You can’t really win when it comes to talking about race on the record. Even if there’s something to a charge of racism it’s always denied. Denied so often that, if you take people’s word for it, you’d have to conclude that there are no racists in this country anymore, the last of their kind having died sometime in the 1970s. Indeed, there is way more indignation voiced these days by those who claim they are wrongly accused of racism than by actual targets of racism who, you know, have good damn reason to be indignant.
Of course, this goes both ways. Race is frequently erroneously brought up when there are multiple better explanations for one’s allegedly shabby treatment. It’s a dangerous world out there for those people who are inclined to call a jerk a jerk because — if the races of the jerk and the one calling him a jerk don’t match up — there’s always the threat of a bogus accusation. Which then leads back to the dynamic from the previous paragraph. And it’s always the worst when a genuine racist and a person who has cried wolf before disagree about something. Which is a big reason I don’t watch any cable news.
The point here isn’t to figure out racial politics. It’s to note that, when someone throws out racism as a potential explanation for something, it’s almost 100% certain that we’ll quickly end up talking about something other than the actual incident in question. It’s something that I’m guessing Andy Martino of the Daily News will soon be quite conversant with following his exploration of why Mets fans seemed to hate Luis Castillo so much:
But what is it, exactly? Why is one of the toughest and most passionate Mets so unpopular among fans? Asked if the issue was about race, Castillo, who is Dominican, shrugged and wondered why the public did not appreciate his willingness to play through intense foot and leg pain … Castillo, reluctant like most players to wander into a subject fraught with controversy and misinterpretation, chose not to discuss race. A friend of his only partially accepted the premise that Castillo’s troubles were related to his skin color and heritage.
For Martino’s part, he never accuses anyone of racism, but notes that nonwhite players tend to be called lazy more often than white ones are, notes the divide between Hispanic and non-Hispanics in the Mets clubhouse in recent years and recalls how much criticism Omar Minaya took for seeming to favor Hispanic players when it came time to fill out the roster.
And Martino isn’t wrong to make those observations. Quite right actually, at least in the abstract. But just as everyone will acknowledge that the concept of racism exists in general while never admitting to being a racist themselves, no one will ever acknowledge that Luis Castillo was hated because of race even if they admit that there are clear dynamics in sports that cause us to evaluate and talk about players of color in ways we never evaluate or talk about white players. Especially on recent editions of the New York Mets.
In other words: this inquiry will probably get us nowhere. And Martino will probably find himself on the defensive before sundown, with everyone talking around this issue as opposed to about it.