Michael Sam, an All-American defensive lineman from Missouri and the Associated Press’ SEC Defensive Player of the Year, told ESPN Sunday that he is gay. “I am an openly, proud gay man.” Sam is projected to be a mid-round draft choice for the NFL draft in May. If he is drafted and makes the team, Sam would be the first openly gay active NFL player.
We shall see. Sam’s plan, he said, was to announce his sexual orientation after the draft, which might have been wiser and more practical, though not as ethical. He said that rumors were circulating, so he decided to come out now.
However he arrived at the decision, Sam’s candor is a courageous act, and I assume he will suffer for it. No NFL team has to draft him, and many teams that might have will not, presumably, simply to avoid the distraction of media scrutiny. If they draft him and cut him, will he claim that it was out of bigotry? Will he sue? I think most teams will decide that there are other similarly talented non-gay players available, and let some other team jump into these roiling social change and political waters.
There is a reason why, when Branch Rickey decided it was past time to end baseball’s self-imposed apartheid, he chose Jackie Robinson, a likely super-star, to be the sport’s race trailblazer. If Sam were a projected first or second round choice, the NFL teams couldn’t avoid him without being exposed individually for their bigotry. Any trailblazer, the first black baseball player, the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice, the first black President, has an unfair but unavoidable need to be Ceasar’s wife—more than just good enough, but nearly perfect, or their ground-breaking achievement will be incomplete, or even do more harm than good.
Note that pro basketball’s first self-declared gay man, reserve player Jason Collins, waited until after the end of the NBA season to come out of the closet, and no team signed him to play for it in the next season. At the time of his announcement, I speculated that the NBA would quietly make certain that he was signed by someone, for PR purposes. Nope. Nobody wanted him, and hardly anyone noticed, because he wasn’t a star.
I think Sam’s honesty is admirable in every way. My guess is that he hurt his career chances badly, and if that is the result, his courage may have the exact opposite effect that gay advocates and opponents of prejudice anticipate.
I hope I’m wrong.
Source: New York Times
122 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Michael Sam”
Meh. I’ve never even heard of the guy, and from what I understand a lot of people who follow college football more than me haven’t heard of his either.
I bet he wasn’t on anyone’s short list, and is probably going to use this to bitch about why he wasn’t signed (“They hate the gays!!”), even though he wasn’t going to be signed anyways.
Seriously, just once I’d like on of these “proud and brave players” to be good. All we’ve gotten so far is “I support them!” and “I’m one of them” from people who rate as mediocre at best.
Let’s see. He’s All-American defensive lineman and the Associated Press’ SEC Defensive Player of the Year – and the first two comments on this post are that he’s probably a mediocre player who’s planning on bitching?
Please. Those kinds of comments are exactly the reason this was in fact an act of courage, as Jack suggests.
I hope you’re wrong too, Jack, but so far your readership is making the opposite case.
He’s from fucking Missouri… He wasn’t getting drafted.
I don’t know the stats for All Americans and thier likelihood of being drafted, to me knowing that and then the outcome would be the first place to start. I tend to see, my bias, any gay issue first as an attempt to gain advantage, I have to really look past my bias and coldly analyze it. What is missing from this story is how much interest he had from the NFL prior to the announcement, how full the rosters are of those in his position and what is his comparative quality to those players. on the flip side if he is not as good as those available and does get drafted does the NFL get credit for trailblazing or snears for buckling under?
I would have thought coming out as gay would make his chances better or not change them at all. Gay isn’t a big deal anymore.
Oooooh. Not in sports locker rooms. Not in pro sports. The anti-gay bias among male athletes in the team sports is still pervasive. Gay is no big deal in tennis, golf, ice skating, gymnastics, track and field. Otherwise , it’s a very big deal.
Do I think the players care? No…. Maybe…. But probably not. Do the fans? No. I doubt they know personal stories from many of the players, let alone this guy. The owners? Yes. But not for the reason you think.
We have a victim culture. And if Sam is signed, and then subsequently isn’t, or just plain isn’t, for that matter, there will be a drove of people chomping at the bit ready to sue. And the sick thing is that even if this had nothing to do with his orientation (and the arguement can and will be made that it does not). How many people can say when faced with the choice between dissappearing, or fame and money, that they’d choose to dissappear? The guy is a gamble. If he’s great… Great! If he’s not…. Well you don’t just waste your time and his salary, all of a sudden you’re in a PR shitstorm and lawyers get involved.
This may change impact some people’s worlds in any number of ways; not mine.
I have a gay sibling that has more courage, strength, and compassion than anyone else I know.
The Daily Beast’s Ben Jacobs has already anointed Sam as “the NFL’s Jackie Robinson.”
The Left also seems to struggle with finding original thoughts and material. Traveling the route of least resistance, they prefer instead to lift them, which is exactly what Jacobs did.
He filched the reference from MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts who bestowed the same accolade on the NBA’s Jason Collins last year.
Not discounting what Sam is doing, let’s try to keep things in perspective, something with which some (not all) Leftists have great difficulty.
While I wish him well, Sam has yet to be drafted, much less play a down in the NFL. Jacobs’ breathless exhortation is a tad premature and a whole lot over the top.
Exactly. And the advance burden of being “Jackie Robinson” was nearly impossible for Jackie Robinson to bear. The reason Rickey, brilliantly, knew that the player to break the color barrier had to be a great one was that he knew that any player less than great could be credibly dismissed on other grounds. It is not until the mediocre but adequate NFL player can be gay without negative consequences that the league will be safe for gay players.
I wonder who the first average black baseball player was? It’s hard to tell, because several of the first black players who didn’t perform in stellar fashion (often due to the stress of being the target of racial abuse) got cut before they could show their talents. But a disproportionate number of the group were either already Negro League stars or came with the expectation that they would be stars.
