August 28, 2020

Pillar Sounds Some Wrong Notes In Discussing Team's Support Of Bradley

It doesn't sound like Kevin Pillar truly understands what is going on.

Pillar, who was suspended by the Blue Jays in 2017 for yelling an anti-gay slur at Jason Motte, is quoted extensively by the Herald's Jason Mastrodonato and Eric Rueb of the Providence Journal, who noted that Pillar "said a lot of good things during Thursday's press conference ... [but] if you keep a person talking, the truth eventually finds the surface".

Pillar admitted the decision to not play their scheduled game last night (in solidarity with Jackie Bradley, who had told his teammates he would not play) was "not an easy [one] for a lot of us". Mastrodonato wondered why the decision should be difficult
when the entire NBA schedule is wiped clean for a couple days, when most MLB games are being protested across the league, when Black folks continue to be treated with unequal force by the police, when your own teammate and first base coach, Tom Goodwin, and other members of the club explain why it's important to sit one game out.
Mastrodonato also mentioned two recent incidents. The Red Sox's visit to the White House in 2019 as World Series champions was split mostly along racial lines (no white players refused to make the trip). On Opening Day of this season, the Red Sox and Orioles teams "held a long rope that was supposed to signify unity in the fight against racial injustice". The entire Orioles team took a knee before the anthem while on the other side of the field, only Bradley and three others did.

During yesterday's press conference, Xander Bogaerts, Nathan Eovaldi and Pillar were asked: Given what you know now, given what you've learned from Bradley, do you feel differently about your decision to leave Bradley mostly alone taking a knee before Opening Day?

Pillar was the only one to answer.
I feel like that's a tough question to answer collectively as a group. We, all three of us, come from different backgrounds, different states, different countries. We all have different beliefs. We don't agree on everything. We agree on a lot of things. It's a difficult question to answer collectively. We did talk as a group before Opening Day about what was going on and what was expected of us. The biggest thing the organization preached to us was, "Do what you believe is right." You saw how a lot of us stood up for what we believed in and what we thought was right. We all individually had an opportunity to do what we felt like we needed to do. A lot has changed since Opening Day, but at the same time, a whole lot hasn't changed. ...

Is it more important that we uplift Jackie because he's the only one? My answer would be no. I think it's important that we uplift everyone in this room. Jackie is our only African-American baseball player on this team, but like they mentioned, we do have a coach, we have a trainer, there are teams that have quite a bit more African Americans on their team. But what we did today was 1,000% in support of Jackie Bradley Jr. (of the others), because this is how they felt. We wanted to show them support, that they weren't in this alone. ...

It's a touchy subject, but I don't think right now, as a country, we should be necessarily identifying individual groups of people that need to be uplifted. I think the vast majority of us would like to encourage to uplift everyone and support everyone.
I appreciate Pillar being willing to answer that question, and hope his comments spring from ignorance rather than malice, but still . . .

Pillar did everything short of screaming "all lives matter" in the wake of another shooting of a Black man at the hands of the police. He chose not to speak about Bradley's pain in a way that shows he understands the importance of helping him get through it. He doesn't believe in lifting up Black players in MLB.

He used the platform the Red Sox gave him to say he supports Bradley, while simultaneously presenting the argument on the other side.

Next time you see Bradley taking a knee before the game, if you ever do see it again, now you'll know what he's up against.
Rueb quoted Pillar's positive comments:
You hope it's a starting point and it's a conversation to be had as opposed to people watching a Red Sox game, maybe they're talking to their family or maybe they're talking to their neighbors about what's going on in the world, coming up with ideas on how to make this a better place ... I wish I knew the answer to how we can make this better but I still think it's a long road ahead. The fact that we're talking about it more openly and honestly is a good starting point.
But then said some of Pillar's other statements "exposed the disunity among the Red Sox when it comes matters of social justice":
To be honest with you it was not an easy decision for a lot of us. We do stand with Jackie and we want to be in support of him, but a lot of us understand that us playing today is an escape for a lot of people and the reality of things that are going on in the world. It is an opportunity to get away from the news and the evil and bad that's going on and be a distraction.
Rueb was dumbfounded:

Sports is a distraction — from things like when your boss makes you stay an hour later at work ... Sports aren't supposed to distract you from things like "police shooting Black citizens in the back" or "basic human rights." ...

[Pillar]got as close to saying "all lives matter" as the Sox are of clinching the No. 1 pick in next year's MLB Draft. ...
It's going to be very easy to point to the good things Pillar said and say "well, he made some other really good points, he didn't mean those other things."

That's sort of the problem here. Part of social injustice has been brushing off the bad and trying to highlight the good ...
What's Wrong With "All Lives Matter"?

