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Rodriguez ’06 on PC

David Rodriguez’s ’06 blog played host to an interesting discussion of issues related to political correctness. As always, WSO — and especially Topher Cyll ’04 —deserves a lot of credit for creating such a powerful system.

However, I would take issue with Rodriguez’s description on the Barnard/VISTA controversy last fall.

Problem is, and I can attest to this, that people on different ends of the spectrum have no idea what their counterparts are talking about. As a specific example, earlier this year coach David Barnard said some unfortunate things about Latinos in a radio address, and VISTA responded swiftly, denouncing any such thought and sending everyone to a frenzy writing this or that: blah blah blah, you were here, you get the point.

Going back to the Coach Barnard example… He argued that there was perhaps a correlation between violence/territorial behavior in baseball and Latinidad. To back up his claims he cited the fact that in the Pedro Martinez et. al. scandal, two of the three that were involved were Latino. Now then, anyone who’s taken intro Stats can undoubtedly tell you that perhaps a larger sample size should be taken to back up the fact that Latinos are indeed “territorial” or what not. In other words, had he gone about this in a more professional way and provided more than one example, perhaps we could have taken him more seriously. As it stands, he made a fairly outrageous claim without justification. Although I honestly didn’t lose any sleep over it, I found it rather inconsiderate and disrespectful.

When people of influence (e.g. Coach Barnard) spew similar types of ignorance making statements as fact, they perpetuate stereotypes that have no place in an intellectual setting without true justification.

Long time readers will know that I had my say about the Barnard/VISTA dispute here, here, here, here, here and here.

It is sad to see Rodriguez repeating many of the same inanities as the VISTA folk last fall. I especially dislike his claim that Barnard was not “professional.” In fact, Barnard was the very picture of professionalism throughout the entire dispute. He made a casual observation (outside of Williams), backed up that observation in writing, and offered to meet in public debate or private discussion with anyone honestly looking to explore the question of the influences of culture on baseball, if any.

It turned out that VISTA, or at least Perez and Smith, were nothing more than shallow, whiny activists with no interest in an honest and open exploration of the topic.

Rodriguez, on the other hand, seems like an intelligent and open-minded Eph. Which aspects of my defense of Barnard, and indictment of Perez and Smith, would he disagree with, I wonder . . .

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#1 Comment By David Rodriguez On April 23, 2004 @ 1:43 am

I’m a bit busy with paper writing, but the response is on its way.

#2 Comment By Jeff Zeeman On April 23, 2004 @ 10:02 am

Although Barnard’s comment, at least in its initial phrasing, did appear to be an over-generalization based on scant evidence as asserted by Rodriguez, it is the methodology, not necessarily the conclusion, that I find troubling. Mr. Kane may have made this point in his voluminous postings that I have yet to fully review, but in case not, VISTA can’t simultaneously, with a straight face, advocate vociforously for new “ethnic studies” majors, faculty and classes, yet at the same time object when someone makes a raced-based generalization. I mean, the whole POINT of ethnic studies, in large part, is to attribute characteristics, or at least consider that common characteristics might exist, across a racial or ethnic category, and to examine the basis or derivation of these common traitsIf after careful study (and there is no evidence Barnard engaged in such) someone concludes that a particular ethnic group shares a trait that might not universally be considered positive — see, e.g., the Japanese society reaction to the return of the Iraqi hostages, and conclusions that could be drawn therefrom — that is neither unsurprising nor improper in the arena of ethnic studies. Otherwise, why not change the name of “latino studies” concentration or major to “latino cheerleading.” If we find generalizing about people based on their skin color or ethnic origin to be troubling as an enterprise, perhaps we shouldn’t be engaged in ethnic or cultural studies in the first place, and an examination of culture or race should be confined to history and literature departments.

#3 Comment By ravenastro On April 26, 2004 @ 5:08 pm

Jeff,

I don’t know how you can say that “the whole POINT of ethnic studies, in large part, is to attribute characteristics, or at least consider that common characteristics might exist, across a racial or ethnic category…”

From my coursework and leisure reading, I have always found that Ethnic Studies is about DEBUNKING stereotypes and educating people about the multifaceted layers of different communities rather than reinforcing misperceptions. For me, Ethnic Studies has always been about education and illumination of different cultures and histories.

In many a sense, Coach Barnard’s comments simply validate VISTA’s point that Latino Studies and other Ethnic Studies courses are needed to inform people of how a community has been shaped and has formed in the United States.

ravenastro

#4 Comment By Jeff Zeeman On April 27, 2004 @ 3:12 pm

So, ravenastro, are you saying that the point of ethnic studies is simply to say, people shouldn’t be judged based on their culture or skin color? If that was the sole purpose, as you seem to imply, then I would wholeheartedly agree with the mission, while deriding it as a pretty shallow field for academic discourse. Ethnic studies MUST be about more than simply debunking stereotypes: rather, an underlying assumption of ethnic studies is, quite obviously, that ethnicity is a meaningful construct worth studying. This doesn’t lead to a conclusion that all latinos behave a certain way, let alone on a baseball field, but it might lead to fair generalizations about cultural norms, values, and ideologies, one of which could be machismo (I have no idea, as I have never studied latin american culture — for all I know Barnard is putting forth a false stereotype that he has not adequately researched).

All I am saying is, once you begin studying ethnicity as something meaningful, it may be meaningful in a negative way just as easily as a positive or neutral way. Otherwise, there could be just one ethnic studies class at Williams, entitled: “people are people, let’s not worry about their heritage or race.”