They must feel some obligation to make their situation public, maybe it is so they don’t have the media speculating on is he / is he not for weeks on end.
That’s kind of what I was thinking- you won’t keep them from talking about you, but at least they’ll be talking about a definite fact rather than sniffing around and hinting and insinuating and wondering.
To anyone who thinks he gains some “advantage” from coming out, read this:
Sports commentators…. Pure guesses. How do you quantify something like that? It’s not through stats. I would LOVE to see the math they did there. It’s a shot in the dark at best and something for their talking heads at worst.
Subsequently, he’s recovered 50 of those 70 spots, to sit at 110 from 150 from 90.
Ugh. And this is exactly what I was afraid of.
Frankly, I would have dropped him in position too, because maybe it’s my cynicism showing, but this is the sort of thing that screams “I am doing this for attention, look at me look at me look at me!!!”
Young Mr Sam will be – mark my word -a constant source of headache and woe for whoever is unfortunate enough to draft him. Anything that isn’t in his favor will be because he’s gay.
Not offered enough money? It’s because he’s gay.
Not starting? It’s because he’s gay.
He doesn’t like where his locker is? It’s because he’s gay.
And fuck forbid he get hazed like the rest of the rookies who have ever joined a team. We won’t hear the end of how it is all due to the raging homophobia of his teammates.
Wow — you’re assuming a lot there.
I’m just playing the odds.
Thought the same – I sense a lot of anger…
Yes, because people never come out of the closet and claim failure is due to bigotry…
It isn’t like Ellen made the claim when her sitcom tanked, or that Sykes claims it is why she isn’t popular…
No, it must be anger. Yes, how well you know me.
If Sam fails it won’t be because of his being gay. I’ve just received irrefutable proof positive of this while retrieving today’s mail.
Amidst the sundry post-holiday catalog & solicitation clutter lay this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated with none other than a helmeted Michael Sam staring out from the cover.
He could still embrace victim status if the Cover Jinx, which needs neither acceptance nor approval as it calls the tune to which we must ALL dance, claims yet another casualty.
I also hope you are wrong. As you know I am an out and proud gay man, but work in an industry that values diversity! That said thirty years ago when I was this brave young man’s age, I was encouraged to hide. But I valued truth and justice too much to sacrifice my values. That is not to say it was easy, it was not. I was fired from jobs in theatre and the restaurant industry, simply because of who I was. But I persevered because lying was not in my character.
One restaurant job was particularly painful as I out sold every other waiter in the establishment. So I thought the corporate structure or that small DC based chain would protect me. That was the last corporate job I ever worked. It caused me to reevaluate my options and I only worked in the theatre and education from then on. I still occasionally dealt with prejudice but I was hardened to it, even my bigoted parents and closeted brothers,felt I brought on myself. My dad started to come around after one brother died. After my dad passed it took my mother a while, it is only in the last year she has decided that civil marriage may be ok.
She still gave me hell last year when we “ruined” “I do I do” and flatly refused to come see it. My other brother came out two years ago, only to suffer the same attitudes in his work place. He works as a bookkeeper—sorry, but his identity has nothing to do with his job. I fear that until everyone can be himself, and job performance outweighs people’s prejudice and perceptions everywhere. It is doubtful that the young man will get a fair shake.
Until those who are in every field are treated equally regardless of who they are, our freedoms are in jeopardy.
I’m sorry, but if it has nothing to do with his job, was there a reason he came out at work?
I’m not being a smart-ass (for the moment), I really want to know: if it isn’t important to the job, why even mention it? I’ve never asked nor frankly given a single ounce of fuck what someone’s sexual nature might be, but if someone started walking around reminding me every God Damn Moment which gender turns their crank I’m going to start treating them like shit if only so they stop talking to me completely and thus leave me the hell alone.
I think it has less to do with “sexual nature” and more about day to day life.
Do you know the names of your married coworkers’ spouses, significant others, kids? Maybe, maybe not – depends on the nature of your workplace and your own level of interest. But for many people in many workplaces, it’s natural and expected to have a certain level of casual personal conversation – talking about what you did over the weekend while you’re in the elevator in the morning, or about the vacation you just got back from while getting a cup of coffee. If your significant other is of the same gender, your choices are to lie, to selectively edit, to disengage – or to simply share your life in the same way that your hetero coworkers do. “My boyfriend and I saw that movie on Friday” is bland workplace conversation for a woman. For a man to be able say the same sentence, he has to come out.
Just saw this after I wrote a similar comment.
I agree that making an issue out of any sexual activities or orientation in the workplace is unnecessary and a distraction. But no one should be forced to feel that they have to hide, either, as in “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Or that they are going to be asked if they “seem” gay, or straight, for that matter. If someone thinks everyone is operating under the assumption he is straight…women flirting with him, or making homophobic jokes or comments…that would justify some one saying, “You know, I’m gay.” Or simply wanting to be upfront with a workplace friend. Most people who come “out” don’t make a formal proclamation, and don’t need to.
Wonderful, honest comment, Rip. Thanks.
Rip…I agree with your sentiments but I do have a question. You made a statement much like Michael Sams’ statement. “I am an out and proud gay man”. I’m hoping that you can help me understand what you mean by the word proud. I know my circumstances are not anything like yours…I’m a heterosexual female but that is not something I am proud of…no more than I am proud of my brown eyes or brown hair. I had nothing to do with my sexuality or my sexual preferences. I’m not ashamed of being heterosexual just as you should definitely not be ashamed of being a gay man. You didn’t choose that any more than you chose your very own parents. Can you tell me a little more about how you are using the word proud? Is it a way to say “I am not ashamed” or perhaps proud that you had the strength to come out?
You don’t have to be proud of being heterosexual because an entire world didn’t demonize you for being heterosexual. If you are acknowledging that you are different than the mainstream and will face adverse consequences as a result, then you can (and should) take pride in that.
