Saturday, February 19, 2005

Race and Privilege

I just wanted to throw up a short post on race that I threw together as I watched responses flood in to Canseco's allegations of racism in his new book.

Here is an interesting article on the subject from the NY Sun and responses on Baseball Think Factory.

My Response:
I have no idea what the extent Jose Canseco's race factored into his treatment as a ballplayer or human being.
He doesn't have a lot of credibility in my book. But his accusations about his treatment over something that he actually turned out to have done aren't automatically laughable.
I think the classic response to accusations of racism of "It's 100% not true in this case because person XYZ who is also a member of the ethnic majority got similar treatment" shows a lack of understanding of what equality is.
It's the typical response of someone trying to defend a privilege to find the one counterexample to the privilege and use that to dismiss it.
That's at least a large part why white folks love to discuss what they think are hanging curves like Canseco or O.J. (who still is wrongly cited as primarily a racial issue twice a week by my white acquaintances) rather than strongly evidences of racism in society. They look at other obvious evidence of racism (i.e. the treatment of players of Asian descent in MLB) and only look at the surface discourse, "When they play that Gong sound, it's out of love for Shingo!"
I'm also sick of the "where's your proof" response. The scholarship that has been done shows a strong racial bias in sports fans. The fact that I cannot cite it is a reason to be skeptical and look up or perform your own research, not be cynical and assume that you are the know-all, end-all of race dynamics because you were born with a smart skin tone.
Before anyone gets angry, my point is not to point out the "racists" in our mix. We are all--including Jose--adversely affected by the racist structures in our society. The lead article is absolutely right--we need to talk more about race. We need to have deeper discussion and empathetic understanding; not scapegoating (of racist whites or whiny minorities) so that we can all get over our handicaps.
I think the very idea that folks of color could ever be expected to be right 100% of the time when they make accusations of racism shows a lack of empathy and understanding of race on the part of many privileged folks. After all, one of the biggest daily burdens I find that I face is uncertainty over how race is affecting me in interactions. That's why I work so hard to understand race.
The response that I commonly get--You need to just lie back and pretend it's not there like I do (as someone who most of the time is allowed to be unaware of it). Stop being so paranoid--is what it appears to be. It is a call for ignorance over investigation. It is the belief that we should not work together to improve our society, but that race problems are minority problems and not the domain of those who currently receive the privilege of ignoring them.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but in mine, that's a gutless response that ultimately will weaken the person themself even as it hurts others.


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