eye on Pinellas County: Museum director says no irony in Jackie Robinson display. We say there is.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Museum director says no irony in Jackie Robinson display. We say there is.

In April 1998 Stephen Goldman who was then director of The Florida Holocaust Museum said, "There's no irony in it being here. Our lessons are those of tolerance and breaking down of barriers." He was talking about hosting "Stealing Home: How Jackie Robinson Changed America" an exhibit dedicated to the late, great baseball hall-of-famer Jackie Robinson who on April 14, 1947 became the first black man to play major league baseball. Robinson started with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The exhibit had started the year before at the Simeon Wisenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and had traveled its way around the country to various museums and ballparks. Director Goldman went on to tell a story about former Detroit Tigers star (and fellow Jew) Hank Greenberg. In 1947 when Greenberg was playing with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Goldman had said, he was the first opposing player to encourage Robinson. Goldman concluded his story saying, "Just as blacks and Jews went through the civil rights movement together, Robinson and Greenberg did much to break down those barriers."

Well, Mr. Goldman, Jackie Robinson and Hank Greenberg did break down barriers and it was only fitting that the Jackie Robinson Exhibit started at the Simon Wisenthal Museum, but we think you misspoke when you said, "There's no irony in it being here." Here at the Florida Holocaust Museum, that is. And this is why:

In 1978 Florida’s Bureau of Criminal Justice Planning and Assistance released a report on Straight finding that in its first 18 months of operation Straight had enrolled 450 youths but only one had been black. Five years later Straight's national clinical director admitted that out of 260 young clients at Straight-St. Petersburg there were no blacks! In a sworn affidavit made by a Straight Foundation board member on January 17, 1991 he stated, "...research has shown that over the last 3 years there has been a decline in Straight’s market, to-wit: middle and upper income children involved in drugs..." Straight just did not target blacks. It targeted whites whose parents could better afford to pay its steep fees. Straight Foundation president Walter Loebenberg founded your museum, Straight founders Melvin and Betty Sembler are on (or have been on) the board of directors, along with Jay Synder and Dr. Bruce Epstein. Dr. Epstein has even been the interim director of your museum. Not only is their Straight program guilty of committing many of the same human rights violations that the Nazis are accused of committing but Straight was a racial institution that targeted white kids only. It was indeed ironic that your museum, under its then oversight, hosted an exhibit to baseball great Jackie Robinson. [Source: St. Petersburg Times, Apr. 4, 1998, pg. 3.B]
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Read about the alleged treatment of Straight-St. Petersburg's first black kid on Fornits (NOTE: This story is unsubstantiated.)

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