Friday, November 11, 2005

Asian baseball GMs are effeminate!

According to Baseball Prospectus, sometime this week, there's a very good chance that Kim Ng will be promoted to General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball franchise. For those of not familiar with the baseball power structure, the GM is pretty much the most powerful position on each team. While not the top of the power structure, the GM is the one who makes all of the personnel decisions--what players are acquired on all levels of competition, who manages the team on the field and how money is allocated throughout the organization.

Should Ng get the position, she would be the first female and first person of Asian descent to command that power in any of the male Major League sports in the United States.

Ng's rise has been fun to watch. She was hired out of the University of Chicago by Dan Evans of the Chicago White Sox and showed immediate ability in arguing arbitration cases, one of the more challenging duties in baseball personnel negotiations. From there, she served as assistant GM of the New York Yankees from 1998-2002, and then in the same position with the Dodgers (again hired by Evans) from 2002 to the present. In those positions, she continued to develop her skills in player acquisition and development including directing the entire Dodgers farm system in 2004.

However, there is some concern in how successful Ng's tenure in L.A. will be should she be named to the position. The previous GM, Paul Depodesta, while white and male, also had traits that caused many to question his qualifications for the job and he was fired after intense pressure on ownership from the local media. The media demanded his expulsion despite him delivering a division title in one of his two years heading the franchise. This was very unusual as GMs normally receive a grace period in order to enact their own regime and "turn-over" the roster (fill it with their own acquisitions).

So is there reason to believe that Ng may not receive fair evaluation during a tenure as GM? It's certainly a risk. Already, she has faced racism in her capacity as assistant GM. In 2003, a New York Mets scout confronted her with racial slurs during baseball's annual winter meetings:

Executives from several teams had retreated to the hotel bar after watching Arizona Fall League play. According to people at the conference with knowledge of what happened, an apparently drunken Singer approached Ng and belligerently asked: "What are you doing here?"

"I'm working," Ng replied.
"What are you doing here?" Singer repeated.
"I'm the assistant general manager of the Dodgers."
"Where are you from?" Singer asked.
"I'm from Indiana," Ng said, referring to her birthplace. She was raised in Ridgewood, N.J.
"No, where are you from?" Singer asked.
"My family is originally from China," Ng said.
Singer then allegedly started speaking gibberish, making fun of Chinese - which led Cashman to act, sources said. Cashman declined to comment.

Current media coverage tends to be very positive, trumpeting Ng's qualifications for the position. But there are some telling reminders of the underbelly of American racism/sexism in sports that will be poised, ready to strike at Ng should she fill the position.
Deadspin supportive, but sarcastic and making racist comparison saying she looks like B.D. Wong
Some of the arguments put forth against her:
Female=can't provide leadership/ not a baseball person/is a "young nobody"
Has never been a GM=Is not qualified to be a GM
I don't know anything about her, so I question her qualifications
Hiring her would make the Dodgers the "laughingstock" of sports
What's interesting is that they are a fun mix of people just being plain ignorant about her record, people adding constraints on what qualifies someone for the position that they would never hold if they weren't addressing a minority candidate, and people who think that we should not hire qualified candidates because racist/sexist people might try to make their job harder.

It's the tired old privileged white boy style of argument--"the kitchen-sink style" in which they decide they hate the idea of something, like "homosexuals getting married" and then just make up shit to try to win the argument:

Asshole: Well, marriage is for reproductions, and gay folks can't have kids...
Normal human being: So infertile people shouldn't be allow to marry?
A: Umm...
N: Or old people? And what about raising adoptive or artificially inseminated kids, do they not count?
A: Umm, well, it would lead to a slippery slope, where people could marry their dogs.
N: So you think dogs can enter into legal contracts?
A: Umm, well, it would erode the institution of marriage...
N: What is the institution of marriage to you?
A: It's about the union before God of the love of a man and a woman...
N: Oh, I see, so we are legislating your idea of God, that's great! So what about a man and woman who aren't in love? Why can they get married? What about people who have 24 hour marriages? They aren't eroding marriage, but two people who want to "till death do us part", raising kids and the whole shebang, are?
A: Well, I just don't think the country is ready for it...
N: So we should limit our citizens freedom to cater to some bigots who can't handle it?
A: I've got to go read Malkin's blog, I better take off...
(Thanks to Matt)

Let's end with a reality check:
Kim Ng is Asian American, female, and highly qualified for this position. She as extensive experience as nearly every single white male has ever had for their first GM gig along with recommendations from every employer in baseball she's ever had. The situation of the job she's a candidate for is one that she's highly familiar with and it's also quite a trainwreck thanks to the bigotry of the local press. Should she get the job, she will be a pioneer of sorts, but also a qualified, competent one.

