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Little League Baseball and Discrimination

I live in the Detroit area and, for as long as I have lived here, I have heard media commentators claim that we need more dialogue about racial issues. Yet when I observe such dialogue, I have often seen people talk past one another about racial matters because people often disagree about the definition of racial discrimination. A recent dispute involving Little League baseball illustrates this difference of opinion quite clearly (a news account of this sad story may be found here).

The dispute involves a baseball team from the Chicago area that competed in the competition that ultimately could lead to the team winning the Little League World Championship. The team’s players were all African American. They won the U.S. championship but did not win the world championship. The team’s achievements were praised widely and they were invited to the White House where they met the President. Recently Little League Baseball vacated all of the team’s achievements because it was found that the team’s management violated rules that dictated where the players must live if they were permitted to play on the team. A lawsuit was filed by parents of the players on the team and one parent, in a news conference that I happened to see, claimed that vacating the team’s victories was evidence of discrimination. But is this really what we mean by discrimination?

Little League officials claim that the rules regarding residency were in place before the team competed. In addition, the rule was applied to other teams, including ones who were not African American. If these claims are found in court to be true, then in my opinion, no discrimination has occurred. But what is clear by the lawsuit filed on behalf of the team, the parents think that discrimination occurs even if the rules are in place beforehand and applied to everyone. As a result, there are two definitions of discrimination at work here. What purpose will be served by more dialogue between people who believe each view of what is meant by discrimination?  Will I change my belief? No and will the others who disagree change theirs? I suspect not.

I think the reality of race relations in the U.S. is that there is a wide difference of opinion about the existence of discrimination which will make it very difficult to get past this divisive issue in politics and in everyday life.

Categories: Government
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