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This is an extremely touchy subject that I have held off on posting about for a while due to its incredibly volatile and incendiary nature. That said, I think the time is ripe for some brief thoughts on the issue, and then I hope you will join me in a reasoned discussion in the comments.

In 2008, Nicholas Kristoff wrote an op-ed article in the Times about the possibility that Barack Obama was facing racism from non-racists. He explained:

John Dovidio, a psychologist at Yale University who has conducted this study over many years, noted that conscious prejudice as measured in surveys has declined over time. But unconscious discrimination — what psychologists call aversive racism — has stayed fairly constant……

Faced with a complex decision, he said, aversive racists feel doubts about a black person that they don’t feel about an identical white. “These doubts tend to be attributed not to the person’s race — because that would be racism — but deflected to other areas that can be talked about, such as lack of experience,” he added.

To state it simply, many of us believe ourselves to be non-racists, but still harbor some unconscious stereotypes and aversions that we are hardwired for culturally. So what does this have to do with sports? I believe that this sort of “racism without racists” creeps up from time to time in discussions and judgements about athletes.

Before I bring an example and expand this discussion, I want to make something very clear. I AM NOT ACCUSING ANYONE OF BEING A RACIST. On the contrary, I am suggesting that as human beings, we have absorbed some of the cultural biases that surround us, and therefore make unconscious judgements and decisions that would be at least slightly racist were they made knowingly. Furthermore, although the op-ed was in reference to President Obama, please leave politics out of your comments. This is a discussion about “racism without racists” in sports.

This topic has been rolling around my head since I saw the following quotes in a Jayson Stark article. Stark asked a number of talent evaluators to choose between Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander, and all chose Hernandez. However, this comment by one of the evaluators caught my eye:

“Now we’ll see what the contracts do to both guys. It won’t faze Verlander, but I guess it’s possible Felix could get a little complacent. His makeup doesn’t suggest it, but you never know.

When I posted this comment on Twitter, a number of followers had the same reaction that I did. Namely, if it is not in the character of either player to be fazed by his new deal, why would Felix be the one to be singled out as a slight possibility to become complacent? To me, this hinted at the issue discussed in the op-ed linked above. Verlander is white, while Felix is not, and the speaker unconsciously attributed complacency to the non-white.

Chris briefly touched upon this dichotomy earlier in the week, when discussing Robbie Cano’s lack of speed. he noted that Joe Buck referred to him as a burner a number of times during the World Series, and suggested the following:

In addition, though I am hesitant to say this in fear of a backlash, there are longstanding ethnic and racial stereotypes which distinguish minorities as “fast runners,” so I wonder if this is also implicitly at play with guys like Robinson Cano and Orlando Hudson. This is a difficult issue to discuss, but, as many academics have noted, it is a characterization that exists.

I think Chris was spot on with his analysis here. Cano, in particular, seems to be a magnet for this sort of rhetoric. In fact, as I was writing this post, Bob Klapisch posted an article in which he suggested Dustin Pedroia would look good in pinstripes, for the following reasons:

Yes, we know the Yankees have the more talented second baseman in Robinson Cano. The Bronx incumbent is smooth, super-cool and has a hitting DNA to die for. But Pedroia plays harder and has a greater emotional investment in the day-to-day outcome of his team. In other words, he cares more than Cano.

There is absolutely no way for Klapisch to know which of the two cares more. All I know is that Robinson Cano is always working on his craft, tinkering with his swing all offseason. When he struggled in 2008, he spent his entire All Star break attempting to fix his swing. Is it possible that he occasionally loses focus on the field? Sure, and people should be quick to point it out when it happens. But to state unequivocally that he cares less than Pedroia is irresponsible, and is, in my opinion, an embodiment of the “racism without racists” mindset.

Baseball fans are commonly exposed to this sort of dichotomy, in which white players are often presented as gritty and do everything they can to maximize their talents, while minority players are “athletic” and “smooth,” and “make it look easy out there.” The successes of white players are attributed to effort, while the successes of non-white players are explained by inherent ability. Failures by minorities players are often explained by pointing to a lack of effort. Failures by white players have a way of occasionally being rationalized away or even forgotten. Paul O’Neill failed to run out two balls in Game 3 of the 1999 World Series. I am a huge O’Neill fan, and I had no idea about this story until recently. It did absolutely nothing to diminish O’Neill’s reputation, and he never got dubbed lazy or inattentive. I wonder whether a player from a minority group would have emerged equally unscathed.

Some will say that I am making mountains out of molehills, and that in most ways, sports have become post-racial. I have a hard time accepting that viewpoint. As I have noted elsewhere, there were racial conflagrations in American cities in the 90’s. Race is still a touchy subject, and one that still touches many issues and spheres of life. Just because there is not overt racism in the judgment of ballplayers does not mean that long standing beliefs colored by racial undertones have not seeped into those judgments.

I stated earlier that I did not intend to call the writers and baseball men referenced above racists, and I want to reiterate that point here. Those quoted above are not “bad” people, nor should they be censured for the things they wrote or said. Rather, I am simply pointing out that we are all a product of the society in which we were cultivated, and our society is not yet finished with issues of race. We have thankfully moved from an era where overt racism in sports is the norm to one where it is exceedingly rare. But latent racism still exists in the sports world, and we do ourselves a disservice by ignoring it or acting like it is not an issue. Only by candidly discussing it can we hope to make it a thing of the past.

95 Responses to “Fans, Media and Racism Without Racists”

  1. Awesome work, Mo. Great read and you’re dead on. Implicit racism is commonplace in our society. Baseball is no different. As you said, it is best to discuss these things rather than to pretend as if they do not exist.  (Quote)

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  2. You hit the nail on the head, Moshe. Wonderful post.  (Quote)

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  3. That was a well written piece, Mo. We all have a predisposition to interpret the world the way we have always interpreted the world. This is why statistical analysis is so important — it can prove or disprove what we think we see.  (Quote)

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  4. Im a Yankee fan but everyone is always gushing about Pedroia, so I wouldn’t necessarily interpret it as racism  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    Racist.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Lol. I was waiting for someone to say that. This is actually a point I wanted to make- to prefer Pedroia over Cano is a perfectly acceptable viewpoint, and we should not go around fliging the word racist at everything that involves a choice of this sort. But when the reasoning is given and it has that tinge, it is fair to make an observation as to what might be under the surface here.  (Quote)

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    Steve S. Reply:

    Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Ha! What’s funnier is that I was almost sure it would be you. :-)   (Quote)

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    becca Reply:

    It’s not racist or an insult to Cano to praise Pedroia, obviously. The guy’s a good player on his own. What is racially tinged is to go on about how much of a “grinder” Pedroia is and how much he “cares more” than Cano, and how he’s “gritty” and “tries harder” based on… nothing.