At the time, many people said, "It's not the right time for Jackie Robinson to cross the color barrier!" People weren't ready (and in many cases still aren't) for social integration, or gender-free hiring. The only way these things change is when powerful, courageous people change them. Waiting for the flow of history only results in equal opportunity continuing to drown.

Now is the time for Kim Ng. There will be adversity and there will be completely unfair, sexist, racist evaluation of her. That's not a reason to avoid ever hiring a woman or Asian American to the position, it's a reason to do it now so we can start to heal.

But we better be ready. Sharpen your letter writing skills, learn about the game and be ready to destroy those who attack her unjustly.

More about Ng:
Interview at the Women's Sports Foundation
Interview at Baseball Prospectus
Sass-a-Thon discussion of (Boston) fan reaction to a female GM

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Ms. Rimes, I thought you loved me but what's the deal?

Have you ever felt that sickening squelching when your trust for someone just implodes? You know who they are through and through and you always take their perspective and defend them come what may? One day, immersed in a new context, the light hits them a little differently and you realized the vision you had of them, the excuses you made for them, really just don't look justifiable anymore.

I think this feeling is most familiar to us who live as minorities immersed in majority culture. In the states, we live and love amidst a dominant perspective which assumes our inferiority, but we also live hopeful that the power of our individual relationships trump those embedded prejudices.

There are many of these moments with absolute lucidity--that moment when my loved one took her racist stepfather's side on a dispute or when that friend I thought was super-close explained to me, "These days a lot of minorities are too sensitive about race".

The love is still there and you go through the motions dreaming of some scenario where they whip out some beautiful, completely understandable reasoning behind their actions, but the joy and confidence you felt before has been replaced by that dull, nauseating pain of impending betrayal. The feeling is so bad, it makes you want to just avoid the society all together--"Maybe if I just avoid anyone who this might happen with, I can never feel this again!"

But we all know that's not the most healthy response--it's not even possible to execute.

If you made it this far, I'm sorry to drone on morosely like this. I guess the only way to rid myself of this feeling is to explain.

I watched Grey's Anatomy again tonight, and if you've read my earlier write-up of the show, I have been floored by the dialogue writing, love the diversity in cast, and especially love the way the racial issues have been written. But I did have this troublesome hanging worry even as I attempted to defend the show from the charges that it, like every other show on television, has an allergy to Asian American male characters.

This week's episode was a complete trainwreck of a travesty of an injustice on these issues, and I really don't know what to say except ask, "WHY? WHY? HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN?"

I tried to just write it off when several episodes ago there Dr. Yang's mother appeared and shared her happiness in divorcing Christina's father and remarrying some old white dude, but this week you had an eighteen year-old Asian American girl with special needs appear with an Asian American mother and a father played by Frances Guinan. Who is Frances Guinan? I didn't know before I did a little research, but it appears that he's a very accomplished actor, who isn't Asian American, unless of course, they were in the habit of hiring Asian American actors to play Klu Klux Klansman in 1997. Really, I'm not making this up. He played "Klansman #2" in George Wallace in 1997. There's no explanation for the casting whatsoever--they just decided to have no Asian American father.

The daughter is attracted to the annoying ex-wrestler intern with the heart of absolutely not-gold for inexplicable reason. The kid is in for some rountine procedure, but the dorky surgeon Derek(who we still want to throw something at the screen when he even as much as tries to look at the main character) wants her to consider an operation that will help her live more independently. I thought the handling of the special needs issues were pretty good, especially for network TV, but I'd be curious what others have to say about this. What bothered me was how the kid's sex life is brought up repeatedly.

The mother is written as controlling and wants to shelter her daughter. The good white father tells her to whiten, I mean lighten up and wants her to consider the operation. Derek sends the Dr. Karev (the wrestler-dude) with her to try to convince her to consider the procedure. The writing on their attraction is utterly non-convincing and culminates with her asking him to present her with her first kiss. He refuses and gives her some wisdom about first kisses, and then she returns to show her mom who's boss.

I'm sick. I want answers or blood or something. Ms. Rimes has written and spoken beautifully about her efforts to create an ethically diverse and succesful show. If you haven't, check out this interview with her by Ed Gordon.

So what the hell happened? Is this a case where Ms. Rimes just wasn't sensitive to issues in the Asian American community? Is it a case where a fresh new writer passed some aversively racist stuff through editing on a day that only the white people came into a work?

Really, I just want to know what happened, and against all logic, I still hope there is a good explanation there somewhere? Tell me something--I've got it all wrong, next week the powerful Asian American male characters start rolling out, something...
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