But if you wear a “Straight Pride” shirt to school you will get sent home, unlike if you wear a “Gay Pride” shirt…
Hmmm does that work for wearing a White Pride shirt too?
Yes… although that is completely beside the point.
And Beth; suppose that reaction from others to your behavior is both natural and deserved?
Well that depends, doesn’t it? If you mean “Please, sir, stop sticking yoru tongue down that man’s throat on the bus,” well yes, that’s a deserved reaction- It’s distasteful no matter what combination of people do it. If you mean “GROSS you said you had a boyfriend and went to see a lovely play last night!” Then no, that’s not deserved at all.
Again, why take pride in being straight? The world hasn’t demonized you for that. If you do choose to wear such a shirt, I would wonder if something more troubling is going on — are you ignorant, in the closet, filled with hatred? If it’s simply that you are trying to make a point and exercise free speech? Okay, that’s fine, but if you were my student, friend, or family member then I would encourage you to ask why you are choosing gender preference as your topic. Same would go with the white pride example below. Free speech doesn’t mean that I have to like what you’re saying. And, if I were a principal, I wouldn’t send a student home for wearing that shirt but I probably would open a dialogue with you about why you are doing it.
I like George Carlin’s take on “pride” movements. Paraphrasing, it’s that you can’t really be proud of something you didn’t do. Gay pride and black pride don’t make sense any more than white and straight pride, because you’re only gay, straight, black, or white through an accident of genetics and/or brain chemistry. I’m not PROUD to be a straight white male, but I’m GLAD to be- because if I weren’t those things I wouldn’t be me.
I think there’s just some linguistic blur around “pride.” In the sense where it’s the opposite of “shame,” then it makes sense to feel proud of your sexuality in that you’re not hiding it or worried about it. In the sense where it reflects a sense of accomplishment, then how can you be proud of who you want to sex?
There’s also a tendency, with minority or marginal groups, to have a sense of group identity. I don’t identify with everything a straight white guy has done in history, so the sense of pride doesn’t really resonate with me. Meanwhile, ideas like “Black History Month” promote the idea that all black people should be proud and feel a sense of group accomplishment because of things that other, totally unrelated, black people have done. Gay pride is similar, I think, in that the whole group identifies with the struggles, victories, and pain of all the other members.
Gay pride makes sense to me because we still live in a world where a gay man would have a better and easier life if he could pull off living as a straight man. So, he is not taking “pride” in the fact that he is gay, he is taking “pride” in the fact that he knows being open about it will make his a life more challenging but overall will be better for society. That’s why a “Glad to Be A White Male” shirt makes perfect logical sense.
Right- it’s the “I’m not ashamed of this, it’s who I am and I’m happy to be who I am.” It’s when it gets confused with “I accomplished something and feel good about it” that we have people asking how it’s possible to be proud of your orientation.
Of course, there’s also the fact that even a “Glad to be a White Male” shirt would be severely frowned on in public circles, like Scott says above… but that’s a whole other issue
Yeah…that’s kinda exactly what I said…
The problem with claiming that the entire world demonizes gays is that it begs the question of what gays did to provoke such demonization.
Of course, this demonization, whatever its scope, only dates back to 1868, because the concept of sexual orientation did not exist until then. Before 1868, gays could not be singled out for persecution because the very concept did not exist.
It was always demonized by society (either officially or unofficially). I mean, isn’t this discussed in the Bible? If civil laws weren’t on the books, it’s because gay people either hid their partners OR they ignored them.
The heck you say that it was always demonized by society. I think the Greeks would have a little something to say about that. I think what Michael’s saying is that people were having all kinds of gay sex, but many also had straight sex to procreate, because it was expected. The idea of someone who only wanted to have gay sex is a relatively new concept.
“Throughout the majority of Christian history most theologians and Christian denominations have viewed homosexual behavior as immoral or sinful.”
There’s a pretty big gap between “always demonized by society” and “most theologians and Christian denominations, throughout the majority of Christian history”
The Greeks of course being an overused exception to the rule.
Not to mention the Romans, Chinese, American Indians, and many Pacific Islander cultures too- besides, don’t use words like “always” and then blow off an example of “not always” as overused.
Interesting chapter in a book on the widely varying practices across cultures regarding homosexuality: basic point is it’s more culturally determined and less genetically determined than much other human behavior – and it varies a lot.
This is reporting on an anthropological study across 60-odd cultures.
Click to access Ch6.pdf
Cultural determination is fairly obvious, especially if you believe the Kinsey Scale (I think) that posits that humans rest on a sliding scale between “all gay” and “all straight,” and that most people are at least slightly between the two absolute poles. If you live in a society that figures most people will experiment, you’re more likely to experiment with the same sex even if you ultimately are inclined to marry hetero and settle down. Even in the US, it’s much more an accepted notion that college women will do some same-sex experimentation, and so that happens much more frequently than similar experimentation in college men.
As for genetics, I never though that sexual orientation was exclusively genetic, otherwise you wouldn’t expect to see identical twins with different orientation. In addition to genetics and cultural expectations/norms, there’s something to be said for brain chemistry. Not to equate homosexuality with mental illness, but there’s plenty of those that also can’t be reliably predicted with genetics either- the brain does all kinds of things in its simmering skull-cauldron that we don’t understand all that well yet.
That makes a lot of sense to me.
Neat article, by the way.
Have you ever read Catullus? Believe me, even in those times, although his poetry concerns the Romans, gays were discriminated against.
And also: in ancient Greece it was more of a pederasty that was going on. An older man of the aristocracy took a (teen) boy as lover (which was approved by the boy’s father). It was a widely accepted custom.
On the other hand, two men of the same age and station in life having a homosexual relationship on an equal footing were generally frowned upon.