Katie O'Malley, Elle:
The phrase contradicts itself. Well-intentioned or not, it can be received as "all lives already matter," which actually serves only to further defend the current state of inequality.
Professor Olivette Otele, Professor in History of Slavery at the University of Bristol and independent chair of Bristol City Council’s Commission on Race Equality:
It's such bad faith to say that "all lives matter". Surely this [worldwide anti-racist protests] all started because they didn't all matter? It's so obvious. It's dangerous [to use the phrase]. It's laziness ... People who tell me that they don't see colour worry me. If you don't see colour you don't see equality either. Equality is based on colour. "All Lives Matter" is a future where [Black people] can fight over ideas, verbally, without being shot.
Alicia Garza (who, with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, founded the BLM political movement in 2013):
Black Lives Matter doesn't mean your life isn't important – it means that Black lives, which are seen as without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation. Given the disproportionate impact state violence has on Black lives, we understand that when Black people in this country get free, the benefits will be wide-reaching and transformative for society as a whole. When we are able to end the hyper-criminalisation and sexualization of Black people and end the poverty, control and surveillance of Black people, every single person in this world has a better shot at getting and staying free. When Black people get free, everybody gets free.
Arianne Shahvisi, Prospect Magazine (UK):
"Black Lives Matter" points to two things:
1. As far as various major social institutions are concerned—the police, the criminal justice system, medicine—Black lives don't matter as much as other lives.

2. Black lives should matter as much as other lives.
Taken together, these statements form the basis for challenging anti-Black racism.

The first point is a descriptive statement. It describes the world, and its truth can be verified through data based on observations. In the UK, Black people are five times more likely to die in childbirth than white people, and Black infant mortality is twice as high. Black people are twice as likely as white people to be unemployed, and almost half of Black households live in poverty. Black people are ten times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, and four times more likely to be arrested. They constitute 3 per cent of the population, but 8 per cent of deaths in police custody. Black lives are deplorably under-valued.

Black is not a scientific term, it's a social one: there is no genetic basis for "Black" as a category, and two Black people chosen at random are likely to have less in common genetically than either has with any given white person. What Black people do have in common is the racism they face, which produces the discrepancies just described.

Turning to the second claim, "Black lives should matter" is what we call a normative statement. It's a moral proclamation, stating it's wrong that Black lives are under-valued. Moral statements cannot be verified by observations; they're based on particular values that must be argued for. (I won't argue that Black lives should matter. If that's not a value you already hold and find obvious, this article is not for you.)

Soon after the inception of the BLM movement, it was itself thwarted by baffling accusations of racism, often accompanied with the rejoinder: "All Lives Matter."

Clearly, as a descriptive statement, this isn't true. Not all lives matter. (Consider the way Black people, other people of colour, refugees, Gypsies and Travellers, and homeless people are treated.) We could instead interpret it as normative statement: all lives should matter. Agreed. Yet context is very important. Note that nobody was saying "All Lives Matter" before 2013. Rather, it's a direct response to BLM, and has no life outside that. And that's a problem, because if BLM is understood as a commitment to urgently tackling the violence and brutality of anti-Black racism, then blurting that "All Lives Matter" is at best, tangential, and at worst, a malevolent distraction.

Its effect is to stall conversations about anti-Black racism and instead either pretend that all lives do matter, or talk about everybody's lives all at once, whether or not particular groups are subject to particular, potentially fatal injustices right now. This leaves no bandwidth to address the particularly brutal injustices that Black people face. Saying "All Lives Matter" violates the concept of triage in medical ethics, which demands that we address the most troubling or life-endangering issues first.

"All Lives Matter" is therefore an obstacle to tackling anti-Black racism. Sometimes, it's a result of ignorance, a misinterpretation of BLM. More often, it's intentional; a filibuster, bent on derailing anti-racist work.
Doug Williford, an American author:
If my wife comes to me in obvious pain and asks "Do you love me?", an answer of "I love everyone" would be truthful, but also hurtful and cruel in the moment. If a co-worker comes to me upset and says "My father just died," a response of "Everyone's parents die" would be truthful, but hurtful and cruel in the moment. So when a friend speaks up in a time of obvious pain and hurt and says "Black lives matter," a response of "All lives matter" is truthful. But it's hurtful and cruel in the moment.


Never Youmind said...

That's great that you took some time and space to show what's wrong with saying 'all lives matter'. I think a lot of people genuinely don't get it.

johngoldfine said...

Glad you're on the job.

Are you getting any 'just shut up and dribble' comments?

allan said...

No. I don't get much of those anyway, these days.

(Though I'm sure I could make it happen if I felt like it!)

allan said...

Also, skimming Twitter yesterday, it appears Pillar was not much loved by some Jays fans.