    Great article, Moshe.  (Quote)

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    B N Reply:

    There are other interpretations though. Racism isn’t the only “ism” out there. Personally, I tend to think Pedroia is viewed as “a grinder” who “cares a lot” because of his height (or lack thereof). If you’re shorter, you get called “scrappy” while if you move the same way and you’re bigger then you’re “fluid.” It’s definitely true that personal factors affect how people interpret athlete’s performances, but I think it’s equally naive to attribute all of that to racism as opposed to that being a smaller piece of an enormous set of entrenched biases.

    So, could it be “racially tinged?” Surely. But it could equally be “vertically tinged” or a variety of other tinges. I think it’s dangerous to assume primary factors until we look at all of them. It doesn’t reduce the charge that athletes are often judged on baseless standards, but I think it greatly expands the question of how they are judged.  (Quote)

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  5. You are 100% correct about everything you wrote. I have handwritten notes on a legal pad about half of the stuff you said there, including Joe Buck calling Cano fast. I noticed every time he said it, because Buck is known as a man who really knows the game and who reviews a lot of research. In fact, he constantly talks about what a great research team they have. To call a guy who is obviously slow a “burner” is just confusing, but put into the context that he plays a middle infield position, is young, and is a minority, I can understand Buck’s confusion. It honestly may be asking too much of a person like Buck to say that he shouldn’t make such assumptions. We all do — some more than others, sure — but we all do. It’s unreasonable to ask Buck to know the 40 times of each player on every roster in the MLB. You and I know that Cano is slow and only getting slower, but Buck has to occasionally make assumptions based on his own two eyes, and his own two eyes look at Cano and see a fast runner. When I played baseball as a kid, I used to always be the fastest player on my team. One year a white coach was literally astounded by my speed, and he approached me to ask if I had a really good tan or if I was “something else.” I explained that I am half Black, and he said “I knew it was something.” I was 12. This sentiment hasn’t changed in the slightest, but people are trained not to articulate these thoughts. The sentiments themselves, though, are valid, to an extent, and so they won’t be disappearing any time soon. Enslaved Black people were killed for being smart, and forced to breed if they were particularly athletic and capable, so it makes sense that many of color are more “athletic” than their counterparts.
    There is a difference between Buck’s presumptuous remarks about Cano and Klapisch’s offensive ones, however, and I say that as a man who cannot stand to hear Joe Buck call a baseball game. To say that, given two comparable players, one white and one Black (but not African-American), the white player has done it by caring more and the Dominican player just has it in his DNA, and to say furthermore that you can tell he doesn’t care as much, without having spoken to him to inform yourself of his attitude, is irresponsible and ridiculous. I saw what you saw today and it jumped at me immediately. Cano has it in his DNA? How the hell does Klapisch know that? Cano doesn’t care as much as Pedroia? How the hell would he know how much Robinson Cano cares? And furthermore, cares about what? What we know about his hitting is that he’s been really good despite one down year and that he’s always working to get better. Fielding? Look, the guy is slow and yet he still gets there and he still makes amazing plays. It’s not like he throws to the wrong base and then later says “I don’t care that I threw to the wrong base, I’m a great player so get off my back.”
    The King Felix thing is perhaps your best example. That was the first I’d heard of it and it was downright hilarious to read. Verlander won’t change for money, but Felix might. It’s not in his makeup at all, but he is Latino, so it’s impossible to say for certain. That’s basically how that read.
    Anyway, I always have more to say on the topic of race in sports, so I’m going to stop myself there, before I become frustrated instead of reasoned and objective. Thanks for the post. I’m really happy someone else is seeing what I’m seeing and hearing what I’m hearing.  (Quote)

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    Chris H. Reply:

    That Felix thing is absurd. I watched the Mariners play for 2 years in Seattle and he is a fierce competitor (hell, that is evident by watching him once). To think that he would one day grow “complacent” is absolutely idiotic. Any day he is on the mound, no one looks like they want it more than Felix Hernandez.  (Quote)

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  6. This is gospel chief. You see this all the time in NFL coverage but no one has the guts to come out and say it. Brett Favre is a “gunslinger” but heaven forbid if a black QB took the risks he does.

    To clarify your quote though about Felix H, it wasn’t made by Stark, it was made by a baseball scout. You may want to make that explicitly clear.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Good point. I took the quote out of its context and it may be unclear to some. I’ll fix it.  (Quote)

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    Matt Imbrogno Reply:

    Ditto to this. If McNabb did half the shit Favre does, he’d catch so much hell.  (Quote)

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  7. Moshe,

    Great article as usual and accurate. That Cano/Pedroia is just one in a long list of cultural biases to praise the white athlete as hardworking and the latino/black athlete as “getting by on talent”. Pete Abraham when covering the Yankees referred to Brett Gardner as GGBG (gutty, gritty Brett Gardner), would Melky ever get that moniker?

    Tangent: Before Kaplisch and anyone else falls in love with Pedroia please go check his Home/Away splits. Home:896 OPS Away:756 OPS. But I guess that’s just b/c Pedroia plays harder at home than he does on the road.  (Quote)

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    Chip Reply:

    To be fair, Pete also thought that this whole Boston white guy = grit thing was ridiculous. He called Gardner GGBG more as a joke because he was white and fast and therefore must have tried really hard to get where he is.  (Quote)

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  8. Moshe – This piece is awesome… You hit the perfect tone and explained the issue patiently, reasonably and intelligently. I was active in that RAB thread you linked-up, trying to explain the points you made in this post, and I couldn’t agree more with you on all counts. Really, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this post. I’ve been reading your work for a while now and I think this is the best thing you’ve published. To deal with such a difficult subject so even-handedly is really impressive and is the mark of a mature thinker and writer. Bravo to you.

