Fans, Media and Racism Without Racists

This is an extremely touchy subject that I have held off on posting about for a while due to its incredibly volatile and incendiary nature. That said, I think the time is ripe for some brief thoughts on the issue, and then I hope you will join me in a reasoned discussion in the comments.

In 2008, Nicholas Kristoff wrote an op-ed article in the Times about the possibility that Barack Obama was facing racism from non-racists. He explained:

John Dovidio, a psychologist at Yale University who has conducted this study over many years, noted that conscious prejudice as measured in surveys has declined over time. But unconscious discrimination — what psychologists call aversive racism — has stayed fairly constant……

Faced with a complex decision, he said, aversive racists feel doubts about a black person that they don’t feel about an identical white. “These doubts tend to be attributed not to the person’s race — because that would be racism — but deflected to other areas that can be talked about, such as lack of experience,” he added.

To state it simply, many of us believe ourselves to be non-racists, but still harbor some unconscious stereotypes and aversions that we are hardwired for culturally. So what does this have to do with sports? I believe that this sort of “racism without racists” creeps up from time to time in discussions and judgements about athletes.

Before I bring an example and expand this discussion, I want to make something very clear. I AM NOT ACCUSING ANYONE OF BEING A RACIST. On the contrary, I am suggesting that as human beings, we have absorbed some of the cultural biases that surround us, and therefore make unconscious judgements and decisions that would be at least slightly racist were they made knowingly. Furthermore, although the op-ed was in reference to President Obama, please leave politics out of your comments. This is a discussion about “racism without racists” in sports.

This topic has been rolling around my head since I saw the following quotes in a Jayson Stark article. Stark asked a number of talent evaluators to choose between Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander, and all chose Hernandez. However, this comment by one of the evaluators caught my eye:

“Now we’ll see what the contracts do to both guys. It won’t faze Verlander, but I guess it’s possible Felix could get a little complacent. His makeup doesn’t suggest it, but you never know.

When I posted this comment on Twitter, a number of followers had the same reaction that I did. Namely, if it is not in the character of either player to be fazed by his new deal, why would Felix be the one to be singled out as a slight possibility to become complacent? To me, this hinted at the issue discussed in the op-ed linked above. Verlander is white, while Felix is not, and the speaker unconsciously attributed complacency to the non-white.

Chris briefly touched upon this dichotomy earlier in the week, when discussing Robbie Cano’s lack of speed. he noted that Joe Buck referred to him as a burner a number of times during the World Series, and suggested the following:

In addition, though I am hesitant to say this in fear of a backlash, there are longstanding ethnic and racial stereotypes which distinguish minorities as “fast runners,” so I wonder if this is also implicitly at play with guys like Robinson Cano and Orlando Hudson. This is a difficult issue to discuss, but, as many academics have noted, it is a characterization that exists.

I think Chris was spot on with his analysis here. Cano, in particular, seems to be a magnet for this sort of rhetoric. In fact, as I was writing this post, Bob Klapisch posted an article in which he suggested Dustin Pedroia would look good in pinstripes, for the following reasons:

Yes, we know the Yankees have the more talented second baseman in Robinson Cano. The Bronx incumbent is smooth, super-cool and has a hitting DNA to die for. But Pedroia plays harder and has a greater emotional investment in the day-to-day outcome of his team. In other words, he cares more than Cano.

There is absolutely no way for Klapisch to know which of the two cares more. All I know is that Robinson Cano is always working on his craft, tinkering with his swing all offseason. When he struggled in 2008, he spent his entire All Star break attempting to fix his swing. Is it possible that he occasionally loses focus on the field? Sure, and people should be quick to point it out when it happens. But to state unequivocally that he cares less than Pedroia is irresponsible, and is, in my opinion, an embodiment of the “racism without racists” mindset.

Baseball fans are commonly exposed to this sort of dichotomy, in which white players are often presented as gritty and do everything they can to maximize their talents, while minority players are “athletic” and “smooth,” and “make it look easy out there.” The successes of white players are attributed to effort, while the successes of non-white players are explained by inherent ability. Failures by minorities players are often explained by pointing to a lack of effort. Failures by white players have a way of occasionally being rationalized away or even forgotten. Paul O’Neill failed to run out two balls in Game 3 of the 1999 World Series. I am a huge O’Neill fan, and I had no idea about this story until recently. It did absolutely nothing to diminish O’Neill’s reputation, and he never got dubbed lazy or inattentive. I wonder whether a player from a minority group would have emerged equally unscathed.

