Curt Schilling and the Specter of White Privilege

In Curt Schilling’s career he faced over 13,000 batters, won two world championships (while pitching beautifully during those playoffs, I might add), and posted one of the best strikeout-to-walk ratio’s in baseball history. He never won a Cy Yong award, but most baseball fans agree that he was one hell of a pitcher and competitor. In other ways, Curt Schilling is like many people you know. He may even be like you. He is 51 years old, married, has four kids, loves the tabletop game Warhammer, and writes his own blog. I even applauded the guy when he fired back at trolls who left remarkably profane comments about his daughter after he congratulated her for earning a spot on the Salve Regina University softball team. Schilling called those assholes out by name, contacted their employers, and let them know that there are real-world consequences to making harassing and defamatory comments on social media. Now he works for Breitbart News, the champion of the alt-right movement, and claims he wants to run for public office. Stories of athletes using their time and energy to get started in other fields are not rare. They have access to huge platforms, potential start-up money, and investors that are often interested in building their brands. What is puzzling about Schilling is his inability acknowledge how his position as a white male has contributed to his not only his success, but his current political viewpoints.

At the center of American political and social debates are a contingency of white people who are either ignorant of American history or unwilling to admit their race’s development of and participation in systems of oppression. When police brutality, generational poverty, poor education systems, lack of proper health care, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, language barriers, or access to safe environments have rarely, if ever, touched your life or affected your career it is very easy to live by the philosophy that everyone should just ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps.’ As Curt recently stated on his blog, “My dad told me when you leave the house at 18 the word ‘fair’ no longer applies. The world isn’t looking to provide you with safe spaces or fair treatment.” Except that every time Schilling stepped out of his home, whether he wanted it or not, asked for it or not, he was walking into safe spaces and fair treatment. When you are generally given the benefit of the doubt and the floor to speak, it is easy to lack empathy. It is even easier to then take a position of authority. This is where the concepts of the “American Dream” came from in the 1930s. This is where the litany of statements such as “life’s not fair”, “try harder”, “man up”, “work more”, “go back to school”, “figure it out”, “if you don’t want to deal with the police, don’t break the law”, and “it’s not like I didn’t struggle!”, come from. These statements presume a level of authority about ‘how the world works’. What they lack is the ability to understand the world outside your own experiences.

Whether they had good parents or bad parents, lots of money or very little, most white men never had to fear that they couldn’t do something they wanted. It was not a choice of could they, but would they. Some did and some didn’t. But when they went to the movies, they saw themselves. As a cowboy, mechanic, taxi driver, psychopath, genius, hero, anti-hero, rebel, scientist, thief, salesman; you name it, white men played it. Sports weren’t desegregated until the late 40’s and early 50’s and many still schools weren’t integrated in the late-1960’s. It is hard to understand the experience of difference if you have always been held up as the paragon of ‘normalcy’. The benefit of the doubt matters. How people perceive you matters and everyone but white males have been or currently are perceived with suspicion. In Schilling this privilege produces a ceaseless optimism, a belief that he can overcome anything to shape the world to his demands and talents. Many of the 63% of white men that voted for Trump feel the same way. Consider Schilling’s feelings as he discussed the rise and fall of Studio 38 with Jason Schwartz:

  • “I never doubted I was going to do it. My whole life was spent doing things that people didn’t believe were possible, because God blessed me with the ability to throw a baseball. And I carried that same mentality into everything I did here.”
  • “I believed with every ounce of my being that everything was going to work itself out,” he says.
  • “We never had that sense of urgency or panic,” Schilling tells me. “I think there was a sense of invulnerability — I don’t want to say invulnerability, but I think we were comfortable.”

63% of white males and 52% of white females voted for Trump. They are not all alt-right lunatics. They are just people who have a “sense of invulnerability.” Schilling wants to be fair and impartial. He hates bullies and has said so many times. He loves God and the 2nd Amendment. He wants people to know he is a father, a husband, certainly not a racist, and a supporter of, in his words, “the soldiers and the flag and everything they stand for”.

