And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings… (Acts 17:26, N.K.J.V.)
I’ve been watching this year’s World Series, which has become an instant classic and turned into must-see t.v. for baseball fans. The Houston Astros currently hold a three games to two lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers, with each of the five games being wildly competitive. Houston needs to win one of the final two in Los Angeles to claim the title. But that’s not what I want to talk about right now.
Friday night, in the second inning of game 3 of the series, Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel hit a home run off Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish. As Gurriel touched home plate and made his way back to Houston’s dugout, the cameras stayed on him. Following the jubilant celebration that ensued as his teammates congratulated him, Gurriel eventually took his seat on the bench. He didn’t know the cameras were still on him, and that’s when he made a gesture and linked it up with a comment.
For the gesture, he placed his hands on the corner of his eyes and slanted both eyes. For the comment, he mouthed a single word. The world found out later that the slanted eyes were meant to mimic Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish, who is Japanese, and the mouthed word was “chinito,” which is Spanish for “little Chinese guy.” Gurriel, you see, is Cuban.
Following the game, Guriel was swamped by reporters asking him to explain his actions. He said that he was merely joking with his teammates that maybe Darvish had mistaken him as a fellow Japanese player and had consequently thrown him a good pitch to hit. Since Guriel doesn’t look Japanese in any way, that excuse didn’t go over well. So the following day he clarified himself by saying: “Yesterday I was commenting that I’d never had any success against Darvish, and the gesture was saying that I wish that he would look at me like one of them (Japanese players) and maybe he’d throw me an easy pitch so I can do something. At no point did I mean that in an offensive way. On the contrary, I’ve always had a lot of respect for them (Japanese players).”
Whether or not you buy Guriel’s explanation is up to you. I suppose it makes some sense, but what troubles me is that he finished his gesture off with that word “chinito.” As I understand things, it’s pretty hard to spin any respect onto that particular word.
For Darvish’s part, he couldn’t have handled the incident and the fallout with any more class. While noting that Guriel’s actions were “disrespectful,” he accepted the apology and used all the attention to encourage everyone to learn from Guriel’s mistake, show more love, and take a positive step forward in race relations rather than focusing on anger. As he put it, “No one is perfect. That includes both you and I.”
The following day Gurriel met with Rob Manfred, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, and during that meeting expressed his remorse. He also promised to offer a private apology to Darvish and agreed to undergo sensitivity training. Manfred appreciated the remorse but suspended him for the first five games of next season.
Many fans were upset that Gurriel wasn’t suspended for any games of the current World Series, but a five-game suspension without pay at the start of next season will hit him more in the bank account. While Major League players don’t get paid for postseason games such as the World Series, they do get paid handsomely for regular season games. Gurriel is under contract to make $12 million in 2018, which means the suspension will cost him approximately $320,000.
Now, it is not my intention to get into the right or wrong of Manfred’s decision to allow Gurriel to continue playing in the World Series. (I’m sure that offended fans were furious that Gurriel hit a three-run homer in last night’s Astros win.) All I want to do here is use this entire affair as fresh evidence that racism exists in almost every corner of the globe. Whites can be racist against blacks. Blacks can be racist against whites. Hispanics/Latinos can be racist against the Japanese. The Japanese can be racist against the Koreans. The English can be racist against the Irish. The Germans can be racist against the Jews. The Jews can be racist against the Palestinians. The Australians can be racist against the Aboriginals. The Saudi Arabians can be racist against members of poorer Arab countries.
Yes, racism is a complex issue, but what’s for certain about it is that it is never of God. The Bible teaches that the same blood courses through the veins of all races, and that Jesus Christ died on the cross as the substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of the entire human race (John 3:16). It also teaches that heaven will be inhabited by the saved from all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues (Revelation 7:9). This is God’s eternal take on the subject, and it’s one that we should work hard to keep front and center in our minds.
To do that, we should start by admit that most of us do have some racist tendencies, regardless of whether or not we ever get caught acting on them. That admittance is step 1. To take step 2 we must ask God to help us overcome our racism and learn to see all people as He sees them, as people for whom Jesus died that they might believe in Him as Savior and thereby be forgiven of all sin and granted eternal life.
Even by taking these two steps, we won’t completely eliminate racism in our world. To believe otherwise is to believe in fairy tales. Racism is simply too ingrained in the fabric of Adam’s fallen race, of which we are all members. But what these steps will allow us to do is clean up our own thoughts, comments, attitudes, perspectives, opinions, gestures, and actions. And if each of us can do that, we’ll have accomplished a ton.