By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – How to you accelerate the pace of social change, especially on a difficult issue like race?

It’s a tough question that a lot of people have been struggling with for a long time. And Wednesday night at Fenway Park, some local activists rekindled the discussion with a stunt.

They bought Green Monster seats and during the fourth inning unfurled a large banner reading: “Racism is as American as baseball.”

If the goal was to get people talking, mission accomplished.

barivapnek Keller @ Large: Fenway Banner Should Have Emphasized Racism Is Un American

The banner about racism on the Green Monster, Sept. 13, 2017. (Photo credit: Bari Vapnek)

One line of discussion caught my ear, the argument that the gesture was meaningless because it offered no specific examples of racism for people to reflect on, suggested no solutions and was even ambiguous enough to leave some people wondering if it was an endorsement of racism.

“No one’s mind is going to be changed by that sign,” said one caller I heard on sports talk radio.

That’s probably true.

And the Fenway sign is a far cry from the visual power of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, where the sight of peaceful protestors being savaged shamed white America and its politicians into action and that’s the key word – shame.

Fifty years ago, more than 40-percent of U.S. adults were smokers. Today, it’s less than 17-percent and falling. And a major reason for that is the social stigma that became attached to that toxic habit.

We’re been trying to do something like that to racism, criminalizing its manifestations and marginalizing its proponents.

Maybe that banner should have emphasized how un-American racism is, instead of the other way around.

Talk back to me via email at, or on Twitter, @kelleratlarge.


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