Race Matters

Los Angeles Angels of Anheim outfielder Torii Hunter’s comments on black Latinos last week were so embarrassing he wound up apologizing for them.

“As African-American players, we have a theory that baseball can go get an imitator and pass them off as us,” Hunter says. “It’s like they had to get some kind of dark faces, so they go to the Dominican or Venezuela because you can get them cheaper. It’s like, ‘Why should I get this kid from the South Side of Chicago and have Scott Boras represent him and pay him $5 million when you can get a Dominican guy for a bag of chips?’
Not being privy to what’s going on in Hunter’s head, I can only theorize that there are two causes for his resentment: 1) He has picked up some vibes from some Afro-Latino players, or Afro-Latinos at large, that indicate they feel they are separate from, if not superior to African-Americans. 2) He is reacting to the real discrepancy between what the signing rules are for U.S. (and Puerto Rican) players vis a vis those from outside the country. The rules of the free agent draft set up U.S. players for significant signing bonuses, while a player from the Dominican Republic, for instance, signs for considerably less. It’s a globalization thing, the same kind of wage competition that is responsible for some of the resentment that has been registered by African Americans in this country toward immigrants from Latin America. Large corporations make an end-run around domestic labor and head straight to a more exploited labor force for recruitment.
While his comments were short-sighted and counter-productive, I’m willing to give Hunter the benefit of the doubt. But his sudden notoriety as a social observer shows us we have a long way to go in getting our internal race matters together. Ironically, this same dynamic is responsible for the relative decline of Puerto Rican players in MLB, since they are under the U.S. free agent draft rules.
For more on the Afro-Latino theme, check out these PSAs I helped co-produce for the afrolatinoforum:
Yo SoyY tu abuela; and Afro-Latino Facts. (Music provided by Bryan Vargas & Ya Está.) Also listen to AfroLatinoForum’s Miriam Jiménez-Román on this radio show.


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