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.