not condusive to conception”
- “When you’re a mom, let me know if you still feel that way”
- “You look (internally) like someone with PCOS, it’s going to be that much harder for you”
- “We’re not sure what else is going to work for you. We feel like we’re just wasting time and money moving forward”
- “You run too much”
- “You’re too thin”
- “Don’t play God anymore than you already are”
I’d be lying if I said the words I’ve heard haven’t gotten under my skin or that I haven’t bawled my eyes out hearing some of those things, but I don’t let it dictate my actions or prevent me from moving forward. Jackie didn’t let the booing, the heckling, or the hate mail stop him from perservering.
Words are powerful, but it’s the words we say to ourselves that matter most and, “God built me to last”.
In a documentary about Jackie Robinson’s life there’s footage of him in a hotel basement on a cot because they wouldn’t let him stay in the rooms where the whites stayed. He’s crying to his coach clawing at his face saying, “I can’t wash it off” (referring to the black on his skin). I cried and thought, “I know that feeling”! That feeling of anger towards your own body and wanting to climb out of it and into one that works; a body that allows you to reach your goals without obstruction or hardship.
Yeah, I’d love to be one of those moms that, whoops, got pregnant without even thinking about it, but that’s not in the cards for me. I won’t have an easy path to motherhood, but to quote another favorite baseball film, “It’s the hard that make it great!”
“This aint fun, but you watch me. I’ll get it done.” – Jackie Robinson