(*) GM's OFFICE: Reflections on privilege, discomfort and the work ahead

This article was supposed to be about Rafael Devers. I was on the schedule for this week’s Fact/Fluke Spotlight piece, and Devers was the subject. That article can wait. 

Our nation and the world openly grieves the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a former Minneapolis police officer. Up until a few days ago, I was plugging away at my Devers breakdown. Another—ANOTHER—black life was taken and so blatantly disregarded by another person and the nation rightfully responded with outrage and protests over the past week-plus. And here I was fretting over a baseball player’s 2019 pull rate. 

I’ve come to realize, with some help from others, that the choice I could have made—to “keep on going”—is in fact white privilege staring me right in the face. Due to the color of my skin, I have the resources, time and ability to separate the real-world pain of and horrible injustice my black brothers and sisters face every day from my “work” of providing fantasy baseball content.

Which is wrong, and part of the problem.

I struggled for most of the next several days on how/if to respond publicly in support of Black Lives Matter and those demanding societal change. I find online/social media world a tough one to navigate in times like these, for I’m inherently skeptical of what seems to be the here today/gone tomorrow default setting of many platforms. So I told myself I could continue my own work in finding ways to confront systematic racism so embedded in our society without having to make a public statement. That lasted about a day.

We each have a personal responsibility to learn about, recognize and face the unjust treatment of black brothers and sisters in this country. And to then take meaningful steps to oppose and confront it. But subtle and overt forms of discrimination also extend to our systems and permeate all levels of society. And as a leader of one of these minute institutions, BaseballHQ.com, I also have an organizational responsibility to disrupt the destructive cycle of white privilege that erects barriers of entry into our little escapist niche of the world. And to assure readers like you that we are taking steps to be more inclusive. We have a long way to go. For instance, you don’t have to had ever attended one of our First Pitch Forums events to guess what the prevailing demographic is. (Photo from 2017 Arizona event provided above.)

Our silence makes us complicit. 


Discomfort and fear

Authentically responding, then, becomes a weighty issue. And there are two elements related to my response that I’ve been reflecting on as a write this column—discomfort and fear. Both are rooted in my societal privilege, products of generations upon generations of inequality and injustice, both overt and concealed. 

Discomfort: Seeing the images of George Floyd’s death and the outrage on the streets  made me uncomfortable. Heck, writing this column, taking a stand in front of others has been uncomfortable (though it’s my insecurity and need for acceptance that is the source of the internal unrest). Part of me wants to put that reality aside and retreat to my escapist baseball world (though it’s notable that that world does not even exist right now). 

Choosing to avoid discomfort is a white privilege.

Black and brown communities have no such luxury. Mistreatment at the hands of whites for generations upon generations in this country—both overt (slavery) and underhanded (redlining real estate practices)—affects the human soul. Our black and brown brothers and sisters live in a perpetual state of discomfort due only to the color of their skin. When I get squeamish on my couch watching the images of Floyd’s death or the protests, I search for the remote and click out. African Americans think twice about going out for a jog. It’s time to do better. 

Fear: This analogy may be imperfect, but stating it is part of the point. I recognized this week that I have been gripped by a fear of saying the wrong thing in these times. As a white person, I want to be seen as one who understands the black community’s struggle. But in attempting to find the perfect words, the most meaningful actions, I have been paralyzed in responding sooner. Getting things wrong, or offending those I’m trying to stand with, could expose a blind spot for all to clearly see. 

It’s self-protection, yet another byproduct of white privilege. 

Society has communicated to me that being “right” is a quintessential goal, regardless if it is at the expense of another person or group—in this case black and brown Americans. By not speaking up due to this fear of being wrong, I protect my position of power. A position which often excludes or denies rights to other voices. I commit to taking steps to overcome this fear with the goal of inviting more diverse experiences to the table. 

As has been obvious over developments of the past two weeks, fear is no stranger to the African American community. Fear of being targeted by police. Fear of raising their children in this culture. Fear of the future where systemic racism beats out of them the last glimmer of hope.

We all have a part to enact real change and I commit to do more listening to my black and brown brothers, sisters and colleagues. A deeper understanding of their experiences will also set in motion my journey of taking the uncomfortable steps to name white privilege and racism, both in my personal life and here at BaseballHQ.


Steps forward for BaseballHQ.com

The obvious next question is, Where do we go from here? Acknowledging it’s early in the process, there are still some steps BaseballHQ is going to take in the future that reflect our goal of becoming more welcoming to all. 

First, whatever steps we commit to, we ask that readers and industry colleagues hold us accountable. This will be more difficult to maintain when protesters are no longer on our media devices every evening—but that is exactly when we need to be implementing these goals.

Second, we commit as a site to pay more attention to the language we use, knowing that sometimes turns of phrase (even unintentionally) maintains a culture of white privilege and racism. We will work with staff to set some guidelines in this area.

Third, we commit to find ways to ease the economic barrier of entry for subscribers, book buyers and event attendees for people from underrepresented groups. We are discussing a few proposals that we will share at a later date.

Fourth, we will be more intentional in extending our platforms—website, books, live events—to contributors from underrepresented groups.

Fifth, we will review and update internal documents—including our mission statement and editorial manual—to better align with the learnings of this moment. 

In addition, we are involved in a community of fantasy baseball providers who have recognized the homogeny of this hobby and are committed to discussing what changes are necessary. There will likely be some joint initiatives coming from that group that we’ll keep readers informed of.

In the end, fantasy baseball is fun. And our love for this hobby should never outweigh the work that needs to be done. 

This is the beginning of a conversation, and we’ll keep you updated in this space in the future. 

We welcome subscriber feedback and brainstorms in the comments field below.

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