Some will say that I am making mountains out of molehills, and that in most ways, sports have become post-racial. I have a hard time accepting that viewpoint. As I have noted elsewhere, there were racial conflagrations in American cities in the 90’s. Race is still a touchy subject, and one that still touches many issues and spheres of life. Just because there is not overt racism in the judgment of ballplayers does not mean that long standing beliefs colored by racial undertones have not seeped into those judgments.

I stated earlier that I did not intend to call the writers and baseball men referenced above racists, and I want to reiterate that point here. Those quoted above are not “bad” people, nor should they be censured for the things they wrote or said. Rather, I am simply pointing out that we are all a product of the society in which we were cultivated, and our society is not yet finished with issues of race. We have thankfully moved from an era where overt racism in sports is the norm to one where it is exceedingly rare. But latent racism still exists in the sports world, and we do ourselves a disservice by ignoring it or acting like it is not an issue. Only by candidly discussing it can we hope to make it a thing of the past.

0 thoughts on “Fans, Media and Racism Without Racists

  1. Awesome work, Mo. Great read and you’re dead on. Implicit racism is commonplace in our society. Baseball is no different. As you said, it is best to discuss these things rather than to pretend as if they do not exist.

  2. That was a well written piece, Mo. We all have a predisposition to interpret the world the way we have always interpreted the world. This is why statistical analysis is so important — it can prove or disprove what we think we see.

  3. Im a Yankee fan but everyone is always gushing about Pedroia, so I wouldn’t necessarily interpret it as racism

  4. You are 100% correct about everything you wrote. I have handwritten notes on a legal pad about half of the stuff you said there, including Joe Buck calling Cano fast. I noticed every time he said it, because Buck is known as a man who really knows the game and who reviews a lot of research. In fact, he constantly talks about what a great research team they have. To call a guy who is obviously slow a “burner” is just confusing, but put into the context that he plays a middle infield position, is young, and is a minority, I can understand Buck’s confusion. It honestly may be asking too much of a person like Buck to say that he shouldn’t make such assumptions. We all do — some more than others, sure — but we all do. It’s unreasonable to ask Buck to know the 40 times of each player on every roster in the MLB. You and I know that Cano is slow and only getting slower, but Buck has to occasionally make assumptions based on his own two eyes, and his own two eyes look at Cano and see a fast runner. When I played baseball as a kid, I used to always be the fastest player on my team. One year a white coach was literally astounded by my speed, and he approached me to ask if I had a really good tan or if I was “something else.” I explained that I am half Black, and he said “I knew it was something.” I was 12. This sentiment hasn’t changed in the slightest, but people are trained not to articulate these thoughts. The sentiments themselves, though, are valid, to an extent, and so they won’t be disappearing any time soon. Enslaved Black people were killed for being smart, and forced to breed if they were particularly athletic and capable, so it makes sense that many of color are more “athletic” than their counterparts.
    There is a difference between Buck’s presumptuous remarks about Cano and Klapisch’s offensive ones, however, and I say that as a man who cannot stand to hear Joe Buck call a baseball game. To say that, given two comparable players, one white and one Black (but not African-American), the white player has done it by caring more and the Dominican player just has it in his DNA, and to say furthermore that you can tell he doesn’t care as much, without having spoken to him to inform yourself of his attitude, is irresponsible and ridiculous. I saw what you saw today and it jumped at me immediately. Cano has it in his DNA? How the hell does Klapisch know that? Cano doesn’t care as much as Pedroia? How the hell would he know how much Robinson Cano cares? And furthermore, cares about what? What we know about his hitting is that he’s been really good despite one down year and that he’s always working to get better. Fielding? Look, the guy is slow and yet he still gets there and he still makes amazing plays. It’s not like he throws to the wrong base and then later says “I don’t care that I threw to the wrong base, I’m a great player so get off my back.”
    The King Felix thing is perhaps your best example. That was the first I’d heard of it and it was downright hilarious to read. Verlander won’t change for money, but Felix might. It’s not in his makeup at all, but he is Latino, so it’s impossible to say for certain. That’s basically how that read.
    Anyway, I always have more to say on the topic of race in sports, so I’m going to stop myself there, before I become frustrated instead of reasoned and objective. Thanks for the post. I’m really happy someone else is seeing what I’m seeing and hearing what I’m hearing.

  5. This is gospel chief. You see this all the time in NFL coverage but no one has the guts to come out and say it. Brett Favre is a “gunslinger” but heaven forbid if a black QB took the risks he does.

