by Kevin Copp ’18
The rather shocking appearance of a banner reading “Racism is as American as Baseball” at Fenway Park last Wednesday not only stunned the onlookers at baseball’s oldest ballpark, but also underscored an important message in Trump’s America: the need for constant and effective outspokenness.
Citizens who want their voices to be heard need to speak up over and over again just to give themselves and their ideas the chance to cause change. Any idea given on social media or otherwise also needs to be significantly stimulating to cause a meaningful reaction.
Social media and the age of the Internet have given new meaning to democracy. Every person now has a voice and the opportunity to convey his or her reaction instantly across the world.
This power of freedom of speech, however, gives rise to the problem of reader’s selecting which message to focus on. It is easy for a reader to become numb to the content of a post after having scrolled through hundreds within a single day.
The real issue for a social media critic or protester is crafting a provocative message that still resonates as authentic and honest in an era of fake news.
The Fenway Four, or the four fans who dropped their banner over the Green Monster in the middle of the fourth inning, captured the essence of the perfect message that can gain attention and create discourse.
By using an ambiguous message, they encouraged discussion about what exactly they are trying to say and why they would choose such a venue to display it. When the four protesters explained afterwards that they were trying to “remind everyone that just as baseball is fundamental to American culture and history, so too is racism,” the direction of their opinion became clear.
The confrontational tone of their banner was also enhanced by the fact that Fenway has had its share of racist incidents in the past and that the Red Sox have been one of baseball’s most historically racist franchises.
The Fenway Four had a specific audience in mind and went to a location where their message would be seen and heard by people who would adamantly disagree with them.
Anyone who cares about these kinds of national issues can look to the Fenway Four as a model for social change. They cannot be afraid to be provocative or to make other people angry. They should try to spark a conversation about what really happens in society and how it can be fixed. And they should be authentic, to create an honest connection that can lead to real change.
Such a methodology will definitely grab the attention of the mindless social media scrollers who are tired of three-second videos and fake happy photos.
Being outspoken for any cause will surely require courage and commitment. The Fenway Four were kicked out of the park. Yet, they were entirely successful in their mission to get their message across. Millions of sports fans in and around Boston were exposed to a potentially new idea that racism might be more ingrained in American society than they initially thought.
For anyone who sees a flaw in our world and cares about getting it fixed, this is a fabulous result and one that should inspire increased positive outspokenness.