I’m angry. I’m upset. I want to punch Yuli Gurriel in the face. Mocking someone for their physical appearance because of a stereotype is not going to fly in this country.
But I know that my anger and desire to hurt him will not solve anything.
Last night, when Gurriel made a slanted eye gesture and called Yu Darvish (who is Japanese) a Chinito (little Chinese boy), it was clear to many that it was not acceptable. But that was many people, not all people, who found something wrong with it.
There are the people that think America is getting too PC and that it’s an overreaction to something minor. Others are contending that Latin culture features these kinds of remarks and actions all the time and it’s normalized. Using these terms and actions is so common and it’s pretty apparent that Gurriel is just doing what he was so used to growing up.
The problem is that he isn’t back home in Cuba. He is in America. And after all the problems with what we had with disrespect this season (two suspension for homophobic slurs, racist slurs thrown at O’s OF Adam Jones), the league has been on high alert on the way people and fans are being treated.
So naturally, Gurriel should be punished for this, right?
The answer depends on if you understand the cultures that Gurriel is balancing as an active MLB player.
I have been called “Chinito” before on multiple occasions. The slanted eyes are also normal for me. Every time it happens I am offended. But there are many times where I relinquish my urge to start a fist fight because I know who is calling me that. I have many friends from Hispanic cultures where these actions are normal. Because of that, I know that they weren’t intentional in offending me. In fact, they aren’t even aware that the term is offensive. Heck, even the term “Oriental” is a big no-no in America right now yet the Spanish language usually uses the term to refer to someone as Asian. It’s not offensive, it’s just culturally the way it is.
Looking at what Gurriel did, I understand that what he did was likely not to offend Darvish or Asians as a whole. The slanted eye gesture probably was something his friends did back home and to him it was just something that was very common.
So should Gurriel receive a suspension? Yes. But not for the reason I just explained.
His punishment should be for the reason of him being oblivious and unaware. The punishment should be for not paying attention to what happened this season. This is a punishment for someone who didn’t make an effort to understand that things are different in America than it is back in Cuba. This is a punishment for being naive to think that people aren’t watching him. This is a punishment to help him learn what he did was not acceptable. He is part of American and MLB culture — this is also part of his new identity now.
In one culture back in Cuba this is acceptable. In another culture, it is not acceptable. He is part of both. And the awareness of the similarities and differences in both will help Gurriel move on going forward. A suspension would be a learning point for him and to all others who may not have found his actions OK.
All last night I was having trouble forgiving Gurriel the way that Darvish says he has. But the more I think about it, the more I think I understand why Gurriel did what he did. I don’t like it but I understand why it happened. A one-game suspension I think is fair and I hope the message he learns from it will help him going forward. And much like Darvish said, let’s move forward. We all have to after all this.