    To clarify your quote though about Felix H, it wasn’t made by Stark, it was made by a baseball scout. You may want to make that explicitly clear.

  6. Moshe,

    Great article as usual and accurate. That Cano/Pedroia is just one in a long list of cultural biases to praise the white athlete as hardworking and the latino/black athlete as “getting by on talent”. Pete Abraham when covering the Yankees referred to Brett Gardner as GGBG (gutty, gritty Brett Gardner), would Melky ever get that moniker?

    Tangent: Before Kaplisch and anyone else falls in love with Pedroia please go check his Home/Away splits. Home:896 OPS Away:756 OPS. But I guess that’s just b/c Pedroia plays harder at home than he does on the road.

  7. Moshe – This piece is awesome… You hit the perfect tone and explained the issue patiently, reasonably and intelligently. I was active in that RAB thread you linked-up, trying to explain the points you made in this post, and I couldn’t agree more with you on all counts. Really, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this post. I’ve been reading your work for a while now and I think this is the best thing you’ve published. To deal with such a difficult subject so even-handedly is really impressive and is the mark of a mature thinker and writer. Bravo to you.

    Ok, enough with the praise. If your readers take one thing from this post, I hope it is this: We can have a discussion about stereotypes/prejudice/racism without accusing each other of racism or thinking people are horrible or antagonistic. We all have our biases, nobody is perfect. We can’t really start to understand these issues and deal with them maturely until we can have open and honest discussions about them. This post is a great example of how to do exactly that.

  8. Once more New Yorkers get a chance to see, read, and hear about the charming, talkative and charismatic Curtis Granderson, I think this whole hub bub will become more of a non issue amongst New Yorker fans who may have this mindset.

  9. I was just reading that stupid article on Fox Sports today about ten players who should be on the Yankees. The best parts are how they talked about how Pedroia just cared more than Cano and how the Yankees could scoop up either Pujols or Mauer if they really wanted.

  10. good point, i never thought of it that way. but you also should be able to say that pedroia is gritty and works really hard, and cano is smooth and naturally gifted, without it automatically being racist. i dont think it means the people quoted are racist at all, just that racism exists on a subconsciousness level in society to an extent.

  11. This is a great post. As you recall, last year I gave you a lot of crap about the Gardner versus Cabrera posts and your comment that Cabrera was no good. (Which you reversed months later in an honest reassessment; I am not trying to reargue the case.) But I do want to say that part of my reaction was based on a feeling that many people wanted Gardner to be better simply because he is the classic white scrappy guy (our Pedroia). If it was between two latino guys, my sense would be that people would have been far more balanced in their views. Indeed, if Gardner ever puts up Cabrera numbers from last year, then many would want to cannonize him. I am not trying to be overly provocative, nor am I calling anyone a racist, but I do question whether there was some sub-conscious racism going on. Perhaps I am overly sensitive because I am a latino too, but just thought that I would throw it out there given that you have pinched the subject.

    Finally, in anticipation of the responses, let me just say that I am well aware that Cabrera had a horrible 2008 and that Gardner started out Spring training like a ball of fire. However, I am also aware that Cabrera was younger, already had some successs in the Majors, and was outhitting Gardner by the end of Spring training.

  12. I think that Moshe did an excellent job on a very touchy subject. I’d like to add a few things.

    Implict racism is indeed a problem, but it also is a problem getting better. If we look at Curtis Granderson, for example, the first thing that we hear about is his devotion to charity and the Detroit community. Dozens of other minority players and their relationship with fans and the media around the league are shining examples of racial equality.

    Often, I also think that this problem is misdiagnosed. I remember rumblings of accusations of racial overtones of criticism to Alfonso Soriano’s defense back in the day, when in reality he was just a really terrible defensive player. It should be no shock that defense and baserunning – the hardest area of the game to objectively evaluate with statistics – is often the subject of implicitly racial comments.

    Its no coincidence that Jackie Robinson’s entrance into the league was a major event in the racial integration of America. Sports affords us a chance to see each other on an equal playing field. At the end of the day, the scoreboard doesn’t have any prejudices. Teams that were slower to integrate back in the day were the teams that were unable to compete with their smarter rivals. Its a pity that it took so long – maybe we’d all know Satchel Paige’s true place in history with a lot more clarity.

