EphBlog author David Rodriguez ’06 graduates next month. What shall we get him for a present? How about a rehash of the Barnard/VISTA controversy of three years ago? Perfect!

You can read my prior commentary (here, here, here, here, here and here). Rodriguez commented here and here, but those discussions did not go on as long as they should have.

Too lazy to read all that? No worries. Allow me to summarize. Barnard said some things about Latinos and baseball on a local radio show that some students found objectionable. The key comments were:

1) “It’s not easy for a Latin player to take 100 walks.”

2) “Saturday Night Live used to do a skit called Quin es ms macho? – ‘Who is more macho?’ There is clearly a cultural aspect involved here.”

3) “It’s no secret that Latin American players hate to take pitches so they rarely walk. It’s an ego thing. Machismo. Swing for the fences every time and damn the consequences.”

4) “It’s a cultural thing with Latin players in terms of machismo.”

You can listen to the key portions of Barnard’s interview here. Many thanks to Rodriguez for providing me with this piece of Williams history.

Wait a second! Only two of those quotes are actually from Barnard! The other two are from noted Hispanophobe Sammy Sosa and baseball historian David Marasco.

Now, without looking, which ones of the 4 are most objectionable? If you find them all equal (either all objectionable or all not), then you ought to conclude that, whatever his other faults, Barnard is no less acceptable as a speaker on the topic of the interaction between Latino culture and baseball than, say, Sammy Sosa.

I don’t have anything more to say about this than I already have above. (By the way, Barnard’s quotes are numbers 2 and 4). Read the links if you want more details. The central point is clear:

If it is not acceptable at Williams to discuss the connection between culture and individual behavior, then something is very wrong with the intellectual life of the College.

Who would disagree? In this dispute the claim can be restated as:

If it is not acceptable at Williams to discuss the connection between Latino culture and individual behavior on the baseball field, then something is very wrong with the intellectual life of the College.

Consider a different example. James Webb’s “Born Fighting : How the Scots-Irish Shaped America” argues, among other things, that Scots-Irish culture is more prone to fighting and that some stereotypes, like the “Fighting Irish” of Notre Dame, are accurate. Can a book like this be read and discussed at Williams? What if some students found it offensive?

The correct response is not to doubt those students. They are, in fact, offended. We should empathize with them. But, in the end, the highest value at Williams must be open-minded intellectual enquiry.

By the way, Barnard himself may be Scots-Irish. This raises a delicious question:

Quin es ms macho? Barnard o Rodriguez?


Happy Graduation David! And welcome to the world of finance.

UPDATE: Edited slightly. An earlier draft was presented by mistake.

UPDATE 2: Two links that I included in the prior draft caused offense and consternation. (See comments below for details.) I have removed them. To be honest, I had considered not including them at all since I knew that people would be offended, but, at the same time, I like to think that most of our readers are intelligent and open-minded enough to consider unusual points of view. Indeed, one of my personal missions is to bring a broader set of opinions to the Williams conversation. There is a balance to be struck, however, and when a link causes someone like (d)avid to resign as an author, the link is not worth the candle.

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