Man oh man... there has been some outcry today in the baseball world about Los Angeles Angels center fielder, Torii Hunter's, choice of words in an interview about trying to get black American kids (or African-American children, if you prefer) interested in playing baseball. I am going to try to be clear and concise and not all over the place, but I make no promises...
Here are the two sentences that incensed people.
"'People see dark faces out there, and the perception is that they're African American," Los Angeles Angels center fielder Torii Hunter says. "They're not us. They're impostors.'"
"It's like, 'Why should I get this kid from the South Side of Chicago and have Scott Boras represent him and pay him $5 million when you can get a Dominican guy for a bag of chips?'"
Here is the full original article from USA Today about getting African American children back into the sport, and the challenges of that goal... You can see the context that these statements were pulled from.
USA Today Article
And here is Torii Hunter's non-sorry apology for his choice of words...
Torii Hunter's blog
I read quite a few comments on Torii's blog, ESPN, and other news outlets, and some people's logic really seemed off to me (of course, that is personal opinion I suppose). I feel the need to address those using my own experience and logic.
Many people were angry that it sounded like Torii was bashing Hispanics by calling them "impostors", but those who know how Torii speaks, knows that there is hardly a more loving, passionate man in baseball. He shoots from the hip, he has fun, and the media and fans love him for his colorful use of language. The "impostor" comment was not said with malice towards anyone, it was his playful way of letting his friend know that there IS a difference between a black man from the Dominican and a black man from Arkansas, he was saying "They aren't black Americans, they aren't the same as me, please don't think that." Yeah, he could have said exactly that, but that's not Torii's style, he is more colorful/playful than that; and, this is an interview, not a speech, he was retelling a story he experienced, so he used the same language he used with his friend.
Here is a story that I feel flavors why I side with Torii on this one... I lived for many years, in high school people/friends would always call me Mexican or group me in with other Hispanics (anyone who spoke Spanish was a Mexican to them) I would tell them "I am not Mexican, I am Spanish and Cuban" and they would say "Same thing". It is irritating when people don't respect your roots and I am sure it is just as irritating to Torii when white people (or anyone) say "You guys all look the same to me, there is no difference." What? Really? A black kid from Cuba is no different than a black kid from the US? Now THAT is an ignorant/racist comment. So Torii's "impostor" comment may sound like a knock to Latin Americans, but it's more a knock to everyone who just looks at skin color and can't/wont differentiate between cultures.
As for Torii saying they sign Hispanic players for "a bag of potato chips"? Again, this isn't saying that Hispanic players are worth a bag of chips, he is saying that for the most part, the MLB can sign Hispanic kids (at a VERY young age sometimes 9-10 years old) for next to nothing and put them into an academy (where they are schooled, fed, given room...all these things might be more than their families can provide). If an American kid was asked by a major league team to move to an academy when he is 10 years old, you know there will be an agent and significant money would have to change hands, and it wouldn't be "a bag of chips" because things are done differently in the US... Those other countries don't play by our rules of child labor and the such, if they did, those academies would be out of business, and it would probably be a bad thing since those academies are a boarding school for many of these kids, giving them a better chance at life. Of course, I don't know any of these things for sure, it is just information I gleaned from articles, and from watching documentaries and films like "Sugar"
Yes, yes, a few very talented Cuban exiles sign large contracts, not a bag of chips at all, but that is a minority (and they are usually older with plenty of experience), the truth is the majority of these kids are paid very little to dedicate themselves to the baseball academies for many years (this is the equivalent of a minor minor league). Again, Torii could have said "You can get a Dominican guy for much less than a black kid with an agent" but that isn't Torii's style of speech.
So Torii made a statement so he could clarify what he meant by the "impostor" statement he made in the interview, and he said this...
"What I meant was they're not black players; they're Latin American players. There is a difference culturally."
Holy smokes, people jumped down his throat again... his implying that a black Dominican is not "black"... Ugh... people are so stuck on the semantics and the details of Torii's words. People started jumping down his throat saying that he is ignorant and that all blacks in the New World came from the same place... yes, totally right, but that's not what Torii's talking about. He slipped up "again" and most probably meant "black Americans" are not the same as black Hispanics.
People on the forums were saying that black is black, white is white... that color was more important than culture... I think those people are way way off base.
I don't agree that skin color is more important than nation of birth (or tribe or family). I think there is a difference between people from different cultures/nations, even if skin color is the same. It is funny that people keep calling out Torii for being ignorant, when Torii's "impostor" comment was a story related about the naive ignorance of one friend thinking that all dudes on his team with black skin are the same. The truth is that the plight of the African-American, (or the American black man), is very different than the plight of other black skinned people around the world, they do not share a common modern history (last 200 years), yes they share a mother land, but that distant history has been lost to them for a long long time. It seemed to me that the civil rights movement of the 60's was there so that we could move away from that separation, so that the black man living in America could finally be accepted by his adopted home (yes he was forced here, but it is his home now) and be a full fledged black American citizen. Making a comment that "black is black, black Americans and black Dominicans are the same because they all came from Africa" is like saying that Mexicans and El Salvadorians are the same because they both came from "olive skinned" Spaniards. THAT is ignorance.
Again, I think most of this outrage is because people are focusing on the details, they are more interested in the drama of controversy rather than supporting a good cause and a good human being... People are losing track of the tone/emotion of Torii's mission, he is not out to start a war between nations, he simply wants black American kids to take up baseball and he doesn't think it's right for people to naively say "There are tons of dark skinned people on the field, they're black like you, so we don't need anymore."
I support Torii. I think it is very big of him to humble himself to his fans on his blog.
A number of people on his blog posted a Bible quote, and I think it is appropriate when people are calling Torii "ignorant" (even after he admitted there was a misunderstanding) with his naive/innocent choice of words... it is from Matthew 7:3-5
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."