Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Concerning Escobar

Ain't it the way?  Here I am yesterday finally dedicating myself to working up one of my patented gigantic posts (which any post here is all too rare this summer) and just wondering how to handle the breaking-but-predictable news of the Buffalo deal and THIS happens. Not that I'm complaining about my minor inconvenience, just noting the timing conflict. So I laid aside that draft for a couple of days in order to let my thoughts on this incident stand on their own.

I don't want to belabor the observations that are already widely published in the public record, other than to just note where I can agree. I agree with AA that the opportunity for education ought not be lost; I agree with both the proposition that he may have deserved to be benched the rest of the year, and also with the observation that given the cultural context, 3 games is not wholly unreasonable in terms of length; I agree with the observation that the league really needs to form a policy here as there seems to be a rather wild range of potential outcomes for being a public asshole as an MLB player.

Most of all I do think it's fair to acknowledge that within the cultural context of Latino players, it's not considered an offense and, indeed, within the context of professional athletics and other "locker room" type settings, it's common usage. Indeed, from what I have heard in various "guy" situations - fishing trips, poker games, whatever - (not that I'm an active participant in that circle) it's a pretty accepted "throwaway" dig that is apparently considered a "free" slur in that no one present is assumed to be offended. it is a synonym for "sissy" or "girly man" or whatever.

This in no way makes it right or acceptable - but what it is, is very very COMMON.

And therein lies the problem. 60 years ago, it was likewise common to use the work "nigger" indiscriminately with no fear of repercussion. In some circles among blacks today, they still feel entitled to use "nigga" as a "free word" that doesn't insult anyone. I heard and rebuked it often among middle school kids when I was teaching. So the idea of using an offensive word without offensive intent is legitimate.

The problem is in the implication. If a man calls another man a "sissy" he does so with the INTENT to insult, else there would be no point in calling him that. it's not a word like "mate" or "bro" - self evidently. therefore it's logical to ask "WHY is it insulting?"
Why?
Because being that which one is called is understood by mutual consent to be a BAD thing. That is, "you are less than me because you are a sissy." and THAT is why it is a slur, no matter the intent. Because the use of the term AS an insult implies the belittling and denigrating of the sort of person the label refers to. THAT is the mindset that needs changing and is most difficult to change because it often exists in the minds of people outside the locker room, the poker game, or wherever - outside that circle of folks who would ever allow themselves to speak the word "faggot" no matter what language.

There's a TV show you might be watching (if not you should be) which is Canadian in origin and currently airing on the CW network in the U.S. called "The LA Complex." One of the main characters is a "gangsta rap" star who is a closeted homosexual. Played with great skill and surprising grace by Andra Fuller, the rapper, Kaldric King, is seen to struggle fiercely with accepting himself and with the knowledge that to be exposed as a homosexual man is to commit career suicide. He does and says some very bad things in an effort to balance the competing interests and, indeed, reflects in his own view of himself the bigotry he knows exists in the culture around him. Kal is, though fictional, the other side of the coin from Yunel Escobar (and the other Latino players who are saying "it's not really a bad word to us"). He's the man who looks in the mirror and struggles to say the words "I'm a faggot" and is deeply ashamed because his culture has told him, by word and deed, that this makes him less that other men.

Changing that mindset is a MUCH bigger task than changing how Yunel thinks, and it's one that all civilized folks ought to be about doing.

1 comment:

DJaysM said...

Well said!

I have read a lot of posts on this (as everyone has) over the last 24hrs. The opinions range from outright anger, to a belief that this is blown way out of proportion due to the different understanding of the word from the Latin players.

You have identified the core of the problem perfectly with your post. Even if it wasn't intentionally aimed at anyone, he did intend to cause insult by using the word, otherwise he wouldn't have written it.

Once again, well said.