Honestly, some Spanish words just sound better than their English counterparts. While “ignorante” flows off the tongue like the most beautifully heinous Latin invective imaginable, calling Yunel Escobar an “ignorant, homophobic jackass” also has a certain guttural quaintness as well. Since science yet denies us the ability to truly read another person’s thoughts, we cannot fully know what has gone through Escobar’s mind. Perhaps more important is what was not going through Escobar’s cranial space each and every time he chose to use an eye black sticker decorated by a homophobic slur. That leaves us with the tried and true method of simply damning him for his actions based only on the data presented.
Escobar knew exactly what the words meant. He turned himself into a small, mobile billboard for hate every time he took the field using the stickers. He failed mightily in protesting his innocence by invoking the “I have gay friends” defense. By that same logic, I can approve random acts of hate against dumb people, because I know a lot of dumb people. Life does not in fact work that way. He basically rattled off a slightly askew version of the “I’m sorry if my actions offended anyone” mantra that so many professional athletes use when they obviously offended more than just a few. Based on his pathetic attempt at an apology, he still does not fully understand the ramifications of his actions.
Does he really believe that the Latin community as a whole accepts the use of derogatory slang that spews forth hate at gay people? Apparently, he does. Mind you, calling someone a “faggot” does not equate to the counter-intuitive custom of slurping out of a bowl while eating to show approval that you find prevalent in some Asian cultures. This is not the same as the popular yet juvenile act of bestowing a terrible nickname on a good friend in college that may stick with the person for life (ie Spanky or Douche Canoe Captain). Homophobia might have a reasonable shot at simultaneously being both the most ridiculous and unacceptable form of prejudice in existence.
Racism continues to diminish in many places as an unsustainable prejudice simply due to the prevalence of integrated relationships that produce mixed-race children. Actually, the relative purity of any single person on the planet merits serious discussion as DNA mapping shows increasingly that genetic markers indicate racial “influence” well beyond what your family tree may show. Sexism may be alive and well, but it certainly has come a long way in 50 years. The various talking points for gender gap discussions remain valid in a general sense, but the specifics are changing with each passing year. I personally reject the notion that gender equality means that a man and a woman with similar educational backgrounds, skill sets, industry experience, professional networks, and tenure should be compensated equally. What if the woman does a better job or a more efficient one than her male counterpart? Should we simply stop at expecting her to be equally compensated? No. That’s not what “gender equality” should mean. It should be about equal treatment.
The same should be said for gays and lesbians with a singular difference. Homophobia makes even less sense in the grand scheme of things. Hate based on something as arbitrary as skin color or sex seems plain dumb. Hate based on something not easily observed seems absolutely preposterous. From 50 feet away, I can usually differentiate between a male and a female of our species. From that same distance, I can usually pick out an Asian from a non-Asian. Beyond that, I cannot with much certainty say much else about the person at all. Perhaps the last possible thing I could identify about a person from that distance is sexual orientation. I have a better chance of guessing their dog’s name than I do of establishing anything about sexual preference.
Mind you, all people have the right to hate and in turn like whatever they see fit. At the same time, I also have the right, nay the privilege to point at them and laugh. I mock them in all ways possible, and no specific person, group, or society can hide from my mocking. I make jokes at the expense of athletes, celebrities, gays, non-gays, lesbians, non-lesbians, skinny people, overweight people, people who tan too much, people who watch Honey Boo Boo, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, black people, white people, mixed people, people with moles, people with birds, dog people, cat people, Asians, my family members, your family members, and your next door neighbor’s college roommate’s cousin who once appeared on Family Feud in a pair of coveralls. The difference between Escobar and me is that I make fun of many of these people without necessarily knowing which of the aforementioned categories they fit into.
Does that make me a better person? Certainly not. I probably shouldn’t mock anybody, but I do. It’s a character defect. You can call me an idiot for behaving the way I do, but you would be hard-pressed to call me a racist, sexist, or homophobic jerk store and back it up with any evidence. Just the same, Escobar can content himself with moving forward in life under the pretense that it’s okay for him to quietly dislike gay people. As long as those thoughts do not somehow result in an unkind act, I see no reason to linger on the issue. He probably could use some kind of counseling or educational process, but he can easily go through life wallowing in his own ignorance. The only thing that has really changed is that everybody knows just how ignorant he is. Maybe he would have been better off being thought a fool than wearing the offensive eye black and removing all doubt.