    At the same time, we are seeing the number of black players in the majors decline every year. The root of the problem comes from the lack of inner city parks, fields, and equipment. MLB needs to do a better job sponsoring youth urban baseball, or else an entire class of people may grow up never having the chance to play the greatest sport in the world. That’s a racial story that gets a lot less press but is a lot more important than whether or not Robinson Cano is lazy. MLB’s outreach is amazing compared to other businesses, but a lot more could be done.

  13. EJ Fagan: Sports affords us a chance to see each other on an equal playing field.

    I think this is an excellent point. On the playing field itself, I think sports is ahead of society as a whole in terms of race, simply because most teams will try and put winning ahead of any racial considerations.

    Also, I wonder about your last point. Where are those black players going? Meaning, are they simply playing other sports, or are they not getting into athletics at all? if it is the first one, I don’t think that is a societal issue as much as a future of baseball issue. If it is the second, then you have a larger issue on your hands.

  14. I don’t know if the evaluator quoted on Felix is racist or not, but often when someone in baseball talks about a player getting “complacent” they’re actually talking about weight and conditioning. In Felix’s case, even though he’s a great competitor, the concern isn’t completely unfounded–in the past, Felix put on a lot of weight during the off-season. Didn’t seem to affect him on the mound once the games mattered, but scouts tend to take a dim view of that.

  15. To start, I’d like to commend Moshe on producing yet another excellent post. You guys do a wonderful job here at TYU and Moshe, to parrot Mondesi’s message, this really displayed a rare sense of eloquence, maturity, and even-handedness. Now, let me wipe my mouth.

    Good, onto the content. Clearly we’re all in agreement that to make any degree of progress concerning biases or grievous offenses in race –or really any sort of non-character prejudice– we’ll need to get a little uncomfortable and express our issues. I’m thinking that there may be actual instances of “laziness” or even apathy, but perhaps these are incidents just as prevalent among white players but the minority players aren’t afforded degree of leniency.

    Also, think of baseball like school. Say there are four courses you have to take comparable to math, science, English, history: hitting, fielding, base running, throwing. There were some I liked more than others, some I was more “gifted” in and could slack off a bit, and others I was mediocre at best and took little interest in improving in. We can call that “lazy” if you like.

    I’m not saying it’s necessarily the case, but Cano is an excellent hitter, probably enjoys the subject and really works to get better. How he did is fairly easy to quantify as well, which is convenient. That subject is math. Say the next subject is English/writing and the baseball equivalent is fielding. Cano may not enjoy the subject as much as others but he’s naturally very capable and even if he could improve a bit is pretty good. Even if he did improve very well, it would be very hard to quantify. English, like fielding, is a fairly fluid, impalpable thing. Science will be base running. He’s not good at it, he’s unlikely to be good at it even with 1000% effort so he takes a general tone of apathy. Again, I’m not saying this is the case at all, just that we don’t know which aspects of the game he likes most or least, but assuming they’re all in equal standing would seem naive.

    Now, getting to the racial bias: it would seem that if a white player with dirt over his uniform were not really hustling something out, that player would be in line for questioning, but a sweeping statement definitively noting the player being lazy would not be made. It would have to take something egregious, like a Pavano or another such player. I have no background in psychology, race analysis or anything like that, but I bet we (collectively, as humans) are more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to those of our own race than those of different ethnic backgrounds. Why? We’re most familiar with them. If I go to my buddy’s house on 181st and some white guy in jeans and a regular shirt is walking behind me for a few blocks, I don’t think much of it. But a guy wearing “ghetto” clothing is different. I may not think he’s after me or anything like that (I like to trust statistics, generally) but at some point I do have that worry.

    So to conclude, it’s may be that Cano really doesn’t spend max effort on improving or is somewhat uncaring. But if that’s true, it’s probably on the same level as most of his peers or beneath it. That makes him a normal employee. Do I smile 100% of the time and spend max effort on every aspect of my job? No. I spend the most time on the most valuable part, the part that I also happen to like the most. In baseball, that’s hitting. Cano can freakin’ hit. So even if he does mail it in I don’t really care. His production and value is more important to me than his unmeasurables like “heart” and “grit”.

    I realize this is a very crude example, and I apologize for having wasted your time as I lap my Scotch.

  16. I disagree, actually. I’ll be indelicate where you were not.

    Saying those things DOES make you a racist; not necessarily a racist in all aspects and facets of your life, no, but it terms of your worldview regarding baseball players, you’re espousing a racist view when you continue to believe things like Pedroia works hard or Cano is really gifted.

