This wasn’t just a harmless myth. For decades, ordinary people in Cincinnati were tarred as hateful racists in order to further a specific narrative about America. They weren’t the only victims of myths related to Robinson. Enos Slaughter of the St. Louis Cardinals has been villainized for decades for slashing Robinson with his spiked cleats during a play at first base. But Slaughter always insisted the injury was accidental, and sportswriters at the game from both St. Louis and New York City agreed, saying that nothing appeared deliberate about the incident. Similarly, in the 2013 film about Robinson, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Fritz Ostermueller is portrayed intentionally hitting Robinson in the head with a pitch before insulting him with a racist comment. In reality, the pitch hit Robinson on the wrist and there is no evidence of such an insult at all.
But all three myths will live on, because they are useful. They promote a certain story about America: That until very recently the country was overwhelmingly bigoted and hateful, and good for very little else. In fact, America’s entire 20th-century history, as it is taught in schools and portrayed on screen, is essentially “fake.” It is a sequence of myths atop myths, created to make Americans hate their ancestors and their history.
A full list of these myths could fill several books. For now, we will illustrate the point with some central examples.