Monday, May 07, 2007

Why Black and White Isn't Black & White

From "Americans conflicted about Bonds' home run chase" at

More than half of baseball fans are rooting against Barry Bonds as he tries to break Hank Aaron's major league home run record of 755, according to an ESPN/ABC News poll.

The survey found that 52 percent of fans hope Bonds doesn't break the record, while 37 percent of fans want him to surpass Aaron's mark, set in 1974.

In addition, 73 percent of fans think Bonds used steroids, despite Bonds' repeated denials. Bonds has never tested positive for steroids.

However, race plays a unique role. Black fans in the survey are more than twice as likely to want Bonds to break Aaron's record (74 percent to 28 percent), and 37 percent of black fans think Bonds used steroids, compared to 76 percent of white fans.

Blacks are nearly twice as likely to think Bonds has been treated unfairly (46 percent to 25 percent). Why? The survey found that 41 percent of black fans think this is due to the steroids issue, 25 percent think it's because of his race, and 21 percent blame Bonds' personality.

For whites who think Bonds has been treated unfairly, 66 percent blame steroids. Virtually none blame race.

"Virtually none blame race." Of course not—how quickly are most people eager to claim they're not racist, homophobic, or that they harbor no bias of any kind?

Race does play a unique role in life, but attempts to quantify racial and cultural effects only reinforce the fear of some Imus-ian backlash. Additionally, reducing the parameters of such studies to black versus white posits a dynamic which doesn't exist in real life—let alone on the baseball field.

What of baseball fans who aren't black or white (or both)? Even the headline of the article—"Americans conflicted about Bonds' home run chase"—implies that if you're not black or white, you're not American.

Baseball is the only major sport which can truly claim a "world classic" competition. Major League Baseball should work to ensure the American version of the sport embraces that attitude—in celebration and in controversy.