The Bible prohibited certain sex acts.
The concept of an orientation did not exist back until the late 19th century.
Oh no, the concept existed as early as ancient Greece, though they chalked it up to mythological origins.
The concept of gay sex, or the concept of “the homosexual” as someone who is exclusively attracted to those of the same sex, and does not also have a spouse with whom they procreate?
Jack, since you have stated that you consider the NFL an unethical sport, are you actually nevertheless neutral as to your wishes for Sam’s prospects in the NFL?
I ask because I can imagine all sorts of hype exploding forth about “homophobia” if, God forbid, Sam suffers a concussion – while playing in the NFL, no less!
Would face-masking become a hate crime?
Besides, we know he isn’t the first openly gay player, because we have kickers. 🙂
Do I think someone might set out to hurt him in that league? Yes.
You mean someone might intentionally slam into him at speed?
My god, someone call the police! What do they think this is, a football game???
Man’s got a point. There’s “slamming into, at speed,” which is what the cameras and spectators see. Then there’s “leg twisting, eye poking, knee-targeting,” which is what goes on in every pile and scrum but the fans tend to not be aware of. THEN there’s “setting out to hurt someone.” I’ve done it and am not proud of that game, but you can do some serious extra-legal damage, if injury is your goal, without too much risk of getting caught.
Luke, what you describe is what I am thinking Michael Sam has raised his risks of suffering. The problem of course is that when he gets injured, as happens with NFL players, there will be a presumption – not suspicion, but presumption – that he was intentionally injured by other, “homophobic” players’ actions.
So if Sam is cut, or if he is not a standout performer every Sunday, or if his career happens to be shorter than expected, his cover story will be that he got hurt because of homophobia, regardless of whether homophobia was at the root of his getting hurt.
I smell an unethical rationalization…
The Historical Minority’s Immunity.
It’s the flip side of what I have seen one erstwhile commenter here call “Christian privilege.”
Well, at least Sam will be rescued by an improved, superior national health care system.
So this guy “comes out of the closet” just before the NFL draft. Why, pray tell? The old Hollywood adage holds that “all publicity is good publicity”. And the NFL bigwigs, under fire from the Left for “hypermasculinity” and having a team named (gasp) Redskins (and virtually cringing from the onslaught), must now prove themselves of high mindedness by catering to the perverse nature of a new draftee. And he WILL be drafted, no matter what his perceived playing abilities. He simply struck while the iron was hot.
Some team will be pressured into taking him. And, once there, they will play hell in getting rid of him if he doesn’t measure up. If its the Redskins, he’ll be with them for life! Fortunately, that’s usually not too long for one of his “persuasion”. Until then, though, his team mates will just have to watch their backs in the showers.
I have a friend in his 40s, in banking, who is still in the closet, scared to death to come out. The reason is attitudes like many of those expressed here.
The most obvious ones are people who talk about watching backs in showers. But the much scarier ones are those who insist that they don’t give a fig about someone’s sexuality, that they are completely devoid of any homophobia.
It’s an easy step from self-delusion about being non-racist, non-sexist, non-homophobic, to assuming that gay people who are afraid of coming out must be publicity-seekers; that black people who see racism are just trouble-makers; and that women who still think equal pay is a problem are just causing much ado about nothing.
Beware people who say they’re bias-free; they’re the first one to blame the blacks, gays and women for being the cause of bias. Try listening to the people who’ve actually lived it – their experience should count.
Well, Charles. That was nice and easy, wasn’t it? You used just about every catch word and phrase from the GLSEN playbook… plus the mandatory false analogies about women, racism, etc. I’d suggest you tell your 40ish Friend that, if he gets his head together and decides to rejoin the human race, his little fears (and the far bigger ones from his own amigos) will be rapidly minimized. In the meantime, use your “homophobia” denouncements on someone who gives a damn.
Great, so now when I say, in all honesty, that I don’t care . . . somehow I’m actually wrong and you know me better than I myself do . . . ?
How does that work, exactly?
Shut up, Dwayne. Isn’t it enough that you hate gays? Must you torment poor Charles as well?
Being the cause of bias, or seeing bias everywhere, and not being able to distinguish where it isn’t? I think I’ve told the story here about the black singer who accused me of racism for casting a white performer who was superior in every way...who could obviously sing the black singer off any stage. I found the black singer’s paranoia profoundly sad and frightening, and I understood better the terrible handicap of being in his position, and never being sure when bias and bigotry were behind a personal disappointment or failure. But that doesn’t mean that the accusation against me was any more fair, or that I should ignore it, or validate it, or tolerate it.
And I said, in essence, “You are using presumed bigotry as a crutch and an alibi for your own shortcomings, and it’s crippling you. You didn’t get the part because you aren’t good enough, and if you keep letting your race be an all purpose excuse, you’ll never be good enough.”
Yeah, their experience counts, but it doesn’t still won’t excuse race-baiting, blame-shifting, and lack of accountability.
Jack, when it comes to the -isms, unfortunately anecdotes aren’t helpful, and that’s as true for mine as for yours. None of us are good at noticing what we we’re blind to, hence we assert our clarity of vision with great moral certainty. But we’re not all that self-aware, none of us.
What is needed are clear data-driven analyses about the presence or absence of discriminatory behavior, separate from subjective assertions of one’s own intentions.
There are plenty of such studies out there that affirmatively demonstrate the reality of systemic, unconscious bias against various minorities, most specifically including gays and racial minorities. IMHO one of the better, if anyone’s interested, is Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People, by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald. Malcolm Gladwell credits it with having made him recognize racism in himself, and it has a brilliant simple methodology that anyone can test for themselves.
It’s been my experience that minorities are far more aware of both sides of an issue than are majorities (makes perfect sense), but of course they can become overly sensitive to it (‘just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you’ comes to mind). All the more reason for real data, and the cessation of self-serving anecdotes (of which I’m guilty too).
