A couple of days ago I came across an essay that got at the heart of the uncomfortable racial undercurrent running through the discussion of last week's senseless beating of a San Francisco Giants fan by two men at Dodger Stadium on opening night.
The victim, Bryan Stow, a Santa Cruz paramedic and father who was beaten so severely he may have brain damage, is white. The attackers, who have yet to be caught, are described as Latino. Writing for the L.A. Forward website, Tomás J. Benítez, a longtime Dodger fan and advisor to the Latino Baseball History Project of the Baseball Reliquary, took on the race issue:
Whether this was a racially motivated crime is yet to be determined, but it is possible, given that bigotry is often a characteristic of thugs—who come in all colors.
Race is a factor for all the wrong reasons. When news of the incident broke I was chagrined. It just had to be stupid Mexicans, I said to myself. A local writer made reference to Raider fans—a barely veiled, racially charged comment that infers rowdy fans from lower classes who are part of the thug culture, often Black and Brown. He was very bold to call it as he sees it, he just didn’t say what he really meant. In either case, we are both wrong. What happened was indeed one isolated incident, poorly monitored by park security, infused by booze and stupidity, and a desecration of sports to any fan—regardless of color, religion, gender or lifestyle.
I also cringed when I first heard the news via word of mouth, hearing that the attackers might be "Latino gang members." Perhaps the cringing came from being - full disclosure - both a Dodger fan and a Latina. Or perhaps because these conversations take a predictable turn.
Soon after news of the attack broke, the discussion in the comments section under some of the news reports became racially charged. A person posting as "Everyday Guy" on the local CBS News website wrote:
Latin guys no doubt. Some alcohol, lack of civility, and barrio culture have ruined much of LA. yes, I’m generalizing, but I’m also right.
He received an affirmative from someone posting as "It's D-O-D-G-E-R-S (there's no y)," a reference to the "Doyers" nickname the sports organization has trademarked as part of its Latino marketing, who wrote:
@ Everyday Guy – You’re absolutely right. I don’t know if I can add anything to your comments because you nailed it on the head. It was well said enough and I completely agree with you.
The Hispanic culture and thug life has RUINED the All-American history and dream of the Dodgers. (Yes, it IS DoDGers.) They have taken something wonderful and exciting and have turned it into GARBAGE. The players on the Dodgers should feel ashamed to have them as their “fans”. If I were a Dodger, I’d be disgusted.
In her comment, a woman named Karen made this stretch:
The news just reported that the perpetrators are Latinos. It’s time that ILLEGAL ALIENS are deported. Beating people up at a sports event IS NOT OK.
It went on from there. The racial undercurrent has bubbled up to talk radio since, with KFI-AM's The John and Ken Show featuring a segment tying the attack to immigration earlier this week.
In his essay, Benítez wrote:
It was the act of savages, and I have no quarter for this behavior. If it had been Giant fans in SF beating a Dodger fan the damage would be the same. If it was two white men putting a Latino in the hospital the damage would be the same.