    The fact that you believe these things unthinkingly and without malice aforethought mitigates it a bit and keeps you from being overtly racist, but when your brain accepts racist tropes and thought processes without attempting to mentally eradicate them, you’re accepting racist beliefs as true and thus, are perpetuating racism.

    Here’s why: Yes, Pedroia is a hard worker. He’s also very smooth and athletically gifted, though. Cano is very gifted and smooth. He also grinds out at bats and works hard at being a great baseball player. Continuing to use these labels, even in an innocent, unthinking manner, simply perpetuates the mental division between racial groups that is the lingering residue of more overt discriminatory caste systems.

    Latent racism perpetuates virtually every aspect of our society, which is unsurprising considering the depth and breadth of our legacy as a legally ethnically divided nation. (No, we aren’t going to heal all our racial wounds in a generation… that just doesn’t happen, people. Be realistic). We are now, just as we have always been in the past, socialized to think, speak, and act in biased ways.

    The only way to eliminate the active bias held collectively in society is to remain in constant vigilance against the latent bias we all hold individually. Even in our seemingly innocuous descriptive statements about matters we don’t initially perceive to be related to racial issues.

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  18. Well, to be perfectly honest with you. I think that in today’s day and age this article is pure hogwash, bent on getting attention. What better way to bring attention to a blog than to utter the big “R” word. Seriously, I’m not one to buy it. Every situation listed above could be attributed to something other than the big “R” word. The labeling of the minority players above has been done to whites as well. Whenever people really want to prove their opinion as true, millions of “good” examples could be had to bolster their point of view. Likewise if one wants to prove their opinion to the contrary, another couple million “good” examples exist to use and twist to your Point of view. This type of media literature is of the purest horse crap to exist. It’s inflammatory and irresponsible in nature. Yes there is racism in this country, but not saturating our very subcoinscience to the point it seeps out at every chance to comment on a minority player. And once again all the above statements have been applied to whites as well, gauranteed.

  19. Fantastic piece. Well thought out and well written. I’m so sick of the “Cano doesn’t care or try” crap. He has more talent than almost all of the second basemen out there, but because he has no need to dive into the dirt and chug his arms around like a kid while running, he doesn’t try. Ludicrous.

  20. Moshe, very fine post, well thought out and debated…

    One thing that hasn’t been pointed out (seeing others pointed to studies of….) is, studies have pointed out the FACT; blacks (on the whole) are more God gifted in their physical athleticism then whites. Now this is not a racist comment, it is a scientific fact…not conjecture.
    Where the racism is, is in older people (mostly, I believe), because the younger ones have been PC to death.
    Don’t even think of me being a racist, I’ve had too many men of all races, save my butt too many times, to be anything other then color blind.

  21. Just asked Klaw about this in his chat:

    Moshe Mandel (Boston)

    Do you think latent racism ever crops up in scouting, in terms of players having certain qualities assumed or attributed to them at least partially due to race?
    Klaw (1:27 PM)

    Of course it does. Black players are expected to be athletic, and they’re downgraded if they’re not. White players are more likely to be called “scrappy.” Latino position players are a lot more likely to be left in the middle infield. And so on. It’s ingrained in the industry – it’s not a question of outright racism, or conscious racism, but stereotypes that have existed in the business (and the world) for fifty years and are still alive in the institutional memory that powers so much of the game.

  22. Moshe, great essay and dialogues. My thinking will get better, I hope, and I’ll try to hold my presumptions in check.

    I was skeptical about CC when the Yanks were heaping money on him, even after his Milwaukee heroics. I didn’t understand the grit in this huge (I saw it fat) guy that everybody glorified. I do appreciate now, after seeing his steady contribution and persistence. I saw it with Milwaukee, too. Maybe my acceptance was so grudging because of envy, and lack of personal identification. There, I feel better already.

    I didn’t trust him because I didn’t understand him, and that probably comes from my own felt lack of knowledge of his perspectives, his personal culture. Otherwise known as trust. And, yes, yes, doubts, although I will confess to having known several fine people of the Black persuasion, truly decent and hardworking, team players.

    Sorry, folks, but gimme time: I usually figure it out, eventually.

  23. I think the problem with this discussion is that it relies too heavily on the anecdotal. For example, the Pedroia/Cano thing- my understanding of Cano is that the perception of his attitude has been around for a long time, and is an individual thing. i think that to show “aversive racism” in Klapisch’s attitude, you would have to demonstrate that he had a history of making unfounded statements that played into stereotypes. Pedroia may get a lot of good press, but Jeter, who is biracial, is worshipped like no one else in baseball- I’m guessing his work ethic has never been questioned by Klapisch. Ditto Bernie Williams, Posada, Rivera, or other non-white Yankees over time. Cherry-picking this particular example is not good analysis.

