I don’t get the sense that Tigers’ broadcaster Rod Allen is a bad guy. I think he’s a lot like someone’s father or grandfather who just really isn’t all that plugged in with the sensibilities of modern public discourse. Which, because he’s a broadcaster and not, like someone’s grandfather, simply some guy who talks with the fellas at the coffee shop, gets him in trouble from time to time.
Back in July he got into some trouble after saying that some Hispanic players’ reward for good play was going to be “rice and beans” in the clubhouse. I never got the slightest sense that he was being racist about anything, it just was something that was not artfully put. He apologized.
Last night it happened again. As he was talking about how Buffalo was his favorite minor league city, he noted some of the fun promotions and entertainments that went down there:
“The atmosphere at the ballpark was second-to-none. They had people at the concession stands that were dancing on top of the dugouts. They had some midgets around, they had some giants around.”
While not exactly at the forefront of the politics of minority discourse, it has been the case for some time that the term “midgets” is considered derogatory and that those who once were referred to as such prefer to be called “little people.”
Someone obviously told this to Allen during a break because he came back and apologized for using the term. I think it’s pretty clear that it was just something he wasn’t aware of — I’m sure a lot of people aren’t aware of it — and his apology sounded 100% genuine. This is firmly in the “hey, it happens” category and no one should hold any ill will toward Allen about it going forward.
But I note it anyway, not in an “OMG, look what Allen said!” kind of way, but because I think that there’s a useful takeaway here. That takeaway is that, though many people will likely say that this is no big deal and turn this into some “political correctness run amok” debate, I think people should have a right to be called what they wish to be called. If the people who were once referred to as midgets want to be little people, they’re little people. A group’s self-identity should be an inviolate right.
Of course there are two sides to that, and the other side is the dissemination of that public identity. I’m sure that Allen had no idea that little people prefer to be known as little people before last night. But he does now. As do the people who read this. If you don’t know and you use some out-of-favor term, hey, no biggie. But if you do know and you continue to use the out-of-favor term, you’re just being an ass, ya know?
Apologies to asses, however, if they prefer to be called something else. If you tell me what the term is, I’ll start using it.