Banning One Racist Fan Doesn't Fix Red Sox Racism

Adam Jones is pictured as he looks up into the centerfield bleachers.
Adam Jones is pictured as he looks up into the centerfield bleachers.

There are two widely accepted definitions for racism in America. They are as follows:

Rac·ism (noun):

1) When a white person gets caught saying “n*gger” in public (See also: Boston).

2) When a person of color hurts a white person’s feelings by discussing actual racism.

That’s it. Everything else is apparently up for debate. Everything. This article, like most of my articles, will fall under the second definition. Not because it’s actually racist, but because that’s a convenient way to dismiss all these jewels Black women are constantly dropping. In fact, according to my backlog of hate mail from angry white folks, I’m the biggest racist this side of Pennsylvania Avenue. So, today, I figured I’d switch gears and talk about baseball.

This week, during a Red Sox game, a white fan was ejected after another white fan overheard him say the featured vocalist had “niggered up” the national anthem. The fan then earned the distinct honor of being the first person EVER banned for life from entering Fenway Park. I reached out to the Red Sox to determine if this fan was also the first person to ever utter a racial slur at a baseball game. I’ll keep you posted in case they decide to hit me back. The singer in question is an unnamed Kenyan woman, whose identity has either been intentionally withheld from the media (despite the fact her hobbies include performing at packed stadiums) or deemed unworthy of reporting on. I employed all my resources — Google and a box of wine — and came up empty-handed here as well. So she, like many victims of racism, has essentially been erased from her own narrative — while white folks have been centered. (Update: Readers have informed me the singer’s name is Mercy Mungai. Thank you!)

On the surface, it’s commendable that the Red Sox made the decision to ban a racist fan, but let’s keep in mind that this is first and foremost a PR opportunity being used to mitigate bad publicity the city and franchise have been getting for their overt culture of racism. It’s not a coincidence that this banning occurred ONE DAY after Orioles outfielder Adam Jones was hit with a bag of peanuts and called a nigger by Red Sox fans. Predictably, racism deniers have accused Jones of fabricating the incident. Former Red Sox player and sports analyst, Curt Schilling, even went so far as to call Jones’s account “bullshit,” adding, “I don’t believe the story, given the world we live in.”

That’s because Black Americans and white Americans are living in two different worlds. In one world, a white person overhears a racial slur and is immediately believed and supported by the League; and the fan in question is ejected and banned for life. Case closed. In the other world, a Black player gets called a nigger to his face, the media doubts it, and it’s “under investigation” by the second most racist police department in the world. And as Adam Jones points out, even banning fans for life is just “a slap on the wrist.” It doesn’t address the behavior; it only moves it to the sports bar across the street for Black citizens to deal with.

Red Sox president, Sam Kennedy, used the ejection to congratulate his own franchise, stating, “That’s the kind of leadership [we] have in our ownership group.” To add insult to injury, Kennedy also released a statement declaring that the fans and the entire organization are “sickened by the conduct of an ignorant few.” That’s the used car salesman way of saying the Red Sox and their fans are totally NOT racist. And it politely undermines the experiences of people of color living in America Boston, screaming from the top of our lungs that society is systemically oppressive and discriminatory.

Of course other sports outlets were quick to echo Kennedy’s myth of a tolerant world sullied by the actions of a “disgraced few.” Boston Mayor, Marty Walsh, weighed in as well, describing the racist taunts directed at Jones as “an unfortunate incident” that does not “reflect the city, [or] who we are as Boston.” Even the Massachusetts governor asserted “This is not what Massachusetts & Boston are about.” Except it is. These are not isolated incidents. Black Bostonians — including myself — are painfully aware of how big a problem racism is in Boston. And we’re not alone.

Last year, comedian, Michael Che, said on national television, “Boston is the most racist city [he’s] ever been to.” He doubled down on those comments in March, following a swift backlash from racism deniers, including — you guessed it — racist Bostonians.

“Non-racists” on Twitter attack Michael Che
“Non-racists” on Twitter attack Michael Che

Ultimately, white people need to stop discounting the overwhelming and suffocating amount of racism experienced by people of color around the country. As I said this week on Facebook (before being promptly banned), “All white people are racist.” That’s not an insult, it’s a reality. We cannot address racism if white people get to define and dismiss it as they see fit. White people cannot practice anti-racism without first acknowledging the ways they are complicit in the oppression of people of color. The same goes for men in correlation to the blatant sexism imposed on women and femmes by patriarchal institutions... like the House of Representatives.

The Boston Red Sox took the easy way out by diminishing the racism occurring at Fenway and throughout the organization. It’s easier to symbolically scold one anonymous fan (knowing good and well there’s no way to enforce a lifetime ban) than to acknowledge the numerous ways in which the franchise perpetuates systemic racism. For example: It’s racist that 40 percent of MLB players are people of color, yet less than ~2 percent of the owners are non-white. It’s racist that Latino and immigrant players “earn less than white players” regardless of their level of production on the field. It’s racist that the Red Sox face off against opponents with team names like the “Indians” and the “Braves” — who promoted racist logos and imagery for decades. In fact, it’s even racist that we still sing the national anthem at baseball games, given the racist history of the song. And I don’t want to get into it now, but it’s gotta be racist to sell nachos at the concession stand for 12 dollars a pop. Maybe the league should address those things before presenting themselves as arbiters of racial justice. Until then, I’ll continue to enforce my own self-imposed ban from Fenway.


Reposted from DiDi Delgado’s page.