Tag Archives: Racism

Black Players Were Held to a Higher Standard After Jackie Robinson Broke the Colour Barrier

In (unintentionally) keeping with one of the themes from the last post — let’s talk about baseball after Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier. Most people will tell you that even after Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier in 1947, black players had to be that much better than white players before they were given a chance to play. Having not been alive in 1947, many might take the word of those that were. However, we don’t have to! Let’s take a quick detour.

In the mid-90s and especially the 2000s, sabermetrics began making its way into the fold. In short, sabermetrics is a more sophisticated way to analyze baseball statistics. From Fangraphs:

Sabermetrics is about trying to evaluate the sport more accurately. For decades, statistics like home runs, runs batted in, batting average, wins, and earned run average were all we had to determine which players were good, which were bad, and which were in between. But as gathering, collecting, and sharing information became easier, a group of baseball teams and analysts started to develop statistics that were slightly harder to track and disseminate, but ones that were a much better reflection of talent or performance.

The most obvious example of this is the difference between batting average and on-base percentage. A walk is a positive outcome for the batter, and while it isn’t as valuable as a single or a double, it is much better than making an out. Batting average completely ignores walks, meaning that it is failing to capture important information about the hitter. Beyond that, batting average and on-base percentage assume that each hit or time on base is equally valuable, when we know that extra base hits lead to more runs than singles and walks. So there needs to be a way to credit hitters for getting on base, but also for how much their particular way of reaching base is worth. Sabermetrics, at its heart, is about making sure we capture as much of that as possible.

One of the statistics to come out of sabermetrics is called “Wins Above Replacement.” Once again, from Fangraphs:

Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic. WAR basically looks at a player and asks the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?” This value is expressed in a wins format, so we could say that Player X is worth +6.3 wins to their team while Player Y is only worth +3.5 wins.

Now that we know a bit more about sabermetrics and WAR, let’s get back to the 1950s and the colour barrier. As I said earlier, many might rely on the perceptions of those who were alive to witness baseball in the 1950s. However, we have a statistic like WAR that can help us better understand — empirically — whether black players really did have to play that much better to earn their spot on a team. From research published recently:

The data presented here provide support for anecdotal observations about racial bias in the major leagues. For decades, Black players who were promoted to the major leagues turned out to be more valuable players than White ones promoted at the same time.

Now that we know that there’s data to support the idea of this injustice, when do you think it ended? That is, when do you think that black players had to stop being that much better than white players? Before I read the research, I’m not sure what I would have guessed. Why don’t you take a second and think about what’s happened since 1950 and when you think this injustice has fallen away (or whether you think it’s still going on?) Again, from the research:

[Research] indicates that at least through 1975 (28 years after major league baseball was first integrated), Black players were still held to higher standards: simply put, they had to be better to reach the majors. After that point in time, the difference in eventual performance between White and Black players promoted to the major leagues was no longer significant.

So, it seems that in 1975, twenty-eight years after Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier, the goal was finally realized. Of course, as the last sentence in the above-quoted research says, ‘no longer significant.’ That doesn’t mean that there still wasn’t an prejudicial effect, but just that in measuring that effect via WAR, it was no longer significant after 1975.

The Society for American Baseball Research (the same group behind sabermetrics) put together some helpful visualizations of the baseball demographics from 1947 to 2012. In reviewing some of them, there isn’t any ‘obvious’ reason for why the prejudicial effect is no longer significant post-1975. I’ve included one of the graphs and encourage you to read the whole article as it talks about the decline in black players in MLB.

ResearchBlogging.orgNewman, L., Zhang, L., & Huang, R. (2015). Prejudice in Major League Baseball: Have Black Players Been Held to a Higher Standard Than White Players? Journal of Sport & Social Issues DOI: 10.1177/0193723515594211

What Will My Generation’s Version of Racism Be

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself sitting in a coffee shop. While working on a project, I couldn’t help but overhear a couple of older gentlemen talking about immigrants. Now, I currently live in Ottawa, Canada, so their discussion about immigrants was probably a bit different than I might have heard if I were in a coffee shop in a different part of the country, but more notably, the conversation would have likely been different had I been in an coffee shop in the USA.

I’m going to overgeneralize for a second, so I hope you’ll stay with me.

For the most part, younger generations are less racist than older generations. My guess is that this is because younger generations grow up having people from different ethnic backgrounds around them all the time. For instance, when I was in high school, it was normal to see people from very different backgrounds. There were people from China, India, the Middle East, Brazil, a whole host of European countries, and many more. If we rollback to the previous generation, scenes like this weren’t as common.

So, for generations like mine, it’s normalized to grow up with people who look different from you. In previous generations, this wasn’t the case. My guess is that this contributes to some of the latent (or otherwise) hostility that we typically see from older generations.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my generation in comparison to generations past, but the true purpose of this post is a juxtaposition of the generations to come. As I said, it seems that past generations had a harder time than mine digesting the mix of cultures. For kids growing up today (in certain countries), it’s abundantly clear that there are people who look different from them and it’s just normal to grow up and be friends with people like this. My question, what is it that my generation will have a hard time with that future generations will see as natural?