Once again; comparisons to “minorities” are a false analogy. Therefore, your namedropping of some bizarre or obscure authors on the subject is pretty meaningless. As for “data driven analyses” (catchy phrase!), let me introduce you to another one that more to the point: GIGO; garbage in, garbage out. That’s the concept that shoots down more theses than Jack used to have on his head! Sorry if I’m a bit pointed in my words, but sometimes my “paranoia” just gets the best of me.
Real data, like Obama’s disgraceful 77 cents myth, which he had to know was baloney long before he used it? How do you get “real data?” My black singer would have told a researcher I discriminated against him. The NAACP’s position is that Trayvon Martin was shot for “walking while black.” The data you refer to is hopelessly manipulated for political advantage…there is no reason to believe it, trust it, or base policy on it. And you shouldn’t discount that anecdote, which explains more than the data—the object of bigotry becomes incapable of distinguishing friends from foes. I know who was right and who was wrong in that case, because I heard the two singers.
And I hear that young singer every time I hear an MSNBC commentator argue that the reason people criticize a President whose record is objectively miserable is because they are all bigots…and he can’t hit the notes!
This is a bit like trashing a movie you’ve never seen.
Try reading the book.
Read. The. Book.
THEN tell me the data is hopelessly manipulated. THEN tell me you’ll ignore it.
How can you possibly say “the data you refer to is hopelessly manipulated for political advantage” without knowing the data I’m referring to? You ask “how do you get real data?” then proceed to be completely uninterested in the answer.
IF you believe it is conceivably possible to create a testable hypothesis about discrimination, and IF I’m telling you I think this might be such a book (and have some standing to talk about the issue), then WHY do you proudly insist on rejecting the book up front?
And Jack, I don’t discount your anecdote, anymore than you should discount mine (seven years in an interracial marriage). My point is simply that anecdotes are a logical standoff – you know what you saw, I know what I saw. A draw. That’s why a carefully done study could possibly be so helpful.
I renew my suggestion – READ THE BOOK before you trash it
I’m not trashing the data that shows that employers, statistically, will favor the same resume with a white photo over those with a black ones, or that there is red-lining, or that women are, on balance, undermined ina million ways in the workplace, or that gays are widely discriminated against. I’m trashing the reverse bigotry of using such data to presume bias as the underlying cause of any and every individual’s disappointments and failure, or to assume the role of perpetual victim, or to extract never-ending guilt from people who have not abused minorities in any way, or to assert permanent victim status requiring never-ending reparations by reverse discrimination.
Prejudice, bias and discrimination exists, and is wrong. So is wielding that fact as a sword.
Bias should never be presumed. Similarly, however, we should never presume that we are ourselves are completely free from bias. I think it would be the rare person who can claim to know himself or herself that well.
A few months ago, I went on an outing with some of the moms from my kids’ school. Late in the day, we started talking about race relations — we were a pretty diverse group. I was the only white person who acknowledged that I notice a person’s race. The other white moms denied it — I don’t know if they were telling the truth or if they were living in denial. I grew up in a 100% white community so diversity still is something that I notice. It was interesting — the black moms in the group said to me that they had NEVER heard a white person say that before and that they appreciated me saying it. The white moms stared at me like I was crazy. There’s no way for me to know if those other white moms are just color blind (like I wish I was color blind) or if they are liars.
Like Jack, I’d like to think that I never discriminate against any person in any way. But, re Charles’ point, how can you even test this at the individual level? All any of us can do is try to be the best person that we can be and teach our kids to love all people.
Beth’s absolutely right. In my interracial marriage, our white friends fell all over each other in their insistence that they were color-blind. None of our black friends believed it for a minute. As for me, I had been pretty aware of race all along, and became even more acutely so as I came to understand the minority perspective.
It is of course impossible to know another’s inner feelings, but there is plenty of data out there – Jack cited blinded resume studies, for example – to indicate that “not-me-I’m-colorblind” is something said by people whose unconscious beliefs and real-world actions are amazingly race-sensitive.
The only people I believe who say that are under ten years old.
Again, confounding bias with bigotry.
And yet, Charles outright claims that bias should be presumed- he says that those who say they aren’t, are deluding themselves and should be feared, and are the first to blame the minority they claim to not be biased against.
Luke, quote me right. When it comes to an individual, the only right and ethical thing to do is to presume complete objectivity, good will and wisdom, until and unless proven otherwise.
But when dealing with social issues, across wide numbers of people, then depending on the issue, it may be utterly stupid to assume wisdom, objectivity and the like.
In the case of bigotry, it’s not only my personal experience, but proven data-based fact, that unconscious bigotry is the rule not the exception. Hence my claim that bias should be presumed – when looking at large numbers of people.
I have no basis for claiming that you, personally, are biased. It would be unethical of me to assume so, and in fact if we were to meet I like to think I’d give you ever benefit of the doubt as an individual. If, however, I had to place bets on whether you and 100 other people who claim to be unbiased are in fact unbiased, I know precisely where I’d place my money.
There’s a difference between ethics and anthropology. One’s individual, the other’s statistical.
Bias is different from bigotry. Favoring one’s own group is a bias; actively disliking or regarding an individual as inferior because of membership in a different group is bigotry. Bias is hard-wired into all of us. Bigotry isn’t. I think you are blurring the distinction.
That’s an intuitively interesting distinction, thank you. Say more please. Is it a continuum? Or are there sharp lines which can be drawn? If I blurred the boundary, help me crisp it up?
Staying away from dictionary definitions, biases are those common cognitive flaws that lead to preferences and decisions that that seem rational, sometimes are, and often are not. Bigotry is a explicitly negative bias against a group or individual connected to a group that expresses itself as reflex hostility that is resistant to changed circumstance, new information, facts or ethical principles.