    Ok, enough with the praise. If your readers take one thing from this post, I hope it is this: We can have a discussion about stereotypes/prejudice/racism without accusing each other of racism or thinking people are horrible or antagonistic. We all have our biases, nobody is perfect. We can’t really start to understand these issues and deal with them maturely until we can have open and honest discussions about them. This post is a great example of how to do exactly that.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Thanks. That discussion was really what inspired me to write this post, but I was nervous about striking the right tone and held off for a long while. I think your second point is extremely vital: this is a hard discussion to have reasonably and rationally, but it can and needs to be done.  (Quote)

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    The Honorable Congressman Mondesi Reply:

    I’d think it would take some time and serious thought to hit the right tone, and you did just that. You were the right person to write this post.  (Quote)

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  9. This is a good read, whilst on this topic:

    http://www.draysbay.com/2009/9/3/1013430/the-baseball-caste-system  (Quote)

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    Matt Imbrogno Reply:

    Very good read.  (Quote)

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    Chris H. Reply:

    Great article. I remember watching B.J. Upton make a basket catch and everyone reacted by complaining. I want to say it was Michael Kay who used the racially-tinged phrase “Cadillacing” to describe the play but I might be mistaken. All I remember thinking the whole time, though, was that it was a very difficult play and had he not done the basket catch, he would have never caught the ball (and for him to even run as far as he did was astounding). But, for whatever reason, it was hot-dogging. That reads brings me back to that instance.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    This article was actually quoted in the RAB post linked by the word elsewhere in my post. The commenters had a fairly lengthy and interesting discussion on BJ Upton, and that led into discussion of Cano and race. It really is worth it to read those comments, HCM makes some very strong points.  (Quote)

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  10. Once more New Yorkers get a chance to see, read, and hear about the charming, talkative and charismatic Curtis Granderson, I think this whole hub bub will become more of a non issue amongst New Yorker fans who may have this mindset.  (Quote)

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  11. I was just reading that stupid article on Fox Sports today about ten players who should be on the Yankees. The best parts are how they talked about how Pedroia just cared more than Cano and how the Yankees could scoop up either Pujols or Mauer if they really wanted.  (Quote)

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  12. Kudos. I just want to say that this is the best post I’ve ever seen on any sports blog.  (Quote)

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  13. good point, i never thought of it that way. but you also should be able to say that pedroia is gritty and works really hard, and cano is smooth and naturally gifted, without it automatically being racist. i dont think it means the people quoted are racist at all, just that racism exists on a subconsciousness level in society to an extent.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Totally agree. These things can absolutely be true. My issue with the quote was a statement about which player cares more, which is an entirely different point. And your second sentence is exactly what I was trying to capture in the post.  (Quote)

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    steve Reply:

    Moshe, have you ever heard of the harvard implicit test? if you havnt, check this out https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/ . really interesting test. its used to measure the strength of automatic association between mental representations of objects (concepts) in memory. specifically, the one that measures bias on race (Race IAT) has interesting results across the boards for all races that take the test. i encourage you to try it out.  (Quote)

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  14. This is a great post. As you recall, last year I gave you a lot of crap about the Gardner versus Cabrera posts and your comment that Cabrera was no good. (Which you reversed months later in an honest reassessment; I am not trying to reargue the case.) But I do want to say that part of my reaction was based on a feeling that many people wanted Gardner to be better simply because he is the classic white scrappy guy (our Pedroia). If it was between two latino guys, my sense would be that people would have been far more balanced in their views. Indeed, if Gardner ever puts up Cabrera numbers from last year, then many would want to cannonize him. I am not trying to be overly provocative, nor am I calling anyone a racist, but I do question whether there was some sub-conscious racism going on. Perhaps I am overly sensitive because I am a latino too, but just thought that I would throw it out there given that you have pinched the subject.

    Finally, in anticipation of the responses, let me just say that I am well aware that Cabrera had a horrible 2008 and that Gardner started out Spring training like a ball of fire. However, I am also aware that Cabrera was younger, already had some successs in the Majors, and was outhitting Gardner by the end of Spring training.  (Quote)

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  15. I think that Moshe did an excellent job on a very touchy subject. I’d like to add a few things.

    Implict racism is indeed a problem, but it also is a problem getting better. If we look at Curtis Granderson, for example, the first thing that we hear about is his devotion to charity and the Detroit community. Dozens of other minority players and their relationship with fans and the media around the league are shining examples of racial equality.

    Often, I also think that this problem is misdiagnosed. I remember rumblings of accusations of racial overtones of criticism to Alfonso Soriano’s defense back in the day, when in reality he was just a really terrible defensive player. It should be no shock that defense and baserunning – the hardest area of the game to objectively evaluate with statistics – is often the subject of implicitly racial comments.

    Its no coincidence that Jackie Robinson’s entrance into the league was a major event in the racial integration of America. Sports affords us a chance to see each other on an equal playing field. At the end of the day, the scoreboard doesn’t have any prejudices. Teams that were slower to integrate back in the day were the teams that were unable to compete with their smarter rivals. Its a pity that it took so long – maybe we’d all know Satchel Paige’s true place in history with a lot more clarity.

    At the same time, we are seeing the number of black players in the majors decline every year. The root of the problem comes from the lack of inner city parks, fields, and equipment. MLB needs to do a better job sponsoring youth urban baseball, or else an entire class of people may grow up never having the chance to play the greatest sport in the world. That’s a racial story that gets a lot less press but is a lot more important than whether or not Robinson Cano is lazy. MLB’s outreach is amazing compared to other businesses, but a lot more could be done.  (Quote)

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    The Honorable Congressman Mondesi Reply:

    The cause of the falling percentage of African Americans in MLB might be lack of inner city parks, fields and equipment, but MLB has actually been doing a pretty good job of working on precisely that issue. I think the cause is probably a combination of a bunch of different factors, I don’t know that it’s as simple as not having enough parks in inner cities. You should check out this post:

    http://www.sabernomics.com/sabernomics/index.php/2008/04/what-caused-the-decline-of-african-americans-in-baseball/

    Also… This is just a year-to-year fluctuation, but MLB did see the percentage of African Americans in MLB rise the last time the numbers came out:

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gameon/post/2009/04/65495431/1  (Quote)

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  16. EJ Fagan: Sports affords us a chance to see each other on an equal playing field.

    I think this is an excellent point. On the playing field itself, I think sports is ahead of society as a whole in terms of race, simply because most teams will try and put winning ahead of any racial considerations.