I’d like to think that I and my generation will be able to handle whatever comes our way in the future, but I’m sure that’s what previous generations thought. As a result, it seems to me that there will likely be something that some folks from my generation have a hard time handling. Will it be something like what we see in the Men in Black movies? Meaning, will we coexist on Earth with beings from another planet? If that were to happen, it’s quite plausible that there’d be an echo of what’s happening now.

The next time you see someone being ethnocentric, consider the possibility that you might be exhibiting a similar behaviour in years to come.

“42” Demonstrates how Racism Persists 50 Years After the Civil Rights Act

During my self-imposed hiatus from writing, I saw “42.” This is the movie based on the life of the first black baseball player to play in Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson. As I was a baseball player, I knew the story, but there was still one scene that I wanted to mention here. If you haven’t seen the movie, me talking about this one scene probably won’t spoil the movie for you. It doesn’t have anything to do with the “plot,” but I thought it was really important.

The scene I’m talking about is after Jackie is already on the team with the Dodgers. He had played with the team for some time now and there was a road trip to Cincinnati. Cut to the scene in Cincinnati and we’re shown a father and son. The son is talking to the dad about being excited to see his favorite player (Pee Wee Reese) do well today. The dad is encouraging about Reese doing well today, too.

Jackie and the rest of the team take the field. Immediately, the demeanor of the dad changes and he starts hurling racial epithets at Jackie. The dad wasn’t the only person to be acting in this way. The other fans in the stands started following suit.

The part I want to focus on is the child’s perspective. In the scene, the child looks up at the dad as the dad continues his barrage. The child then looks back at the fans behind to see that they’re doing exactly the same thing. Social learning. The kid then begins saying racial slurs about Jackie. It’s enough to make your stomach turn.

If you ever wondered how racism has persisted in the US even though the Civil Rights Act passed almost 50 (!) years ago, this scene exemplifies it.

That Which Is You — Is Me

Last month, there was a big hullabaloo when Al Gore sold Current TV to Al Jazeera. A great majority of that outrage (at least from what I could tell) stemmed from the fact that Al Jazeera is an Arabic news network (or to that’s their perception). Note: the criticism of selling to an oil-backed company was far more substantiated. While that might have been how the network started, they report on far more than just Arabic news. There’s obviously more going on here than ethnocentrism and people who don’t want news about the Arabic world, though.

The obvious answer would be that some Americans are still fearful of people who look different from them. Notably, Americans are fearful of the people who look the same as those people who were part of the tragic events of 9/11. Is this reasonable? Is this fair? Is it fair to loop in 23% of the world’s population (that’s almost 2 billion, by the way) because of 19 people? Now, to give people some credit — it’s not all their doing.

To be more specific, people are subjected to these “us-them” perceptions if/when they watch the news. When was the last time you saw a TV program where a Muslim person was the protagonist — where a Muslim person was the hero and not a terrorist. This is unacceptable.

Did you know that there have been more terrorist-related deaths as a result of a white person committing the act of terrorism?

There’s one more thing I want to say on this matter and I hope you give me some leeway on it. As I watch the unfounded vitriol directed at Muslims and people with brown skin, I can’t help but think of Black people and the civil rights movement. Of course, I wasn’t alive during the events that led to the movement, but from what I’ve heard/read about it, it seems to me that some Americans treat brown-skinned people the same way that they treated black people back then. Don’t get me wrong — I know that there were plenty of unspeakable acts committed against black people back then (that aren’t necessarily happening to brown people today).

I’m sure I’m not the first person to draw the connection between what happened back then and what’s happening today. It’s just disappointing to me that this kind of stuff still happens. When will we — as a species — see: ‘that which is you — is me.’

The Psychology of Everything from Professor Paul Bloom

Here’s a great animated (!) 45-minute video from Professor Paul Bloom of Yale University explaining psychology through 3 case studies of compassion, racism, and sex. This video is fantastic in just how much you’ll learn about the different areas of psychology in less than 60 minutes. Take some time this Sunday to enlighten yourself about some of the important findings of psychology:

~

After having watched the video, what do you think? Any immediate thoughts or ideas? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.

Solutions for Racism: How Race Affects Voting

A couple of days ago, I saw a that linked to a from a few years ago. It was a TEDTalk from someone who I (and many others) hold in high regard: . Silver runs the blog for the New York Times. He gained popularity in 2008 after he every US Senate race and just about all the electoral votes. He has a very sophisticated model that takes into account an assortment polls, along with economic data. He’s just come out with a that I can’t wait to read. If you’re interested in statistics, prediction, or forecasting, I highly recommend it!

Anyways — today, I wanted to share the TEDTalk that I just watched. As the title of this post suggests, Silver is talking about how race affected voting in the 2008 election. Somewhat surprisingly, he also raises some possible solutions to these problems. I hope you’ll take 10 minutes and watch!