Racial Discrimination Considered from Movie “42 - The Jackie Robinson Story”  〜映画「42〜世界を変えた男〜」から人種差別を考える〜


  The U.S. movie “42 - The Jackie Robinson Story” was released in Japan on Nov. 1. The hero in this movie is Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman) who was well known as the first black man to play in Major League Baseball (MLB).

The story begins in 1945 when Wesley Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), then general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, signs Robinson for his team, opening the MLB door that had been closed to colored players. That happened in the days when racial segregation was legal in most southern states in the country. Being an African American, Robinson faces various forms of discrimination, such as harassment and threats from spectators, other teams, the mass media and occasionally even his teammates. However, his existence comes to be gradually accepted by the society as a whole all because of his earnest play and gentlemanly behavior. His great achievement has made not only black men but various other races from across the world eligible to play in MLB now. In 1997, MLB retired his uniform number of 42, the title of this movie, across all teams in tribute to his distinguished services as a player.




  Though not depicted in the movie, Robinson assumed the chairmanship of the freedom fund movement of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) after retirement and made a big contribution to enhancing the black people’s social status through positive participation in the African American Civil Rights Movement. His activities also inspired President John F. Kennedy to seek enactment in 1960 of a bill that overruled the so-called "Jim Crow laws" (state and local laws in force mainly in southern states to ban the use of public facilities by African Americans). President Lyndon B. Johnson who took over the presidency following Kennedy’s assassination worked energetically for the enactment of the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964, putting an end to the legal racial discrimination that had continued for decades in the United States.


 映画本編には描かれていないが、ロビンソンは引退後、全米黒人地位向上協会(NAACP)の自由基金運動議長に就任するなど、積極的にアフリカ系アメリカ人公民権運動に参加し、黒人の社会的地位向上のため大きな貢献を果たした。彼の活躍もあり、60年には南部諸州のいわゆる「ジム・クロウ法」(おもに黒人の一般公共施設の利用を禁止制限した法律の総称)を禁止する法案が、当時の大統領ジョン・F・ケネディによって成立。さらにケネディの後を継いだジョンソン大統領の精力的な働きかけの結果、64年7月2日に公民権法(Civil Rights Act)が制定され、ここに長年アメリカで続いた法の上での人種差別は終わりを告げることとなった。



  However, blacks did not immediately attain equal status with whites simply because the act came into force. The discriminatory sentiment among some whites did not disappear overnight. In 1965, the year after the enforcement of the Civil Rights Act, what was known later as “Bloody Sunday” occurred during the first "Selma to Montgomery march" where African American marchers were attacked by state and local police with billy clubs and tear gas. Meanwhile, some members of the anti-racial discrimination movement came to use violence after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., himself a strong advocate of nonviolent civil disobedience. Their radical activities continued till the 1970s.




  Introduction of "affirmative action" in the U.S. is mentioned as one of factors that led to gradual improvement of the situation. This refers to policies that take factors including "race, color, religion, sex, or national origin" into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group "in areas of employment, education and business". Measures based on these policies helped more colored people including African Americans take leading posts in the economic and judicial circles. Enlightenment of anti-racial discrimination further progressed through the spread of "political correctness" which encouraged use of politically correct words or terms to show differences between people or groups in a fair, non-offensive way.





  However, incidents of violence and cases of false charge rooted in racial discrimination occur frequently in various parts of the United States even today. During the presidential election campaigns in 2008, discriminatory remarks against Democratic candidate Barack Obama came one after another from politicians, media people and intellectuals. That illustrated how deeply discriminatory sentiments against colored races including African Americans are rooted in American society. As globalization progresses, international exchanges in culture and business are deepening day by day. What changes will we be able to see in racist feelings not only in the U.S. but in various other parts of the international community in the years ahead?





Written By : Kento Isogai