    Also, I wonder about your last point. Where are those black players going? Meaning, are they simply playing other sports, or are they not getting into athletics at all? if it is the first one, I don’t think that is a societal issue as much as a future of baseball issue. If it is the second, then you have a larger issue on your hands.  (Quote)

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    Ken (O.R.) Reply:

    You didn’t ask me but, I would like to answer those last two paragraphs…hopefully I won’t mess it up.
    As one that came from the ghetto and never knew there was such a thing as prejudices, let me say …money and equipment is not the problem. Baseball takes to long for one to make big bucks, whereas basketball and football are much different. One can become a multi millionaire over night.
    Look at Cano (and others), they played baseball in the streets (as did we) and never saw a baseball field until high school. One of the surest ways of getting out of the ghetto is to be very good at sports (any sport), that’s were all the black athletes are going.
    Back in the early days, baseball was played by (mostly) Irish players because they had a tough time getting work…remember the signs…”Irishmen need not apply”. Then it was the Irishmen and the Italians, later it was open to the blacks. In other words…it goes in cycles, now it’s time for others in the world to join one of the greatest games on earth…baseball!  (Quote)

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  17. I don’t know if the evaluator quoted on Felix is racist or not, but often when someone in baseball talks about a player getting “complacent” they’re actually talking about weight and conditioning. In Felix’s case, even though he’s a great competitor, the concern isn’t completely unfounded–in the past, Felix put on a lot of weight during the off-season. Didn’t seem to affect him on the mound once the games mattered, but scouts tend to take a dim view of that.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    That is fair. However, the evaluator did note that it was not in his makeup, suggesting he didnt think past events would make you believe Felix would become complacent. Also, just to clarify, no one is suggesting the evaluator is racist, just that certain racial stereotypes may have unconsciously entered his thought process.  (Quote)

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    tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada Reply:

    And yet, Justin Verlander has come to camp out of shape and unprepared as well, and it resulted in his subpar 2008. That fact was conveniently forgotten by the quoted scout.

    Classic confirmation bias. I unconsciously think that Latino players don’t work as hard as white players, so I notice evidence of an individual Latino player possibly not working hard and I overlook evidence of a white player not working hard.  (Quote)

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  18. To start, I’d like to commend Moshe on producing yet another excellent post. You guys do a wonderful job here at TYU and Moshe, to parrot Mondesi’s message, this really displayed a rare sense of eloquence, maturity, and even-handedness. Now, let me wipe my mouth.

    Good, onto the content. Clearly we’re all in agreement that to make any degree of progress concerning biases or grievous offenses in race –or really any sort of non-character prejudice– we’ll need to get a little uncomfortable and express our issues. I’m thinking that there may be actual instances of “laziness” or even apathy, but perhaps these are incidents just as prevalent among white players but the minority players aren’t afforded degree of leniency.

    Also, think of baseball like school. Say there are four courses you have to take comparable to math, science, English, history: hitting, fielding, base running, throwing. There were some I liked more than others, some I was more “gifted” in and could slack off a bit, and others I was mediocre at best and took little interest in improving in. We can call that “lazy” if you like.

    I’m not saying it’s necessarily the case, but Cano is an excellent hitter, probably enjoys the subject and really works to get better. How he did is fairly easy to quantify as well, which is convenient. That subject is math. Say the next subject is English/writing and the baseball equivalent is fielding. Cano may not enjoy the subject as much as others but he’s naturally very capable and even if he could improve a bit is pretty good. Even if he did improve very well, it would be very hard to quantify. English, like fielding, is a fairly fluid, impalpable thing. Science will be base running. He’s not good at it, he’s unlikely to be good at it even with 1000% effort so he takes a general tone of apathy. Again, I’m not saying this is the case at all, just that we don’t know which aspects of the game he likes most or least, but assuming they’re all in equal standing would seem naive.

    Now, getting to the racial bias: it would seem that if a white player with dirt over his uniform were not really hustling something out, that player would be in line for questioning, but a sweeping statement definitively noting the player being lazy would not be made. It would have to take something egregious, like a Pavano or another such player. I have no background in psychology, race analysis or anything like that, but I bet we (collectively, as humans) are more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to those of our own race than those of different ethnic backgrounds. Why? We’re most familiar with them. If I go to my buddy’s house on 181st and some white guy in jeans and a regular shirt is walking behind me for a few blocks, I don’t think much of it. But a guy wearing “ghetto” clothing is different. I may not think he’s after me or anything like that (I like to trust statistics, generally) but at some point I do have that worry.

    So to conclude, it’s may be that Cano really doesn’t spend max effort on improving or is somewhat uncaring. But if that’s true, it’s probably on the same level as most of his peers or beneath it. That makes him a normal employee. Do I smile 100% of the time and spend max effort on every aspect of my job? No. I spend the most time on the most valuable part, the part that I also happen to like the most. In baseball, that’s hitting. Cano can freakin’ hit. So even if he does mail it in I don’t really care. His production and value is more important to me than his unmeasurables like “heart” and “grit”.

    I realize this is a very crude example, and I apologize for having wasted your time as I lap my Scotch.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    JMK aka The Overshare: But if that’s true, it’s probably on the same level as most of his peers or beneath it. That makes him a normal employee.

    I think this is the key. Even if there are parts of his game where he does not give 100%, it is

    1)unlikely that makes him different than most players, and
    2) no reason to simply call him lazy. A white player likely would not get that same blanket treatment.  (Quote)

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    B N Reply:

    I think an interesting thing is not what assessments are made, but those that are not made. Pedroia shows with some regularity that he is an emotional, sometimes angry dude. For him, that is called “heart.” Cano, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to get ticked off all that often and hence people question his dedication. But if you imagine their personalities reversed, you do have to wonder:

    1. Is Cano, a 6’0, Latino, considered to be a guy with “heart” or a guy who is “volatile” if he acted and played like Pedroia?
    2. If Pedroia acted and played similarly to Cano, would he be a guy who is seems like he “doesn’t care” or a guy with a “level head?”

    In my opinion, if Cano acted like Pedroia, his first description would probably be “volatile.” I’m not quite sure on the second question however.

    One could probably do an interesting research piece by showing a couple biased sets of nearly identical plays by two players to someone unfamiliar with the players in question (maybe minor leaguers).  (Quote)

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  19. I disagree, actually. I’ll be indelicate where you were not.

    Saying those things DOES make you a racist; not necessarily a racist in all aspects and facets of your life, no, but it terms of your worldview regarding baseball players, you’re espousing a racist view when you continue to believe things like Pedroia works hard or Cano is really gifted.

    The fact that you believe these things unthinkingly and without malice aforethought mitigates it a bit and keeps you from being overtly racist, but when your brain accepts racist tropes and thought processes without attempting to mentally eradicate them, you’re accepting racist beliefs as true and thus, are perpetuating racism.

    Here’s why: Yes, Pedroia is a hard worker. He’s also very smooth and athletically gifted, though. Cano is very gifted and smooth. He also grinds out at bats and works hard at being a great baseball player. Continuing to use these labels, even in an innocent, unthinking manner, simply perpetuates the mental division between racial groups that is the lingering residue of more overt discriminatory caste systems.

    Latent racism perpetuates virtually every aspect of our society, which is unsurprising considering the depth and breadth of our legacy as a legally ethnically divided nation. (No, we aren’t going to heal all our racial wounds in a generation… that just doesn’t happen, people. Be realistic). We are now, just as we have always been in the past, socialized to think, speak, and act in biased ways.

