Yu Darvish reacted “graciously” to Yuli Gurriel’s racist gesture and slur. He didn’t have to.
As we reported on earlier, Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel appeared to mock Dodgers starter Yu Darvish in a racist way after homering off of him in the second inning of Game 3 of the World Series, pulling his eyes down to slant them and saying the word, “chinito,” which translates to “little Chinese.”
After the game, Darvish tweeted a call for fans to be positive, rather than directing anger at Gurriel. He wrote, “No one is perfect. That includes both you and I. What he had done today isn’t right, but I believe we should put our effort into learning rather than to accuse him. If we can take something from this, that is a giant step for mankind. Since we are living in such a wonderful world, let’s stay positive and move forward instead of focusing on anger. I’m counting on everyone’s big love.”
Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram reports that Darvish did find Gurriel’s behavior to be “disrespectful” and racially motivated. He believes Gurriel should be punished.
After Darvish’s message circulated around Twitter, many in the media rushed to laud Darvish for being so gracious towards Gurriel. Darvish, of course, can react as a victim of racism any way he pleases. There’s an issue, though, when society rewards victims of racism for reacting in a way that takes the heat off of the offender. To say that Darvish’s reaction was “gracious” and “classy” is also to imply that reacting differently would not be “gracious” and “classy.” Praising Darvish also puts societal pressure on other victims of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. to react in the same way. It invalidates their anger and hurt. And most victims of such bigotry don’t have the same support of a strong union, their co-workers, family, and friends, among other things. They may not be able to afford to tolerate it in the same way.
The next time a player acts in a bigoted way towards another player (or a coach or fan or anyone, really), and the target of said bigotry gets angry, people will criticize that person for not being as forgiving as Darvish was to Gurriel. That person’s response will be tone-policed.
Anger is often seen as a bad emotion. It makes one irrational, the common thought goes, and it makes other people feel uncomfortable. But anger is a perfectly valid emotion and it is a suitable response to bigotry. Oftentimes, anger is the motivation society needs to create change. Would we have given women the right to vote, desegregated, and legalized gay marriage if people responded to bigots the way Darvish did to Gurriel? Of course not. We should remember this the next time an incident like this occurs and a player doesn’t react as calmly and politely as Darvish. That reaction will be just as valid as Darvish’s.