Friday, March 16, 2007

Racist kneejerks

espn.com posted an article headlined 'Sabathia pitches for more African Americans in game' that has drawn a very strong response judging by the comments posted about it. Basically, Sabathia said that the number of African Americans is baseball is declining and that this is bad.

Unfortunately, about 90% of those commenting missed Sabathia’s point. The vast majority were quick to accuse Sabathia of reverse racism (whatever that means—something is either racist or it isn’t). Let’s detail Sabathia’s statements and the typical overractions to it.

The biggest issue centers around where the blame lies. Most were quick to accuse Sabathia of blaming baseball, which he does not. Quite the opposite, actually; he says that African Americans themselves have chosen to play other sports, notably football and basketball. He feels that MLB needs to find a way to build interest in baseball to attract some of these athletes that are slipping away to other sports.

A few recognized this—they ripped Sabathia for putting the responsibility of bridging the gap on MLB and said he should shut up and do something himself. If you read the article, Sabathia says that the programs MLB currently has in place are good but are still coming up short and that he sponsors a program that supports 175 kids in his community.

Some people argued that if African Americans choose to play basketball or football rather than baseball then so be it. That baseball is not obligated to let in some inferior players who happen to be black in order to boost the percentages. Again, Sabathia never proposed such a thing. What he suggested is that in the near future, the quality of the game will suffer because African Americans who had the potential to be star ballplayers would have never realized their talent—in other words, the talent pool is shrinking, and that's why MLB should be concerned.

And I can't tell you how many people regurgitated the 'there are no whites in the NBA' argument. While this may be true (although the numbers are not as bad as they would have you believe), it is not because of a lack of opportunity or exposure. Just a lack of talent.

And it didn't get any better when I moved onto other pages. While researching some of the figures and percentages quoted, I found out there is someone out there who plays 'Spot the Black' when they watch commercials on TV. Someone else plays a game he calls 'Bullshit' when he watches TV with his wife: they try to be the first to say 'bullshit' when they see three or more people of different races hanging out together in a commercial. Oh, but don't worry—they said they don't play it in front of the kids. (Somehow, I think they are still going to pick up on that attitude.) Their point is that people from different races don’t go to the movies, eat at restaurants or go bowling together. I'll be sure to mention that at dinner tonight, where, depending on who shows up, up to four races from six or seven countries will be represented.

When you read through the comments, a pattern emerges—there is a correlation between racist comments and spelling and grammar mistakes and cursing. It is a nearly flawless connection. This would seem to indicate, to no surprise, that the problem is a lack of education. People who are educated tend to be more tolerant of those who are different; those who are uneducated feel threatened. Some people were even threatened by the way Sabathia wears his hat. This reveals an irrational insecurity and deeply rooted fear of anyone or anything different. With education comes the knowledge that our differences should be embraced and celebrated, not covered up and forgotten. With education comes the knowledge that quality is improved when more people are in the talent pool. And with education comes the knowledge that sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zone and lend others a hand. If the youth today, no matter their race, don't want to play baseball that is their choice. But they at least should have the opportunity to play before they make that decision.

The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in 1865 and the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, but sadly we still have a long way to go.

4 comments:

heather said...

The ladies get it too. Title IX was passed in 1972, but for every Annika Sörenstam there is a fart stain like Vijay Singh. When are the ladies going to get equal opportunity to realize their potential as athletes?

PJ said...

Do you really feel like women are excluded from realizing potential as athletes? Annika played with the boys in Ft. Worth but couldn't make the cut. Michelle Wie plays against men when most agree that she should probably be more concerned about winning something on the LPGA first. I think women have plenty of opportunity, but haven't been able to compete to that level yet.

heather said...

Yes, I do really feel like women are excluded from realizing full potential as athletes. I've experienced it and several other women I know have experienced it. I was never going to be elite, but on several occasions I had to go an extra step to prove myself in order to play with boys on my ability level when I was young. At one point I expressed an interest in playing football (I was, after all, playing soccer with half the boys on the football team) and let's just say I was strongly discouraged by the team coaches. My sports participation quickly declined after that. It's kind of sad, and it's the story for a lot of women.

I'm not trying to be a feminist harpy. I found the Sabathia comments amusing because some were so rediculous and reminded me of some of the dumb things I've heard regarding women and sports.

patrick said...

"Fart Stain". I like it. Vijay Singh stinks so "fart stain" is fitting. Not only is he sexist, he accuses everyone that beats him of cheating. I'm not a Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson fan but how can they not throttle that guy with their clubs? They go on a nice little career defining string of wins and he accuses them of cheating. I don't see how anybody can like that guy. I hope Sorenstam or Wie gets paired with him and he tanks it that day.