    The only way to eliminate the active bias held collectively in society is to remain in constant vigilance against the latent bias we all hold individually. Even in our seemingly innocuous descriptive statements about matters we don’t initially perceive to be related to racial issues.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    I think this is definitely a valid point. I would argue that “racist” is a harsh word that has certain suggestions of intent. I dont think we are necessarily disagreeing about the overall point rather than how broad the word racist is. I was using the “racism without racists” definition, while you are suggesting that there really is no such thing, and that latent racism still comes from racists. “Better” racists, if you will, but still racists.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  20. A truly excellent article. Well written and well argued.  (Quote)

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  21. Well, to be perfectly honest with you. I think that in today’s day and age this article is pure hogwash, bent on getting attention. What better way to bring attention to a blog than to utter the big “R” word. Seriously, I’m not one to buy it. Every situation listed above could be attributed to something other than the big “R” word. The labeling of the minority players above has been done to whites as well. Whenever people really want to prove their opinion as true, millions of “good” examples could be had to bolster their point of view. Likewise if one wants to prove their opinion to the contrary, another couple million “good” examples exist to use and twist to your Point of view. This type of media literature is of the purest horse crap to exist. It’s inflammatory and irresponsible in nature. Yes there is racism in this country, but not saturating our very subcoinscience to the point it seeps out at every chance to comment on a minority player. And once again all the above statements have been applied to whites as well, gauranteed.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    I can promise you that this has nothing to do with bringing attention to the blog. I have had many of the bits and pieces this article was built upon saved on my desktop for months, waiting for a time when I was comfortable to write it. If we needed the attention, it would have been written months ago.

    Jonny5: Likewise if one wants to prove their opinion to the contrary, another couple million “good” examples exist to use and twist to your Point of view.

    C’mon. The idea that white players are referred to as gritty significantly more often than non-whites is not something new that I just invented. This is a phenomenon that has been noticed by many a baseball fan over the years. In one of the posts linked in the article, we asked a skeptic to

    “Name 5 white athletes who get knocked by fans and/or the MSM for being lazy or coasting on their natural talent.
    Now name 5 non-white athletes who get praised for being gritty or for succeeding through hard work when they don’t have the natural talent to be as good as they are.”

    Let’s just say he had a rough time of it.

    As to your point that it does not saturate the subconscious, the study linked above comes to a different conclusion, and is a blind study that seems properly constructed. I am not saying it is conclusive, just that for me, it confirmed my own thoughts on the issue.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Jonny5 Reply:

    I don’t have time to research this ridiculous accusation. All I know is what i see. I did reply to you on Hardball talk…. I can’t type all day, have work to do, but I reccommend you read what I said there.  (Quote)

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    The Honorable Congressman Mondesi Reply:

    You seem to think Moshe said that whites are somehow exempted from racial stereotyping, when he said nothing of the sort (and, actually, he explicitly said the opposite).  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Exactly. White players have certain elements of their game, namely their talent, undermined by the idea that they got where they are on sheer force of will.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    EJ Fagan Reply:

    There is a very strong literature of psychological studies confirming a very strong unconscious racial bias in a random sample of adults. Academics have tried any number of ways to measure its effect, and usually the results are pretty unambiguous. My favorite is a study by a University of Chicago team where they presented testers with a first-person shooter set in a realistic environment. They were told to shoot the armed people and not shoot the unarmed people. Overwhelmingly, black unarmed got shot more than white ones.

    I don’t think that its fair to call ourselves racist for having such a bias. I honestly believe that very few people today have any rational inclination toward overt racism. But I think we need to recognize the potential harms of our unconscious minds in any mature society. Doing so will help us control the harms of our actions. It seems trivial in a discussion about baseball, but baseball is just a platform for the rest of our lives. Referring to Robinson Cano as “lazy” and “smooth” doesn’t really hurt a baseball player making millions of dollars, but in another context it can be quite harmful.  (Quote)

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  22. Nice work, Moshe.

    Frame this one.  (Quote)

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  23. I’m surprised to learn that DJ Drew is Latino!  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    YX Reply:

    Not to mention that Jeter is white… what a shocker!  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Not sure what you are getting at here. Yes, there are examples to the contrary. That does not mean the issue does not exist. There are significantly more examples to support my point.  (Quote)

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    YX Reply:

    My point is there are hundreds of example each way. Is there racism in US? Yes, being an minority I would definitely know. But in this case you are trying to make something out of nothing.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    There is racism in the US, so why do you think it would stay out of sports and sports analysis? Do you really think there are an equal number of examples each way? Also, I do want to note that this cuts both ways. As I noted above, the talent of white players like Pedroia is diminished when Klapisch talks about him in terms of effort. You can certainly make an argument that considering defense and baserunning, Pedroia is simply better than Cano, with resorting to a determination of “who cares more.”  (Quote)

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    YX Reply:

    Ok, let’s take a step back. There might indeed exist in sports and sports analysis, and it might actually be something. The problem is that your article does not suggest so. Your article point to a set of specified isolated examples and say “This is what happening in America”, and I can point to a set of specified isolated examples and say “No, this is what happening in America”, and we get no where.
    Now, if there is a empirical study shows something like “player of certain racial is X% more likely to be labeled as Y when there is no evidence suggesting so” (calling some minority player lazy when he is known to skip practice does not count) it would be meaningful. Is it true? I don’t know, and your article doesn’t really tell me.  (Quote)

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    The Honorable Congressman Mondesi Reply:

    Moshe quoted from an Op-Ed in the NYT that cited the very kind of empirical study that you are asking for:

    “John Dovidio, a psychologist at Yale University who has conducted this study over many years, noted that conscious prejudice as measured in surveys has declined over time. But unconscious discrimination — what psychologists call aversive racism — has stayed fairly constant……

    Faced with a complex decision, he said, aversive racists feel doubts about a black person that they don’t feel about an identical white. ‘These doubts tend to be attributed not to the person’s race — because that would be racism — but deflected to other areas that can be talked about, such as lack of experience,’ he added.”

    Then he applied that finding to specific examples and asked whether subconscious biases, or latent racism, played a role in those examples.  (Quote)

    The Honorable Congressman Mondesi Reply:

    Of course you can find a few isolated examples that cut against what Moshe, and others, are saying in this post/thread. But the issue isn’t whether there are specific examples on either side of the equation, the issue is that people have built-in, mostly subconscious, biases. Those biases can exist (and I strongly believe they do) whether there are counterfactual examples or not.

