Why Tolerate Racism?

This seems a rather obvious point for salient observers, yet it’s worth revisiting. I hadn’t read “Bombers Beat” for some time but, after Leo’s post, visited again and wish I hadn’t. It wasn’t because of the stale rehashings of a couple people/one person lamely reposting as others, too feeble-minded to admit being wrong about a bench player’s 2007 productivity. Rather, and far more seriously, I was appalled to see a reader drop the N bomb when discussing Coco Crisp and his role in the brawl against Tampa Bay. To make matters worse, at the time of this post’s publication, none of the subsequent 28 comments on the thread, including one from blogger Bryan Hoch himself, commented or criticized on the use of this nakedly racist term. The thread’s URL is below:

http://bombersbeat.mlblogs.com/archives/2008/06/do_you_feel_a_draft.html#comments

Mr. Hoch himself said (though I’m uncertain to which comment he was responding), “The blog is secondary to my work for the yankees.com site, sorry to say. That’s my top priority. That’s where the games always go up at last out, win or lose. This is more of a fun outlet for things that don’t exactly fit there, and a way for me to interact with you all.” It would be wrong to blame Hoch for the posting of the racist comment, or to blame subsequent commenters for it as well. The poster, “nycstreet77@aol.com,” clearly has issues extending well beyond what one can address by way of a baseball blog. Perhaps people have just missed the use of the racist slur, though I doubt everyone has. I also understand that reporters, such as Pete Abraham, openly discuss the importance of freedom of speech and, as people working under the rubric of the First Amendment, the unwillingness to closely monitor it. I also understand that some commenters may simply have chosen to ignore its use or that commenter’s racism, which is their right.

But in this case and with this wholly objectionable term, what is the benefit of allowing the term’s use to pass without comment? More directly, how is free speech and freedom itself enhanced with an obviously racist term–fraught with the historical and recent memories of racist violence, slavery, repression, discrimination, inequality, and more and and having been used to create and reinforce ideas and institutions inherently against the very notions of freedom and equality–used with nary a criticism? How is the general discourse and baseball conversation, for goodness sake, best served through tolerating racism? I contend that tolerating racism, while by no means racist itself or remotely equal to it, is not in any way tolerable. To me, it’s not an option nor is tolerating other forms of oratorical repression or creating means of inequality (e.g. sexism, class divisions, homophobia, anti-developmentally disabled commentary and the like). Turning a blind eye to racism does nothing but allow it to persist and fester. It serves no one.

This is less calling out people like Bryan Hoch, a good and busy reporter, and more calling attention to intolerance and my intolerance of it. How telling that within the same week that Senator Barack Obama became the first African-American presidential nominee for one of the major parties, racist terminology continues to be used and overlooked/tolerated in popular parlance. We as the human race and within this nation have at once come so far and not nearly far enough.

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Published in: on June 6, 2008 at 2:50 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. i’m glad you brought this up. during the off-season i spend a lot of time reading and commenting on LoHud as do many others since it is one of the few places “open 24/7/365”. on more than one occasion i have attacked people there for unbelievably racist or homophobic remarks and i am happy to report that as soon as someone is brave enough to call out an offensive person many other good people join in to admonish the offender. most people in this day and age do not tolerate such loathsome behavior around them but will let it slide on a blog- that’s why i think it’s important not to indulge in double standards.

  2. Tell the kid that those scratches and bruises will add character. I admire your bravery in addressing the issue. I sensed you would be annoyed. Have a solid feeling that you’re a man of morals. The complete responses are much appreciated.

  3. “Change We Can Believe In” Is that fitting or what?

  4. Jason — I can honestly say I didn’t see that comment until you pointed it out; I just made a cursory scan of the posts and was responding to that same poster’s earlier comment, where he called me out for not posting enough. Trust me that those comments will not be tolerated on my blog and MLB has been alerted.

  5. Bryan, I totally trust that you didn’t see it, and wanted to make sure in my post to take into consideration the possibility that such an oversight can happen for a lot of reasons, e.g. posting a comment can immediately prompt people to the bottom of the page and past such comments. My post here was not an ad hominem toward you, and you do a very good job in your work. I only wanted to point out this fan’s racist commentary, and to take a different tack from some of your regular readers who chose to ignore it–which is their right. Having seen way too much of such racism around, I just wanted to declare how I felt about it and why, that it cheapens public discourse and dissuades people from wanting to participate in it. My question as title was to propose my general response to such dilemmas and why.

    Not only do I appreciate your response and how you handled it, I also appreciate your willingness to come and post here and handle things directly, especially when I know your various responsibilities. Many thanks, Bryan, and keep up the good work.


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