Then, despite his failures and achievements, Schilling began offering controversial opinions on subjects such as climate change, the LGBTQ community, Muslim extremists, and the media, to name a few. His combination of self-belief and privilege created a pernicious political mindset, and one we should consider beyond simply reprimanding Schilling. Rather than deriding it outright, let’s carefully examine how a strange combination of ceaseless self-belief and

 November 12th, 2014: Schilling posts a string of tweets that argue against the existence of evolution. He claimed transitory fossils had not been found and asked questions such as “Why don’t apes still evolve into humans if that was the path? Why doesn’t ANY creature evolve into another creature entirely if we all came from one organism?” The most egregious assumption here is that Schilling doubts the existence of evolution because he personally hasn’t seen it happen. Apologies that in your 50 years of existence you have not witnessed evolutionary patterns that have been taking place for 4.6 billion years. This is a common recitation of imperialist white folks worldwide; “If I can’t see it or don’t’ understand it, it must be either be dominated, dissected, or treated with skepticism and fear.” The problem here is that science is slapping him back and it is much harder to argue with science than individuals. Then Keith Law, an ESPN MLB analyst who engaged in a mostly respectful debate with Schilling about the topic and was then suspended from using Twitter for several days by ESPN afterward. It felt unnecessary and ominous. Disney was unsure of what to do with Schilling so they simply quelled it and moved on.

February 25th, 2015: Calls out trolls who said heinous things about his daughter after he posted a congratulatory tweet. This is commendable, but I wish he would do it to his own followers more. Instead of retweeting transphobic photos or peddling false information about Muslim extremists vs. Nazi’s, how about standing up for bullied people more often? So young black men being shot in the streets by police merits silence, but insinuating violence against your daughter deserves a full follow-up and investigation into the identities and whereabouts of two dumb ass white guys with a microphone and a Twitter account? There is a cognitive dissonance here. I am not saying that the life of any black man should matter more than your own family, but they should matter. And their death is more heinous than any perceived threat to your daughter. Yes, it is important to call out misogynist assholes who think sexual assault is a joke, because it is not a joke. At all. But dying at the hands of police isn’t either. Neither should be tolerated.

August 25th, 2015: Tweets a post that compares Extremists Muslims to Nazis. Deletes it ten minutes after posting. Judge for yourself.

Once again we are in the annals of history deciding to make a comparison in numbers that ignores the differences in historical time periods, cultural influences, military operations, or foreign and diplomatic policy. You could fill an entire library up with books on both Muslim culture and World War II.  Essentially, this meme takes a photo of one of the worst white people who ever lived (because somehow that protects you from being seen as a racist), then, compares him to hundreds of millions of Muslim people. There are roughly 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. During the time period from 1939-1945 roughly 16.8 million people were in the German army. Ten million of them died. How many Muslim extremists exist or are prone to radicalization is a number that varies greatly based from source to source. To compare these situations is inconclusive and to simplify their existence historically is short-sighted, at best.

In a letter to the editors of Awful Announcing, who he felt unfairly characterized him in regards to this tweet, he opens with the following statement:

I am a Republican, next to California I live in the bluest area on the planet. I am a former Red Sox player, I am a Steeler fan, a Bruins fan and I raise chickens and next to my Rottie I have a 3 pd Maltese named Ellie I take everywhere. I’m 6’5″ 245 for crying out loud. My body is a cruel family joke (thanks to my Dad) and I am losing my hair.

All that to say ya, I’ve been on the receiving end of crap for a good long while.

Let’s break this down. Schilling lives in a blue area, insinuating one of two things, either he 1) is surrounded by the liberal enemy, or 2) he lives near liberals, so therefore he couldn’t possibly be a bad person. Then he brings up his own body weight, denigrating himself so we all remember that he has suffered too. Yet, how many people would trade their lives for that of a middle-aged white man who formerly made millions of dollars, won two World Series, traveled the world, will never lack for employment, and most likely lives in a nice home, even if they have slight body issues and male pattern baldness?  You suffering does not make you special. It also does not make me special when I suffer. All we can hope for is that we both have enough sense to help each other stop hurting. That is what lacks here.