    Try this for fun…

    Name 5 white athletes who get knocked by fans and/or the MSM for being lazy or coasting on their natural talent.

    Now name 5 non-white athletes who get praised for being gritty or for succeeding through hard work when they don’t have the natural talent to be as good as they are.

    Now… Take the two questions I asked above, and reverse them. Not so hard to answer anymore, are they? That’s where an example of bias exists.

    Like Moshe said, pointing out one or two examples does nothing to disprove anything said in this post/thread.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    YX Reply:

    Can’t reply to above post for some reason.

    But that paragraph doesn’t exactly say alot.
    “But unconscious discrimination — what psychologists call aversive racism — has stayed fairly constant……”

    Well, at least we know it didn’t change. now is it 50%? 5%? or 0.5%? Kind of make a difference if we have the actual number.  (Quote)

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    The Honorable Congressman Mondesi Reply:

    From the very same NYT Op-Ed:

    “Still, a huge array of research suggests that 50 percent or more of whites have unconscious biases that sometimes lead to racial discrimination. (Blacks have their own unconscious biases, surprisingly often against blacks as well.)

    One set of experiments conducted since the 1970s involves subjects who believe that they are witnessing an emergency (like an epileptic seizure). When there is no other witness, a white bystander will call for help whether the victim is white or black, and there is very little discrimination.

    But when there are other bystanders, so the individual responsibility to summon help may feel less obvious, whites will still summon help 75 percent of the time if the victim is white but only 38 percent of the time if the victim is black.”  (Quote)

    YX Reply:

    From the very same NYT? Yes. Relevant to this topic? No.

    I’m not asking if aversive racism exist, I know for a fact it does.
    I’m asking if it exist in sports analysis as the article suggested, which I don’t know and the above paragraph doesn’t tell me.  (Quote)

    The Honorable Congressman Mondesi Reply:

    If aversive racism exists in general, why would it not exist in sports?

    At this point we’ve established that aversive racism exists… You asked for some sort of educated guess at a percentage of the population that falls prey to aversive racism, and such an educated guess, based on empirical studies, was provided…

    Frankly, I think you’re being intentionally obtuse because you’re clinging to a losing argument.  (Quote)

    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Firstly, I am not sure why sports analysis would be an exception to this. More importantly, as you noted, my examples are anecdotal and do not constitute evidence. They were simply meant to be illustrative, not dispositive, and in the absence of an actual study (in which case this discussion would be less relevant) there is little that would be dispositive. I am simply stating my opinion on the issue, and I think the general tone of sports conversation supports my argument. If you see something different, that is fine and valid. That is why I brought it up: in the absence of a study, I wanted to see if people agreed or disagreed with my viewpoint.  (Quote)

    YX Reply:

    “If aversive racism exists in general, why would it not exist in sports?”

    If the services on airlines suck in general, why would it not suck on airline X?

    If black people runs faster than white people in general (fact), why Orlando Hudson shouldn’t run faster than Pedroia?

    That’s the line of thinking that got us into trouble the first place, so let’s not do it again.

    Actually, this line of thinking is profiling, which has its value. With no additional knowledge, would you rather buy from a white person or an Asian person? Is that racism? No, it’s called common sense (and I’m Asian). That, however should not prevent you from finding out more about the person, the business they are running and make the decision based on more solid data than racial profiling (which is at least better than a flip of the coin).  (Quote)

    The Honorable Congressman Mondesi Reply:

    I’ll just offer one last response and then I’ll bow out of this particular conversation…

    Your examples are inapplicable. They would be applicable if we wanted to say “aversive racism exists and is relatively pervasive in general, so Sportswriter X is clearly swayed/affected by aversive racism.” But the gulf between saying that and saying “aversive racism exists in general so why would we not think it exists in the world of sports” is extremely, monumentally wide. We’re taking about a sample of millions of people here who participate in the forming of general perceptions about the sports world and about specific actors within that world. Over a hundred million people just watched the Super Bowl. We’re not talking about impugning one person because of a general trend, we’re saying that there’s a general trend, supported by empirical studies and historical evidence, and that trend applies to a sampling of millions of people.

    If a study of the entire US shows that 50% of the population says blue is their favorite color, and then we ask “I wonder what percentage of the sports-following population would say blue is their favorite color,” it would be unreasonable to not look to the study of the larger population and extrapolate those numbers to the smaller, yet still immensely large, sample of people we’re now studying. That’s not profiling or any of the other things you seem to think it is.

    As far as your question about whether someone would rather buy from a white person or an Asian person, with no additional knowledge about the two people in question… Yes, it would be racist to choose one over the other based solely on their ethnicity. That’s not called common sense, that’s called racism.  (Quote)

    YX Reply:

    Well, I’ve put out my reasoning out there, regardless if you agree or not, we has a somewhat constructive argument, so that’s that.

    Regarding the last point, I agree in that yes, it would be racist to choose one over the other based solely on their ethnicity IF there is additional information suggest otherwise.

    Consider this theoretical case: if 100% of a race X will rip you off when sell you stuff versus 0% of a race Y , is buying from X and not Y with no additional knowledge common sense?

    If a race X are twice as likely than Y, is it still common sense?

    If a race X are 1% more likely than Y, is it still common sense?

    If a race X are 0.00001% more likely than Y, is it still common sense?

    My opinion is that, with no additional information, yes, yes, yes and yes.

    If you buy from Y instead of X while evidence suggest that X is no less reputable than Y, then that’s racism for me.  (Quote)

    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Thanks for sharing your opinion. I was looking for debate, and I am glad that we had someone disagree.  (Quote)

    The Honorable Congressman Mondesi Reply:

    You made the same mistake (“DJ Drew”) both here and at Calcaterra’s post. Impressive consistency. Gritty. That’s just YX being YX.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    YX Reply:

    David Jonathan “J. D.” Drew (born November 20, 1975, in Valdosta, Georgia) is a Major League Baseball right fielder for the Boston Red Sox. He is a left-handed hitter, and began his major league career in 1998 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

    It is intentional  (Quote)

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    The Honorable Congressman Mondesi Reply:

    Ah ok, gotcha. Intentionally incorrect. Surely you’re not surprised someone reacted to it, that tends to happen when you post something that’s intentionally incorrect and you’re the only one who’s in on the joke.  (Quote)

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    YX Reply:

    Sorry, I kinda assumed that everyone knows Drew’s full name. You know the saying about assume.  (Quote)

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  24. Fantastic piece. Well thought out and well written. I’m so sick of the “Cano doesn’t care or try” crap. He has more talent than almost all of the second basemen out there, but because he has no need to dive into the dirt and chug his arms around like a kid while running, he doesn’t try. Ludicrous.  (Quote)