    Even the op-ed example, of Obama, is problematic because it’s non-falsifiable. Forgetting whether you like his policies or not, he was the least-experienced person in the race (whether it was against Hillary or McCain) to be the President. Is it possible someone with unconsciously racist attitudes might use that charge? Sure. But it was also a legitimate point. How do you distinguish between the two?

    I don’t think it’s true that we’re “post-racial” in sports or society in general. In fact, I think the constant focus on race is a part fo the problem. Generating a discussion is all well and good, but i really think you need to focus more systematically on demonstrating that aversive racism exists, because otherwise, it serves as a means to dismiss arguments or ideas that are inconvenient, without a legitimate basis. Ultimately, the point you make about not ignoring racism is a good one, as far as it goes. But a charge so freighted with stigma in polite society should be sparingly used, and only with real evidence. Nothing in the article above constitutes that.

  24. Moshe – excellent post and thoughtful discussion. I think that one of the more interesting aspects of this is that the comments regarding King Felix and complacency were made by a scout. Player evaluation, especially of the variety done by scouts, more easily lends itself to the sort of aversive (unconscious) racism of which you write. After all, these guys make all types of subjective judgments about players based on body type, body language, and my all-time favorite – “the good face.”

  25. Yes, it would be racist to choose one over the other based solely on their ethnicity.That’s not called common sense, that’s called racism.

    There are really two things going on here. Firstly, I think it’s pretty obvious that using ethnicity as a decision rule is racially prejudicial, if not outright racist. Moreover, if someone’s ethnicity had no value as a signal about their business then there is no obvious justification. On the other hand, ethnicity (among a variety of other factors) does in fact have value as a signal. In the US, having darker skin associates a person with an ethnic group that on average has lower education, social services, etc. If you have no other information about them other than their skin tone, and their skin tone is an intermediate variable that gives you information about their level of education and value as a business partner… you benefit by using this information. Flat out. It’s a signal. From a classical rational actor standpoint, the decision is clear.

    With that said, there is a question of balancing the good of the many versus the good for oneself. While I have just given a situation where it is obvious that a person will on average be better off buying from a certain ethnicity (at least in that interaction), that doesn’t make it right. By making this decision, a person is part of a feedback cycle that makes it harder for that person of darker skin tone to succeed. Accordingly, they will be less successful in business and less able to finance their children’s education- perpetuating the issue.

    So the question is: Does acting in one’s self interest, with no intrinsic care as to race, make one racist? The answer to this could easily be no. If your information and knowledge is correct, and that is all you have, people have to work with the information they have available. In some cases, where poverty is split across racial lines strongly in an area- who benefits by you being equally worried about being mugged by a person of any race? Definitely not yourself. I suppose the muggers benefit, but I’m not particularly sure if that is a plus. If you walk around Baltimore being equally cautious about being mugged by a small, old, white female as you do a large, young, African American male, good luck to you soldier. You are indeed a martyr for the cause.

    With that said, in most cases, the risk or expected loss from ignoring racial information is a small cost to pay for helping to improve ethnic equality. Moreover, though the cost of searching for more information is not free- it’s usually pretty cheap. I would certainly say that failing to search for better information than ethnic information is very racist. Especially for matters like this which are issues where the speakers should be experts (election pundits, baseball announcers, etc) I think there should definitely be more care in not perpetuating stereotypes.

    I think a large amount of disagreement on the subject of racism comes from very different concepts of morality. I tend towards a Singerian morality, which is the need for “moral search.” Your morality is judged not by your actions, nor their outcomes, but by your search for the best outcomes. In this case, the obligation is to search for better information that makes ethnicity irrelevant and to search for actions that will help improve equality to remove the use for such a signal. On the other hand, if one has a pure standards-based approach to morality where it is stated “any form of selection by ethnicity is intrinsically wrong” then one will get a very different viewpoint (natural-law based). Or alternatively, the view that “any action that perpetuates racial stereotypes is wrong” (outcome-based).

    Since people generally say that racism is any use of racial information for any purpose they don’t like, the moral viewpoint of the speaker has to be closely examined I would think. Otherwise we end up with this issue, where one man’s common sense is one man’s racism.

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