An example of a bias: I was successively burned by a series of African-American support staff who engaged in misconduct and who, because of EEOC scrutiny on the company, proved expensive and difficult to fire because they asserted bogus defenses of racial animus. The next hiring cycle, I had two almost identical candidates, one white, and one black. I told my superior that I had been so badly burned that I literally couldn’t be objective, and needed someone else to make the call for me, because I was conflicted (bias could also lead me to unfairly favor the black candidate as an over-correction for an acknowledged bias.)
A bigot (racist) would never acknowledge that the black candidate could be better than the white one, if they were that close.
Helpful, thanks. A follow up question: by that definition, can there be such a thing as unconscious bigotry?
“But the much scarier ones are those who insist that they don’t give a fig about someone’s sexuality, that they are completely devoid of any homophobia”
“Beware people who say they’re bias-free; they’re the first one to blame the blacks, gays and women for being the cause of bias.”
Neither of those imply that “large groups” of people often show discriminatory behaviors, or that the overall numbers indicate that more people claim to be bias-free than actually go without showing bias. Both of those specifically point to an individual saying “I’m not x-ist” and say “Fear him. Beware him. He is going to turn on you.”
You’ll note I used the plural in both those cases–they, those, ones. I won’t claim that was done consciously, but it was correct, or anyway I’d stand by it. I did not say, “I am suspicious of Joe because he says he is unbiased.”
How would you prefer that I make a point about groups of people, so as to distinguish them from individuals? What’s the right way to say it?
(I have a suspicion that on this issue, you and I may actually be in violent agreement.)
Again (I’ve now written this three times around this thread)—don’t confuse bias and bigotry. We’re all biased. We’re not all bigots.
No argument – but note how we got here. Your post called Sam an ethics hero, with some well-founded skepticism about whether it would all work out.
Then the flamers began. They question Sam’s motives, suggest that “homophobia” is a just an exercise in paranoia by the PC police, and that any bad result is basically Sam’s own damn fault, and so on. Basically saying, “Hero? Hell no.”
And while you started off by saying, “I think Sam’s honesty is admirable in every way,” you’ve now ended up somehow talking about reverse bigotry, permanent victim-hood, and false wielding of facts.
Feels like you’re playing a Patty Hearst role on this, sympathizing with the hijackers. Where do you stand on this? Is Sam guilty of reverse bigotry, playing the victim, et al? Is the anonymous trash talk within the NFL front offices just so much noise? Is coming out really just a PR stunt by a whining publicity seeker, looking to stack the odds in his favor – or do you really seem him as a hero? I’m getting confused.
Yes, because if Sam doesn’t make the grade, gay advocates will presume it is because of bigotry, and bigots will say it’s because he stunk, and there will probably be no way to know which…which will be the fair conclusion. which nobody, almost, will admit. Especially, I’m guessing, Sam himself, since there is a bias against concluding that anything is one’s own fault if it can be plausibly blamed on others. The Fundamental Attribution Error.
But where did I ever suggest, at this point, that Sam is guilty of reverse bigotry, playing the victim, et al? It’s not in the post or anywhere else.
You never did make that claim, I didn’t mean to suggest you did. But others did, invoking those kinds of arguments. And you’re focusing approvingly on those arguments, under cover of a hypothetical future state (if he does get drafted, and then fails, and then suffers from the fundamental attribution error, THEN he would be a whining liberal pansy ass victim etc).
YOU’RE clean here, but much of this thread skips right past your hypothetical phrasing, and attributes those failings to Sam in the here and now. I realize there are good reasons to stay hands off as a moderator, but part of me wishes you would call out that kind of sloppy thinking.
Which thinking, by the way, looks to me to be bigotry, not bias – would you agree?
Yes, I think it raises a rebuttable presumption of bigotry.
Just now noticing, Jack…your webpage graphics…so they are understandable, given knowledge that you are biased against creationism, and biased in favor of evolution. But, your inclusion of a picture of Bill Nye, without equal imagery of Ken Ham, suggests that you may be not only biased against Ham, but may also (through your use of the fantastic illustration of a “Big Sky Daddy” nearly touching the celestial, earth-like sphere) be bigoted against believers in non-evolutionary creation.
I and my God are just SO hurt right now, we are just cuddling, sobbing in self-pity…
It’s much simpler than that.
The task of coordinating the background involves guessing how the photos in the montage happen to fall on the page. A photo of “God” and Ken were in the montage, but too close to the center, and depending on the size, the center sometimes fails to be visible (it is covered by the posts. I usually have to jigger them to get something I like, but this split nicely (I thought) showing Bill, Scopes, The Adam creation with just the touch of the Spaghetti Monster’s tentacle for those paying attention, and the T-Rex with rider, which I assume Ken would approve of, no?
“It’s much simpler than that.” Suuuuuure…who’s being snarky now, after you close your reply with some taunt about presuming Ken would approve “T-Rex and rider?”
We’re over our sobbing, God and I, just sniffling and shuddering now, still clinging bitterly to each other – He and I agree (giggling a little between sniffles) that Adam’s creation of the spaghetti monster is a nice touch…
Why wouldn’t Ken approve? He maintains man and T-Rexes lived at the same time. He wouldn’t find that drawing even fanciful, would he?
Ken might agree that the two species lived at the same time. But come on, even with a Biblical dominionist view (that God gave humans dominion over all the animals), he would not contend that there is any evidence of humans having been riders on T-Rexes.
Nor any evidence they did not. In fact, if they co-existed (which, you know, is ridiculous), I’d bet someone at least tried to ride a T-Rex, a prehistoric daredevil perhaps. Men have ridden whales and elephants–it it has a back and its big enough, it’s a ride!