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  25. Moshe, very fine post, well thought out and debated…

    One thing that hasn’t been pointed out (seeing others pointed to studies of….) is, studies have pointed out the FACT; blacks (on the whole) are more God gifted in their physical athleticism then whites. Now this is not a racist comment, it is a scientific fact…not conjecture.
    Where the racism is, is in older people (mostly, I believe), because the younger ones have been PC to death.
    Don’t even think of me being a racist, I’ve had too many men of all races, save my butt too many times, to be anything other then color blind.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  26. Just asked Klaw about this in his chat:

    Moshe Mandel (Boston)

    Do you think latent racism ever crops up in scouting, in terms of players having certain qualities assumed or attributed to them at least partially due to race?
    Klaw (1:27 PM)

    Of course it does. Black players are expected to be athletic, and they’re downgraded if they’re not. White players are more likely to be called “scrappy.” Latino position players are a lot more likely to be left in the middle infield. And so on. It’s ingrained in the industry – it’s not a question of outright racism, or conscious racism, but stereotypes that have existed in the business (and the world) for fifty years and are still alive in the institutional memory that powers so much of the game.  (Quote)

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    Ken (O.R.) Reply:

    True, true, true!  (Quote)

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    jason Reply:

    Moshe, is this what you were expecting KLAW to say? Seems like he either read your post or simply agrees with your thesis.  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Yeah, it is what I expected. I’m pretty sure I have heard him mention it before, I just wanted a clear and concise opinion from him, which he provided.  (Quote)

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    YX Reply:

    Is it really racism though? Sounds to me the same as if you are French or Italian, you are expected to be fashion savvy, if you are Chinese or Russian, you are expected to be good at math and science, and if you are British, you are expected to be a lousy cook.

    Not saying it’s right, but is it really racism though?

    Stereotyping exist all the time, but when it is even semi-race related, people start to flip out left and right.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    From how I read his comments, he is suggesting that players are being given a name or given certain chances (ie to stay in the infield) where people of other races who are equally talented would not receive the same treatment.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    YX Reply:

    That does cross certain line.

    Not saying it’s the same, but people who are too tall, too short, too thin, too heavy, too young and too old probably face a lot of similar thing. How many time have we heard that “X is probably not going to hang on to position Y”, “X will fall off a cliff next year because his body type doesn’t hold up well”. Physical traits would be a much better indicator than race (which may slightly better than a flip of coin), but in many of these situations there are no more evidence than speculation, and significant number of them turn out to be just bologna.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    The Honorable Congressman Mondesi Reply:

    If I might be so bold as to analyze a group of people, I think the issue a lot of you have with this discussion is that you find the term “racism” so objectionable.

    Just to clarify… And please, Moshe and whoever else, step in and correct/disagree with me if you find any of this to be inaccurate… I don’t think anyone here intends to accuse people of being racist in the manner in which you, and others, take it. The title of the post is “Fans, Media and RACISM WITHOUT RACISTS.” I didn’t use all-caps there to yell, just to highlight a point. This is intended, I think, to be an honest and open (meaning we’re questioning concepts, for the most part) discussion of something applicable to ALL of us. (And I think that, beyond the very title of the post, Moshe made all this pretty clear in his post, if we could all read it again without our preconceived notions and opinions clouding our analysis.)

    Nobody is trying to disqualify someone from this discussion, or label them a racist or a bigot, because they might express an opinion tinged by aversive racism. I think the point is that just about every one one of us experiences some sort of aversive racism in our minds (to some extent), and we’re just trying to talk about that and how it affects how we evaluate certain athletes.

    So again… If you don’t mind my analyzing a group of people like this, but I really am only saying this in an effort to reconcile the opinions of the people who are ‘espousing’ the theory with those of the people ‘objecting’ to the theory… Nobody is accusing large swaths of people of vile racism here. I think the people espousing this theory, including myself, would be the first ones to admit that they are in all likelihood members of the just about universal group of people who have ingrained ideas about race and ethnicity and who, in some form, are probably affected by aversive racism. The whole point is that it’s just a societal thing… A societal thing we should strive to understand and improve… But a societal thing, nonetheless, that affects all of us. Nobody is accusing anyone of being a virulent racist or accusing society of being evil or anything of the sort. We’re discussing what is, pretty plainly, a fact of life, and a fact of life that we should be perpetually discussing, analyzing, and striving to improve.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Well said. This was exactly what I was going for, which is why I used the universal “we” when addressing aversive racism.  (Quote)

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    Ken (O.R.) Reply:

    I do believe that there is a stereotype in sports in regard to race/physical attributes.
    I think an example of this was said by one of the Yankees (Swisher, I think); something like, “Brett doesn’t know white guys are not supposed to be fast”…I’m sure you have all read the quote I am writing about. Look at Spud Webb (NBA), he is to small to play in the NBA, other players will take advantage of his height…I think he did rather well.
    Basically, I think it is more a stereotype then anything to do with any innuendo of being a raciest. Can anyone think Cash or Joe would support a black player over a white guy (or white over black) because of their race or stereotype. I think it is more with a lot of the fans then anything else, Pena should play SS or 2nd not the OF, why…because he is a slender Latin American, that’s why!
    This thread has made a lot of people look inside their own mind and honestly see how they think…good!  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  27. Moshe, great essay and dialogues. My thinking will get better, I hope, and I’ll try to hold my presumptions in check.

    I was skeptical about CC when the Yanks were heaping money on him, even after his Milwaukee heroics. I didn’t understand the grit in this huge (I saw it fat) guy that everybody glorified. I do appreciate now, after seeing his steady contribution and persistence. I saw it with Milwaukee, too. Maybe my acceptance was so grudging because of envy, and lack of personal identification. There, I feel better already.

    I didn’t trust him because I didn’t understand him, and that probably comes from my own felt lack of knowledge of his perspectives, his personal culture. Otherwise known as trust. And, yes, yes, doubts, although I will confess to having known several fine people of the Black persuasion, truly decent and hardworking, team players.

    Sorry, folks, but gimme time: I usually figure it out, eventually.  (Quote)

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  28. Tommy Manzella to the rescue!  (Quote)

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  29. I think the problem with this discussion is that it relies too heavily on the anecdotal. For example, the Pedroia/Cano thing- my understanding of Cano is that the perception of his attitude has been around for a long time, and is an individual thing. i think that to show “aversive racism” in Klapisch’s attitude, you would have to demonstrate that he had a history of making unfounded statements that played into stereotypes. Pedroia may get a lot of good press, but Jeter, who is biracial, is worshipped like no one else in baseball- I’m guessing his work ethic has never been questioned by Klapisch. Ditto Bernie Williams, Posada, Rivera, or other non-white Yankees over time. Cherry-picking this particular example is not good analysis.