April 19th, 2016: Reposts a transphobic meme on Facebook, then deletes it, and initially denies that he posted it at all. Here is the post and his attached comments:

 

 

 

Not only does this completely undermine the experiences of queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming people, it also victimizes the very people who are oppressing them. “All we want is to protect children, but you want us to die!” Over 58,000 people died from gun-related violence last year. That is a legitimate epidemic. Not to mention that the photo reeks of something Milo Yiannopolous would post during a speech and then joke about having sex with. It is degrading. It is insensitive. Inconsiderate. Ugly. Of low moral character. Guess who is dying? Thousands of transgender men and women are murdered every year for simply being who they are. Once again, why does he refuse to use his voice to protect vulnerable communities? Is it because he can’t relate? Because legitimizing their voices and experiences would show how he was complicit in their oppression?

November 6th, 2016 (Yes, there is more): Posts a picture that suggests journalists should be lynched and that it “would require some assembly”, as seen here:

 

This is just in horrible taste. This shirt couches its critiques of the press through a historically racist form of violence. This is the t-shirt edition of Cards Against Humanity. They think it is a joke, but it isn’t funny and demonstrates a lack of interest or care for people different from themselves. That doesn’t hide the implicit racial bias at work here and the total lack of awareness that it exists on Schilling’s part. Thousands of black men have been lynched in attempt to suppress and control black communities and families across America. As a former colleague said of Schilling possessed “a rampant and destructive optimism.” This is reflected in his endorsement of the shirt.  He has always had the ability to gaze at, objectify, possess, oppress, love, or hate racial and cultural difference. This is primarily because it did not affect him.

October 24th, 2016: Schilling joins Breitbart News and begins hosting his own podcast, called Whatever It Takes. Steve Bannon, the white supremacist that lives in the White House is the creator, and Milo Yiannopolous, up until a few days ago, was a Senior Editor at Breitbart. At one point in my life I had to decide if I would take less money to work for people I truly cared about as people. Who your bedfellows are is indicative of what energy, ideas, philosophies, and morals you surround yourself with. This is the slow transformation of Curt Schilling from famous baseball player to a conservative representative. And although he may claim he is not a racist, nor would ever bully a person, his mere presence in those offices represents something quite different.

After criticism for these comments, Schilling repeatedly stated that “it was a bad choice of words” or “a bad forum to voice his opinions”, but all he really means is that he doesn’t understand how to communicate his views without looking like a racist, homophobic, transphobic, or xenophobic person. Or someone who simply doesn’t want to do basic research about science. What he really wants is to say whatever he feels, and he wants everyone to leave him the fuck alone about it. That’s why he is at Breitbart. That takes brass balls. Schilling always had those on the mound. Especially in crunch time. The problem is how that translates into his life as a citizen and human being. Admit he was a great baseball player and don’t deny him entry into the Hall of Fame for his views, but don’t forget there is a much larger specter looming in this story. Many middle and upper class white men are either unwilling to acknowledge the difficulties of others, ignore it completely (which is still a form of complicity), victimize themselves, or twist the truth to ultimately benefit their perspective. More often than not they just go about their days, never thinking critically about issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality. It is time for white people to confront their own privilege and then use it to dismantle the systems of oppression we so forcefully built and jealously guard.

 

-END-

Sources

http://m.mlb.com/news/article/160682426/hall-of-fame-case-for-curt-schilling/

http://deadspin.com/curt-schilling-goes-dadmode-on-twitter-trolls-bashing-h-1688969687

http://awfulannouncing.com/2015/curt-schilling-is-now-sending-e-mails-to-writers-to-question-our-integrity.html

https://38pitches.wordpress.comMy response to Jerry and the BBWAA”, December 23, 2016

http://deadspin.com/espn-suspends-keith-law-from-twitter-for-defending-evol-1661836868

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexreimer/2016/05/17/after-his-espn-firing-curt-schilling-is-now-a-martyr-for-the-right-wing/#59eb07fb4c34

 

 

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