Charles, you’ve created a logical fallacy trap. If someone admits bias they are biased (obviously), but if somene denies bias and says they don’t care, they are MORE biased because it’s secret bias and they are the first to blame the “other.” By the logic in this post, the only way to not be biased would be to aggressively promote homosexual affirmative action, or something similar- a team would have to seek out and hire a set number of gay players to show their commitment. If they said they were basing it on talent and need, they are claming no bias, which drops them into your well of secret bias.
Luke, a logical fallacy is a fallacy of logic, not of perception. I’m making a simple statement, that when it comes to issues of prejudice, a lot of it is unconscious. In psychobabble terms, it’s an issue where there’s a lot of unconscious incompetence, people not knowing what they don’t know.
Of course, I don’t like being told I don’t know something I think I know any more than you do, but it’s not a logical question, it’s a factual one. The pope didn’t like Galileo suggesting the earth revolved around the sun, but it’s not a logical fallacy to say the pope was wrong – he was just wrong on the facts. What he thought he knew was wrong.
Another example: inmates say “all prisoners are innocent,” meaning to hear them tell it, they was all done wrong. Except, of course, they wasn’t. Ditto here.
I am saying there is a problem with your logic. You specifically said that “the much scarier ones are those who insist that they don’t give a fig about someone’s sexuality, that they are completely devoid of any homophobia.” Therefore everyone who denies bias is biased, according to you. This is false logic. Your second paragraph is confusing. Who is being told they don’t know something?
As for what logical fallacy that is, ther’es several possibilities-
– Argument from personal incredulity (You don’t see how anyone could truly not care about sexuality, so those who say they don’t must be in denial about their biases)
– Petitio Principii/ Begging the question (You say that those who deny bias are scary because they are the first to blame the minority, but that begs the question of whether people actually can not care about sexuality, as well as the question of whether those people are more likely to actually be bigots than the ones who say they are afraid to shower)
– Onus Probandi/ Burden of Proof (Claiming that the group of people who deny bias are really biased. This is extra insidious, as you put it on them to prove they aren’t biased, but take their denial of bias as proof of insidious bias)
– Suppressed Correlative (Redifining a correlative question to make one of the alternatives impossible- your post implies that simply not caring if a teammate or coworker is gay is impossible)
You can’t just thorw out things like claiming people who deny bias are more likely to be bigots and blame the minority, and then backtrack to “well that’s just my PERCEPTION.” I likewise hate the line about unconscious bias- it’s a conversational A-bomb. Once you use it, nothing can be used to argue against it. A person could give you a raft of examples of how he really doesn’t give a fig what his teammate does in bed, but you can always counter with “well I perceive it differently, and your bias is unconscious” without ever needing to back your argument up.
Read. The. Book.
Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People, by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald. Malcolm Gladwell credits it with having made him recognize racism in himself, and it has a brilliant simple methodology that anyone can test for themselves.
But first you have to actually read it. Then you earn the right to deny it.
Seems to me that’d be the logical sequence.
And as to unconscious bias being an A bomb, go read Berkely or Hume on the impossibility of ultimately knowing another’s inner state.
Sorry, I don’t have time to drop everything else I might be doing and read whatever book you think will prove to me how I’m a hidden racist. I’m not denying a damn thing in the book anyway, I’m denying what YOU said. Can’t you back it up without me having to track down and read a book? And if you think I have to somehow EARN the right to call out your nonsense arguments, think again.
The impossibility of knowing another’s inner state… and yet you assert that we should beware of those who claim no bias, that they are dangerous, that apparently nobody can be disinterested in the orientation of a coworker. You say that those who claim not to be racist, sexist, etc are self-deluded. What’s this about not knowing another’s inner state?
Is Charlie STILL pushing that book as the Final Authority?!
In my personal reckoning he gets the benefit of the doubt. I can see just deciding enough with the media scrutiny and sniffing around the issue, and to just say “Yep, this is me, this is the way it is” and shut down the insinuations and questions. He must have known it could hurt his draft stock, and he did it anyway- even if he was motivated as much by “stop IMPLYING I might be gay, and just say it already” as by being a heroic trend-bucker, I wish him good luck.
That said, I’m hoping that if he goes to a team he didn’t want, lower than projected, or not at all, that he doesn’t blame anti-gay sentiment. If he does that publicly then a lot of my goodwill will sour into wondering if he timed his reveal just to get that leverage. I really really hope that doesn’t happen.
Of course, if he goes below the first or second round some people will say it’s because the NFL hates the gays, and if he gets drafted at all some people will say it’s only because the NFL is pandering to the gays. The fun part will be when he ends up a mid- or low-round pick and both of those accusations get made at the same time.
He also has no one but himself to blame if he DOES make it and fans greet him with “he’s big, he’s black, he takes it up his crack!” or a revival of the Bleacher Kreachers’ version of Y.M.C.A.
I’m not so sure about that. He certainly shouldn’t be SURPRISED by taunts like that, but I’m going to go ahead and say that the assholes making fun of him for being gay are more “to blame” than he is for not hiding and lying about himself.
Close enough – I think the main point I want to make is that he’s made a choice and shouldn’t be surprised by what follows, not that slinging insults like 14-year-olds or pro-wrestling fans (but I repeat myself) is somehow all right.
It’s a no win situation and it’s getting more and more no win. There will never be enough acceptance. There will always be plenty of ways to bring pressure to bear against whoever doesn’t behave the way you think they should. See Rules for Radicals and The Prince for examples. If the LGBT issue really is similar to women and minorities fighting for acceptance and if history is any guide things will get to a place where real gains aren’t enough (and there have been real and positive gains in all of the above issues) and it becomes an endless wedge to be driven between people for political gain or power.
Probably a rationalization there somewhere, but I don’t feel like looking it up. I just get tired of the diversity, tolerance acceptance police always dominating everything.
You are frustrated about something I discussed here, about achieving equality, but demanding ‘compensation’ on the market.
