I just saw the news about the Blue Jays player Yunel Escobar who had a homophobic slur written in his eye-black during a game this weekend.
It reminded me of the challenges of recognizing discrimination in a multicultural society.
If Escobar played the whole game with these words on his face, a few things come up for me:
1. Either no one else on the team speaks Spanish, or none of them cared (or cared to speak up). If it’s the latter, it’s problematic either way.
2. If no one speaks Spanish, wasn’t anyone curious or is writing in your eye-black a common thing?
3. And how brazen! Millions of people would see that message on TV, watching the game (all the more reason to ask questions #1 and #2). So I’m going to ask: did no one care to find out what this said? Or for those that knew, why didn’t anyone say or do something?
The answers are obvious, in some ways. Speaking up can be difficult. But especially with so much at stake (How many people watch a baseball game? How many are kids? How many kids idolize baseball players and want to be like them?) someone should have asked and/or said something. Remember, silence equals complicity.
In a society where many language are spoken, it gets a little more complicated, and our responsibility includes asking questions and educating ourselves about the words that can hurt in different languages.
Especially as teachers or people in positions of authority – or role models.
If you want to stand up against discrimination, you have to be able to recognize it, and to do so, you have to know what the hurtful words are – and not just in English.
Of course, some people worry that exposing the slurs – in any language – teaches them, and that they will be used more. Especially in schools.
That may be. But the alternative is that people are being targeted and bullied without our knowledge. And we can’t stand for that, especially in schools.
So. Take some time to learn the slang, so that when you hear it, you can speak out against it. It could make all the difference to the person being bullied.
Egale Canada has a Terms and Concepts page on the My GSA website that includes slang. Check it out.
Finally, this is homophobia in action: the words Escobar wrote in his eye-black as well as the silence. Homophobia is rampant in the sports world. If you haven’t seen Brian Burke’s If You Can Play, You Can Play campaign yet (anti-homophobia in the NHL), have a look. Baseball should get on board.
Copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
Speaker, Author and Facilitator on issues of Diversity & Inclusion.