For Me, Not Thee

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Salon.com's Joan Walsh, who had the foresight to examine Dusty Baker's approach to racial issues back in 1997, has written an informative and flawed L.A. Times op-ed suggesting that the minor controversy may signal a new era of unpunished honesty ? as long as the speaker is vetted by watchdogs with views very similar to Joan Walsh's.

Maybe from here on in, we can agree that anyone who says something potentially offensive about race gets a pass as long as the person, like Baker, has a history of cross-racial mixing and inclusion.

This is nonsense, cubed. Free speech works best when granted to everyone, not just to those considered to be enlightened. As occasional Reason contributor Jonathan Rauch argues in Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, one of the fundamental principles underpinning liberal science is that "No one has personal authority. ? Who you are doesn?t count; the rules apply to everybody, regardless of identity."

It is heartening that Baker hasn't been officially punished for saying what he believes, but for now it proves nothing about the colorblind exchange of ideas. John Rocker—an individual performer, not a manager of men—was suspended for 63 days three years ago after complaining that a New York City subway ride could mean sharing space with "some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids," and for describing an overweight dark-skinned teammate as a "fat monkey." That former teammate, Randall Simon, was just suspended for a grand total of three days after swatting a 19-year-old woman with a baseball bat. Until a white player or manager can say something more or less equivalent to Baker's comments and avoid punishment, we won't know whether sticks and stones will finally be valued by Major League Baseball as more hurtful than names.

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  1. Black leaders and white liberals have kept black Americans so focused on superficial indications of racism, that we overlook the most pernicious and ruinous use of race, that is, as an economic weapon ? not just to deter one’s employment in companies created by others, but to hamper the ability to create employment for oneself.

  2. To the first gutless/anonymous poster: just because MLB has a First Amendement right to be politically correct weenies does not mean that no one should talk about it. Freedom of speech/association is a double-edged sword.

  3. Uh, it’s a private team with private owners. They can do, and suspend, whoever they want. What’s all the hooha aboot?

  4. Randal Simon & John Rocker:

    John Rocker was suspended from a private organization that depends greatly on the goodwill of a huge and diverse body of fans. It was an act of corporate hygiene and self-defense, completely justified.

    Randal Simon, on the other hand, was just goofing around and obviously had no intention of clubbing any human sausages to death. If that woman is so upset about her scraped knees, she shouldn’t have been prancing around in a top-heavy sausage costume. Or at least she should have work kneepads.

    Randal Simon is a comedian. A human sausage race is amusing. Having a guy (pretend to) take after one of the sausages with a baseball bat is supremely, and sublimely, amusing. He should get a show on Fox, not a suspension.

  5. It’s inapt to compare Dusty Baker’s honest and good faith observations with Rocker’s string of slurs.

    Strangely enough, the folks I work with — a roughly 50/50 mix of Black and White professionals (lawyers, accountants) think Baker is right. One of the Black guys pointed to the sunburned noses on the White folk around the water cooler as evidence in support of Baker’s theory.

    Then again, maybe it’s gotten to the point where the elite consider it racist, or at least politically incorrect, to note the Blacks have darker skin than Whites.

  6. Why is it a “free speech” issue for Baker to suffer professional consequences for his (allegedly) offensive speech, when it is not a “free speech” issue for the Dixie Chicks to suffer professional consequences for their (allegedly ) offensive speech?

  7. racists

  8. What I never understood was that while Rocker was being burnt at the stake on sports talk radio, ESPN, etc for his comments, no one seemed to care that Ray Caruth (sp?) a wide reciever in the NFL had hired a hitman to kill his pregnant girlfriend. Hardly a peep.

    Speaking to the fact that Dusty meant it in a good natured way, couldn’t we say the Jimmy “The Greek” didn’t mean what he said to be offensive? I think it is fairly clear that Baker is being given a pass because of his skin color, and he even admits as much. With that being said, I don’t think anyone should be suspended for stupid things they say.

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