This past week, play wrapped up for the World Baseball Classic. My husband and I are avid baseball fans. We watched a lot of the games during the classic. Many of the US games were pretty late at night, but we stayed up to cheer on our team as often as we could!
As a fan, one of the things that kind of bothered me was that more of the top flight players didn’t participate. It seemed that some of the other countries participating were very excited to play and represent their country. There were flags and horns. Chants and special t-shirts. The Puerto Rican team even dyed their hair blond! I love international events because you get to see how other cultures respond to the same sport. It’s a ton of fun!
Right before the championship game with Puerto Rico, Ian Kinsler, the second baseman for the US was asked about the style with which some of the Latin teams played. He said
“I hope kids watching the WBC watch the way we play the game and appreciate the way we play the game as opposed to the way Puerto Rico plays or the Dominican plays. That’s not taking anything away from them. That just wasn’t the way we were raised. They were raised differently and to show emotion and passion when you play. We do show emotion; we do show passion. But we just do it in a different way.”
Now, I’ll be honest with you. When I heard that comment, I was like, ‘Say what?’
What do you mean…the way THEY play? Who?
The Puerto Ricans and Dominicans?
Because they are loud?
Because they are passionate?
Why is there an ‘as opposed to’ in that statement?
And what ABOUT they way they were RAISED? Like when you raise a kid to show emotion, that’s wierd?
What is this DIFFERENT way? And why is it even worth mentioning?
Because Americanism is the default?
Yep. Because the stoicism that is ‘Americanism’ is the ‘right way’.
Because the way WE see things is the way it SHOULD be done, and folks need to come our way.
Teachers, this type of reasoning can be seen across racial lines. There were black American players affirming too. Sometimes, bias is about class….sometimes it is about culture. This is about being American, and everyone else being otherized because they are NOT American. The reason why these thoughts slip out in unguarded moments is because that’s what we as Americans…as middle class people truly think. The people who are offended at this type of thinking are either super woke, or the exact group we are marginalizing.
The faces we make when we see certain things in a lunch box.
The discomfort we have when people are speaking their native tongue and we don’t understand it.
Trying to indoctrinate students into middle class Americanism as if it is the default is damaging to learners of diverse background.
People who are not American first can sense these micro-aggressions. Over the years, I’ve had white teachers ask me why their parents think they are racist. These types of things are at the root of it. Side eye comments about the way a certain demo of student acts, or doesn’t act…how they work…IF their parents work…broad based assumptions about our kids, their culture or their lives away from school should quickly be guided in a different direction.
To his credit, Kinsler did try to sanitize his previous comments.
“What I said was that American kids can watch American players play, Puerto Rican kids can watch Puerto Rican players play, Venezuelan kids can watch Venezuelan guys play, and that’s who they emulate. That’s who they watch. That’s who they want to be like. There’s nothing wrong with an American kid watching a Puerto Rican player and wanting to be like them, or a Puerto Rican kid watching an American player
and wanting to play that way.
“You should play the way you want, and the way you feel will put you in the best position to win—the way you feel the best and perform the best. Everybody is different. I play differently than a lot of my teammates on this team; I play with a little more emotion than most players during the season. Everybody has their own style! That’s all I was saying.”
The damage has already been done though. He said what he said, and the walk back doesn’t even sound close to what he originally said.
Surely he doesn’t want Hispanic fans of his regular baseball team to be offended, but both statements were awkward at best.
There’s no denying that the flair with which the Puerto Rican and Dominican teams played brought a lot of energy to a fairly bland tournament. Diversity makes us better. It makes us stronger. Strength comes from embracing these changes, rather than finding fault with it. Watch for these nuances in conversations, and also, be aware of these biases in yourself if they come up. It only makes us better when we consider how we are approaching cultural differences.