    Even the op-ed example, of Obama, is problematic because it’s non-falsifiable. Forgetting whether you like his policies or not, he was the least-experienced person in the race (whether it was against Hillary or McCain) to be the President. Is it possible someone with unconsciously racist attitudes might use that charge? Sure. But it was also a legitimate point. How do you distinguish between the two?

    I don’t think it’s true that we’re “post-racial” in sports or society in general. In fact, I think the constant focus on race is a part fo the problem. Generating a discussion is all well and good, but i really think you need to focus more systematically on demonstrating that aversive racism exists, because otherwise, it serves as a means to dismiss arguments or ideas that are inconvenient, without a legitimate basis. Ultimately, the point you make about not ignoring racism is a good one, as far as it goes. But a charge so freighted with stigma in polite society should be sparingly used, and only with real evidence. Nothing in the article above constitutes that.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    I just want to note that I never claimed that those anecdotes were evidence. They are simply examples of what I perceive to be a problem. They do not prove that the problem exists. I understand that some will see them differently or believe them inconclusive. That is exactly why I raised the point- to create discussion. I do not have the resources to do an extensive systematic study, and I am simply pointing out something I have noticed and my opinion of it.

    Also, I dont think I am really accusing or “charging” the writers like Klapisch of anything except being products of society, as all of us are. If these biases are absent in my writing, I am sure they show up elsewhere. That is human nature- we learn from our surroundings, and our surroundings still have ingrained racial hierarchies.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Jim Reply:

    Moshe,

    That’s fair, and i note that you’re not charging Klapisch, specifically, with being overtly racist. But you have to be careful with non-falsifiable examples, because now, the words “Klapisch” and “racism” are now linked in a public article, whether that’s your intent or not. And it may be that Klapisch has specific knowledge of these two players that he didn’t explore in depth, perhaps because didn’t fit into the article in question. More likely, he’s using the old sportswriter’s “intangibles” chestnut to downgrade Cano, who has dealt with that perception for some time, and for all I know may really not work as hard as he should. In other words, just because there’s a stereotype at play, that doesn’t mean that in this individual’s case the charge is false. Given the stigma of the word racism (even when qualified as you’ve done here), it’s worth giving Klapisch the the benefit of the doubt unless you have more substantial evidence.

    Also, the fact that Klapisch explicitly links Pedroia’s intensity to Jeter, Rivera and Posada kind of works against the theory that only white guys receive the intangibles halo from him.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    That is a fair point. Perhaps it would have been more constructive to point out that Klapisch is simply repeating a common old chestnut about Cano and Pedroia that I find to be rooted in those stereotypes rather than attributing the thought solely to Klapisch. The Pedrioia-Cano issue has been raised elsewhere, and that is what I wanted to get at, but as you note, some might take this as an indictment of Klapisch.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

    Jim Reply:

    Moshe,

    I think that’s fair. By the way, the link to this post was the first time I ran across your blog, and I must say it’s a terrific site. Keep up the good work.  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  30. Moshe – excellent post and thoughtful discussion. I think that one of the more interesting aspects of this is that the comments regarding King Felix and complacency were made by a scout. Player evaluation, especially of the variety done by scouts, more easily lends itself to the sort of aversive (unconscious) racism of which you write. After all, these guys make all types of subjective judgments about players based on body type, body language, and my all-time favorite – “the good face.”  (Quote)

    [Reply To This Comment]

  31. Yes, it would be racist to choose one over the other based solely on their ethnicity.That’s not called common sense, that’s called racism.

    There are really two things going on here. Firstly, I think it’s pretty obvious that using ethnicity as a decision rule is racially prejudicial, if not outright racist. Moreover, if someone’s ethnicity had no value as a signal about their business then there is no obvious justification. On the other hand, ethnicity (among a variety of other factors) does in fact have value as a signal. In the US, having darker skin associates a person with an ethnic group that on average has lower education, social services, etc. If you have no other information about them other than their skin tone, and their skin tone is an intermediate variable that gives you information about their level of education and value as a business partner… you benefit by using this information. Flat out. It’s a signal. From a classical rational actor standpoint, the decision is clear.

    With that said, there is a question of balancing the good of the many versus the good for oneself. While I have just given a situation where it is obvious that a person will on average be better off buying from a certain ethnicity (at least in that interaction), that doesn’t make it right. By making this decision, a person is part of a feedback cycle that makes it harder for that person of darker skin tone to succeed. Accordingly, they will be less successful in business and less able to finance their children’s education- perpetuating the issue.

    So the question is: Does acting in one’s self interest, with no intrinsic care as to race, make one racist? The answer to this could easily be no. If your information and knowledge is correct, and that is all you have, people have to work with the information they have available. In some cases, where poverty is split across racial lines strongly in an area- who benefits by you being equally worried about being mugged by a person of any race? Definitely not yourself. I suppose the muggers benefit, but I’m not particularly sure if that is a plus. If you walk around Baltimore being equally cautious about being mugged by a small, old, white female as you do a large, young, African American male, good luck to you soldier. You are indeed a martyr for the cause.

    With that said, in most cases, the risk or expected loss from ignoring racial information is a small cost to pay for helping to improve ethnic equality. Moreover, though the cost of searching for more information is not free- it’s usually pretty cheap. I would certainly say that failing to search for better information than ethnic information is very racist. Especially for matters like this which are issues where the speakers should be experts (election pundits, baseball announcers, etc) I think there should definitely be more care in not perpetuating stereotypes.

    I think a large amount of disagreement on the subject of racism comes from very different concepts of morality. I tend towards a Singerian morality, which is the need for “moral search.” Your morality is judged not by your actions, nor their outcomes, but by your search for the best outcomes. In this case, the obligation is to search for better information that makes ethnicity irrelevant and to search for actions that will help improve equality to remove the use for such a signal. On the other hand, if one has a pure standards-based approach to morality where it is stated “any form of selection by ethnicity is intrinsically wrong” then one will get a very different viewpoint (natural-law based). Or alternatively, the view that “any action that perpetuates racial stereotypes is wrong” (outcome-based).

    Since people generally say that racism is any use of racial information for any purpose they don’t like, the moral viewpoint of the speaker has to be closely examined I would think. Otherwise we end up with this issue, where one man’s common sense is one man’s racism.  (Quote)

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