“It is often easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.” -Adlai Stevenson
Last night, as my partner and I were rewriting our business plan, we went through an exercise of documenting our company’s principles. The word “principle” is one of those words that I don’t quite understand, so I looked it up. I learned that principle = rule of conduct. Our conduct must begin with morality. The etymology of the word reminds me of the behavior of Jackie Robinson as he combated the struggles of darker skinned Americans through his defiance of exclusion in the major leagues.
Why is this athlete still revered in the days and ages after the greatest athletes of all time have played? According to an entry at http://www.quia.com/jg/2323917list.html, Jackie Robinson lived by the following nine principles:
1. Citizenship: do good work to help others improve their lives.
2. Commitment: if you make a promise to do something, be sure to keep your promise.
3. Courage: do what you believe is the right thing-no matter how hard it may be.
4. Determination: have a goal in mind and stick to it.
5. Excellence: do your best at everything you try.
6. Integrity: be true to your values and what you believe.
7. Justice: be fair to all people.
8. Persistence: don't give up on reaching your goals.
9. Teamwork: work well with others and cooperate to reach a goal you all share.
Mr. Robinson killed the principles of dark skinned athletes by proving that they could compete in a world designed to exclude them. The world of baseball was never the same again. The diversity introduced to the professional sport increased the average level of skill in the league. It also increased the average salaries of dark skinned athletes. Somewhere along the way, money and celebrity became more important than principle.
Without principle, entertainers are in it to make as much as possible without regard to the detriment of the rest of us.
I’m a firm believer that the world should be fair for all humans, no matter their ethnicity, nationality, or race. However, the structures that are put in place to keep dark skinned people from succeeding overall are hard to ignore. Yes, a few of us make hundreds of thousands of dollars a week as entertainers. That doesn't excuse the enormous amount of poverty endured by most other dark skinned Americans that don’t entertain.
Lebron James’ knee jerk reaction to the racism presented by Donald Sterling a few weeks ago, was a threat to lead a boycott next season, if Mr. Sterling continued to own the Los Angeles Clippers. Now that the guns have been aimed at him, like they were aimed at Robinson and Muhammad Ali, he is slowly back tracking that statement, saying he doesn't want to lead the brigade.
Who will be the next pioneer? Who will this generation of dark skinned Americans have to fight for their rightful places at the tops of organizations that are fueled with their talents?
Why don’t our modern athletes and celebrities acknowledge the injustices in our home land as Robinson or Ali did? What will determine their legacies? Why will there be statues erected in their honor? What will your legacy be?