I’m really sick of all the “its a distraction” “it will hurt the chemistry of the team” “The NFL is a mans mans world” bullshit. The same thing was said about getting rid of don’t ask don’t tell and how allowing gays to openly serve would destroy the military. And guess what. It didn’t. All the naysayers who were spouting that BS then and spouting it now, and just as they were wrong then they are wrong now.
Well, I share your attitudes about DADT, however, with all social experiments, we won’t know how it changes things in the military for years. It hasn’t been repealed that long. So it’s a bit early to tout it as a success story.
I spent 10 years in the Corps and still have friends in and to a man they say it hasn’t had any negative effect at all. Plus we also have other country services that have had openly gay members for years that show no problem at all.
I posted the wrong link. lol sorry about that
Actually, I think you posted that right cartoon, Billy. It makes about as much sense as your assertion that servicemen aren’t going to care that the guy next to them likes boys anyway he can get them.
As a friend in the Marines told me “dude, we know who the gay ones are – no one gives a damn.”
Yup. Again, I share the same opinions about DADT, we knew who was gay in our units, and they knew we knew and no one cared. We felt it would be no big deal while I was in the service.
Still too early to tout it’s success, regardless of how successful it seems now.
Maybe but I see nothing to show its not going to work.
Neither do I.
Not a veteran but spent over a decade working at a Boy Scout camp where, of course, no gays were allowed… or rather, “no gays were allowed.” Of COURSE we all knew, it just wasn’t an issue.
Interesting sub-thread. Seems to suggest that familiarity breeds nonchalance. That’s certainly my experience too.
If we’d had any shrieking queens they wouldn’t have been on staff very long, but that went the same for our female workers- if they were pretty princesses who squealed at the notion of mud and bugs they weren’t welcome either. Working with kids, though, meant it really WAS a situation where you didn’t let your sexuality be known, at least not to customers. None of them should have had any idea that any of us were married, dating, or anything of the sort.
Interesting “damned if you do; damned if you don’t” discussion here. The only point I see is that Sam stepped up to the plate (dis gut NFL speak, no?), which took guts. In this, I am in full agreement with Jack’s first paragraph.
Whatever Sam’s motivations or goals, or the reactions (or non) of his chosen profession and its fan-atics, or the general public, I don’t see any value in arguing generalized outcomes (unless they are exercises in ethics, naturally). I can say as much sooth as anyone, based on both anecdotal and empirical evidence; rather, I am talking about a negative value in doing so. [… maybe, if it’s up on the tote-board in Vegas.] Such debates just degenerate into … well, what Jack was interpolating into several exchanges: the writers’ biases, and the public’s bigotry (of course, the latter does not exist among EA commenters).
When it comes to public coming-out outcomes, the results (in Americanese: opinion=result) will range even more widely than they do here, from a crashing silence to blowback to heroic role modeling. The number and kind of variables are such that both discussion and prediction are removed entirely from Michael’s act, narrowed and filtered through sieves of bias (and that smidgeon of bigotry that peeps out now and again) until there isn’t anything left of the the subject. Broadly, these come into play and detract from what Michael Sam is doiing: sexuality, religion, custom, culture, laws, polarized knee-jerk politics, even race (consider the racial makeup of head-butting sports where machismo poses are all-in-all), and a yet deeper, ignorance-based HIV-paranoia, buried so far in stigma and misinformation that it makes the Martin/Zimmerman fiasco seem transparent by contrast.
The rightness of Sam’s declarations, including his taking pride [*] in himself and his actions, is defined by this one more step, taken as an individual, for normalization. For those who don’t understand the need for this or mistake it for victimization: normal, in this sense, equals visible. The INvisible is always the abnormal, the frightening, the unknown, the target, or the non-existent (so we don’t have to think about it, believe in it, deal with it). Look how popular monsters are since Pixar showed you what they look like and how much fun you can have with them! Becoming visible is never acceptable to those who haven’t seen you or didn’t want to see you before; you are suddenly standing in the way of their view of themselves and the world. That’s what Michael Sam is doing. Now he remains to be seen.
And it’s been a loooong time, since running back Dave Kopay complained that he couldn’t get a coaching job because of his sexual orientation (a not unreasonable assumption). Yes he did — bitch and moan, grunt and growl about it. Without any “activist” organization to back him up. Without a “gay community” of any kind. Without political agenda in his favor or the support of any law (and under threat of several). He’d had a solid nine-year NFL run starting in 1964 with the San Francisco 49ers, then Detroit Lions, Washington R_ _s_ _ _S (including a couple of years’ affair with teammate Jerry Smith, ’65-’77), New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers. In his case, it wasn’t the “coming out” that made him — okay, I’ll just stick my neck out and say it — an Ethics Hero for his time, it was in making a public complaint of discrimination forty-some years ago — with nothing to back him up. As an already proven coach during his playing days, the opening of his closet door had a direct correlation with the closing of job offers.
It was a normalizing act… not just as gay role modeling then (he never did get the hang of “gay” as it happens, even if he is today, at 71, a gay icon)… but to the NFL and the other contact sports, management and players, fans and families, having to recognize his visibility whether they accepted it or not. The thing about being visible is that after awhile, when a Michael Sam comes along, he’s not a major shock to the system, he’s already part of it. They may even be ready to let him play.
[*] Pride. This is used in the subjective, not the biblical sense, not the one that wenteth 2,000 years ago before the rise of reason, but the one that is a feeling of being worthy of being yourself. You know that pain scale with the smiley-to-frowny face that the nurse asks you to rate yourself on? That one? What you choose is what it is. And how much you feel it is. Yes, you can rate someone else’s pain if you have the hubris (or are a physician over 60, which is virtually the same thing) but that doesn’t make it legitimate. It isn’t your pain or your pride to define or to judge.