Emil Guillermo: If you slur an Asian or Asian American like baseball's Jack Morris, here's your "model apology"

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If you’re thinking about making remarks about an Asian American with a dash of that secret sauce—racism—I’m going to give you a way to think about the apology you will undoubtedly be forced to give.

Think of it as a model apology.

I realize society needs one of those after listening to the b.s. apology delivered on the radio by Jack Morris. If you don’t know Morris, the now suspended Detroit Tigers baseball announcer, he’s just like every other racist white man of his generation.

Clueless. A busted boomer.

He’s probably wondering why Louis C.K could get away with mocking an Asian accent in some comedy bits a few years back, but Morris can’t in 2021.

It’s because times have really changed. Asian Americans aren’t being overly sensitive. We’re just tired of being put down and disrespected in such a casual offhanded way. Over and over again.

Not in our diverse 21st Century America, friend.

It especially doesn’t fly when the accent targets Los Angeles Angels baseball star Shohei Ohtani.

Ohtani, a Japanese national playing in the U.S., is an “ichi-go ichi-e” type player. It means “For this moment.” Or “ once in a lifetime.” That’s how special he is.

Ohtani pitches and bats, plays every day. He doesn’t go to the plate with a wet noodle. He has 40 home runs. The most in the major leagues. There hasn’t been as dominating a player since Babe Ruth. And yet for being the best in the game, Ohtani gets slurred publicly.

This time, the perp is Morris, 66, a Hall of Famer, who now belongs in the Hall of Shame.

On Tuesday night, when asked how to pitch to Ohtani, who was coming up to bat, Morris said,“Be berry, berry careful.”

That’s how you spell what Morris said phonetically. Pop culture racists will know it as Charlie Chan English.

Morris, a white man, is not an Asian American. His parents did not come from Asia. He does not speak with an Asian accent. If he did, he might have had license to say that phrase the way he did. But in racist jargon, “no tickee, no accent.” White men do not get to make fun of Asian accents for sport.

It’s just not funny–to us? To anyone.

Asian Americans who’ve been mocked before know the sound.

It’s the sound that comes before the hate crime. In Detroit, it’s what Vincent Chin heard.

That’s why this is no joke.

Here’s what it sounded like, with the apology edited after.

Morris apologized this way: “Well folks, Shohei Ohtani has come to the plate, and it’s been brought to my attention and I sincerely apologize if I offended anybody, especially anybody in the Asian community, for what I said about pitching, and being careful to Jose. . .Shohei Ohtani. I did not intend for any offensive thing and I apologize if I did. Certainly, respect and have the utmost respect for this guy. And don’t blame a pitcher for walking him.”

Morris really did say “Jose.” Maybe his race detector is off. But what’s wrong with this apology? Everything.

From the bottom line, it sounds like Morris is apologizing for suggesting the pitcher gave Ohtani a base on balls.

No, Jack. No one cares about your baseball analysis. It’s your racism.

Let’s start with, “It’s come to my attention. . .” Someone had to tell him? He should’ve known on his own that something was not right.

Then he says, “I sincerely apologize if I offended anybody….”

What’s the conditional “if” for? Drop it.

And the “if I offended anybody” sounds like there were no victims. He’s apologizing to The Phantom?

Besides, why just apologize to those who were offended, “especially in the Asian community?” What if some non-Asians took issue with your racism and were offended to their core? Why not apologize to everyone? Isn’t all racism immoral and wrong? It would be a good time to call out all those clueless people who, just like you, laughed and thought nothing was wrong with your mocking accent. To them, it was thumbs up, all you ignorant racists! Let’s party!

That’s why this is a weak apology.

Here’s an apology Jack Morris should have said if he were truly sincere:

“I am a stupid racist. Let me own it. Sorry, I said things out loud that I think about all the time in private. It just came out. That’s who I am. I was trying to be funny like Louis C.K. who tells a bunch of jokes with a funny Asian accent. But now I’m sorry I mocked Asian and Asian American speech. It was thoughtless and ignorant. Like using the “N” word. There is no excuse. And for those of you who laughed, don’t you know that Asian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S.? Don’t you know that since the pandemic began and because the previous president scapegoated Asians for the virus, there have been 9,000 reported hate incidents against Asian Americans? If you laughed at my ignorant joke, shame on you. But first, shame on me. Now, let’s all apologize and fight racism and ignorance together.”

But Morris doesn’t even come close to that.

Morris got a suspension. He should have gotten the Al Campanis treatment. Campanis was the Los Angeles Dodger executive who went on national TV and explained why blacks couldn’t be managers or baseball executives.

I first raised the name of Campanis when I wrote a few weeks ago about ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and his xenophobic remarks about Ohtani.

Smith’s apology acknowledged his own ignorance, but it was still weak. And his bosses at ESPN and Disney did nothing to seriously punish him.

That was the big OK sign to all the racists out there that you can still get away with dissing Asians and Asian Americans in sports. And in baseball, that means Ohtani.

Morris’s suspension is indefinite. It should be forever. But questions remain. How long can Smith escape shame and reprimand? And who will slip and diss Ohtani next? At least, now when they do, the apology is all set. I’ve given them a “Model Apology.”

Image by AALDEF

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.

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