Thursday, October 6, 2016

The beer can toss was bad. The racism at the Blue Jays game was much worse.

Image from a public tweet by Frank Gunn

By now I doubt there is a person in North America who has not heard about the great Beer Can Toss Toronto Blue Jays scandal of 2016 after some (likely inebriated) twit launched an overpriced beverage at Baltimore outfielder Hyun Soo Kim during the Wild Card playoff game Tuesday night.

It was an ugly incident that could have resulted in Kim's serious injury.

The beer can toss caused much outrage and rightly so. It also caused the city collectively a great deal of embarrassment, especially given that Toronto baseball fans have a fairly bad reputation to begin with.

One group of baseball fans pitched in to buy an ad on Facebook apologizing to the people of Baltimore. Mayor John Tory managed to find a moment to divert from his quest for fictional "efficiencies" in driving down city department budgets to, with his usual clarity and eloquence, denounce the evildoer as a "loon ball". He further noted that it was "just the behavior that was exhibited by one person".

Major League Baseball itself called for the beer can hooligan to be "prosecuted to the extent available" while Toronto police released a photo of the alleged offender and called for him to come forward. He subsequently did, while denying all wrongdoing, and now a section of the internet is consumed by watching blurry video over-and-over again claiming they have identified the "real shooter" as if this is some sad version of JFK or the X-Files.

There is no denying that, while hardly unprecedented in any ballpark, throwing anything onto the field of play or in the area of players during a sports game is serious, stupid, dangerous and boorish and that any louts caught doing it should face some consequence. In almost all cases, given it will usually prove the alcohol fueled momentary bad impulse of someone, this will and should end up being dealt with by a stadium ban and possibly anger management classes or community service, especially as it is unlikely that the person who did it will turn out to have been a hardened criminal.

But seemingly overshadowed by all of this is the fact that several sources reported that multiple fans hurled racist slurs at both Kim and his teammate Adam Jones who rushed to Kim's side and defense after the incident with the beer can.

CBC Radio's sports commentator reported hearing racist calls at the game and you can see fans yelling at Jones in videos of the night.

It is not so easy to try to claim this as simply a stupid or ignorant act by a single fan as, by all accounts, this involved many fans.

Canadians have long liked to believe that we do not have the kind of problems with racism that exist in the United States, and yet racist incidents like the one that happened Tuesday are all too common and institutionalized racism on the part of Canadian police and the Canadian state have a long and ongoing violent and oppressive history.

Press Progress detailed many recent and disturbing racist incidents in July in an article ""Meanwhile in Canada," Canadians are forgetting Canada has its own problems with racism". 

A poll released on the day of the playoff game showed that Canadians were, in fact, significantly less embracing of cultural diversity as opposed to assimilation than Americans. 68% of Canadians said immigrants needed to do more to "fit in" while only 53% of Americans felt the same way. While 47% of Americans said that our society "should encourage cultural diversity", only 32% of Canadians think that.

This should be a truly worrying statistic for those who think a racist demagogue like Trump is impossible north of the border.

So while the focus has been on the search for one hooligan, it really should be on the reality that a number of Toronto baseball fans were quick to use racist taunts against the players on an opposing baseball team, something I think most Canadians want to pretend only happens at European soccer matches.

A person tossing a projectile at a player is very bad, but easy to explain away and relatively socially inconsequential. Many people tossing hateful racist terms at players, however, is ultimately more dangerous, much less easy for those so inclined to try to write off, and a symptom of something far, far worse.

See also: Black Lives Matter is right -- The police are the oppressor

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