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Racism, Baseball and Unconscious Thought

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Last Sunday, Evan Longoria and B.J Upton got into an argument over B.J. taking his time chasing down a ball hit to the wall. This confrontation may seem like a small spat between teammates, but may have an unseen racial impact with people that saw it.

First we will need to take a step back and look at how the brain works. In the book "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell, he states:

"First of all, we have our conscious attitudes. This is what we choose to believe. These are our stated values, which we use to direct our behavior deliberately.....our second level of attitude, our racial attitude on an unconscious level, the immediate, automatic associations that tumble out before we have time to think. We don't deliberately choose our unconscious attitudes"

Observers of the confrontation between Longoria and Upton probably didn't even notice the race of the players, but our unconscious mind is being told something else. It is see the black player (Upton) as lazy and the white player (Longoria) as the leader and putting the black player in his place.

The racial under tone is not limited to just the Longoria-Upton argument. I know there are plenty of examples that contradict the this example, but are those players making the headlines that we read everyday. Milton Bradley is a trouble maker. David Eckstein is a gritty veteran. Chris Brown is a malingerer. Pete Rose was Charlie Hustle

In most of our normal daily activities, the racist unconscious is a non factor, but as Malcolm Gladwell states:

"It's a powerful predictor of how we act in certain kinds of spontaneous situations."

The people that have a bunch of spontaneous situations during a game that witness the behavior are the players, managers and umpires. The umpire could have seen the flare up in the Rays dugout on Sunday and he has to make a call on a close play and his mind has to make a decision between a white catcher and a black base runner.

I am not sure if there is a workable solution to this problem. As Galdwell states:

"It [un-biased associations] requires that you change your life so that you are exposed to minorities on a regular basis and become comfortable with them and familiar with the best of their culture, so that when you want to meet, hire, date, or talk with a member of a minority, you aren't betrayed by your hesitation and discomfort."

The media will not change what they report on, so what we see, hear and read will always be out of our control. I think the best way to fight this issue as fans is to understand the what is going on in our unconscious mind and look in our personal lives for chances to train our brain differently.