When You Say My Race is ‘Disproportionately Affected’ by Something, This is What I Hear

Save the pity party for your own agenda.

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Photo by Chad Montano on Unsplash

When I was young, I dreamed of becoming an NFL quarterback.

My hero: Jim Zorn, of the Seattle Seahawks. The ‘Hawks were lovable losers, playing in a huge, noisy dome with cool silver helmets with the NFL’s coolest logo on the side.

My bond was fierce with this free-wheeling, floppy-haired Californian. We were both lefties. My hero was a white dude. I thought nothing of that.

Hispanics in the NFL

There weren’t many Hispanic quarterbacks in the NFL in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s (Joe Kapp, known as The Toughest Chicano, played before my time as a football fan, and Tom Flores and Jim Plunkett were with the hated Oakland Raiders.)

You could say that — at least then — that Hispanic quarterbacks were disproportionately affected by … something.

But I wish you wouldn’t.

My 5th-grade teacher, upon seeing me sketch a jersey on my math homework with my name on it, asked what it meant. I replied, “I’m going to be an NFL quarterback!”

She responded, “Yeah right!” Honestly, who knows her motivation? She never said Hispanics couldn’t play football — or some such blanket statement. Even if she was thinking it.

I suspect the intent of pointing out where Hispanics are disproportionately affected is meant to call out society to champion some movement for equity.

It could have been that me, at age 11, was a goofy, nerdy kid who loved to play football at recess but was horrible at it, probably because I was thinking about dinosaurs and Star Wars.

I’ve never considered her remarks as racist. A bit condescending, maybe, but I made it through elementary school unscathed.

Since then, a few Hispanic quarterbacks have risen to the pros — Jeff Garcia, Moses Moreno, Tony Romo, Matt Moore, and Mark Sanchez, for example. In four decades of loving the NFL, I’ve never found that offensive.

What’s the fuss, then?

Enter New Buzz Word: “Disproportionately Affected”

Around election time — and honestly, several times a week since Donald Trump became President — I’ve heard reports, mostly on NPR, but everywhere, really, about this or the other affecting my people disproportionately: Poverty, crime, lack of education, even coronavirus.

It’s as if God has flicked the brown folk on the other side of the tracks, straight outta school, and out into the mean ether, maskless and clueless.

Or has he?

I suspect the intent of pointing out where Hispanics are disproportionately affected is meant to call out society to champion some movement for equity. To put a face to my people’s misfortunes — a white, upper class, unforgiving, Republican face. The Man has held us down long enough, hasn’t he?

Maybe it’s meant to be a rallying cry, a leftist caucasian lifted fist, a sign of solidarity against The Man. You’re our amigos, right?

Thing is, it just sounds like you’re singling us out. Again.

We’ve Got This

My 20-year-old daughter — with half Hispanic heritage — plays college soccer. During a recent match, against a much bigger school, an opponent fouled her hard from behind — then offered a helping hand up.

Made me think about the latest NPR voice bemoaning our ‘plight.’ Here, poor girl from a smaller school whom we’re beating right now, the opponent seemed to be saying. Let me help your ass up from the place I knocked you down.

Only, my daughter got up by herself.

On the video, you can see her first cast a dismissive look at the player with the outstretched, patronizing hand, before dusting herself off and heading upfield.

Gracias … pero no. Maybe that’s a generalization, an assumption that the opponent had anything but true sportsmanship coursing through her blood. From my daughter’s perspective, she’d just been cut down on the run by an unseen assailant. Forgive her — and me — for assigning it the meaning we have. Again, no thanks. Even though our little school was disproportionately affected by that foul in particular.

It’s a small moment in a big movement. See, while you’ve put into play programs such as Affirmative Action and desegregating schools and extending the olive branch, we’ve been busy, not worried, about what you think of our path and future — but building it.

Maybe it’s meant to be a rallying cry, a leftist caucasian lifted fist, a sign of solidarity against The Man. You’re our amigos, right?

It began when I saw the Cincinnati Bengals draft a mountain of an hombre named Anthony Munoz, with the third overall pick in the 1980 NFL Draft, out of the University of Southern California. This guy with the same hair and skin tone as me brought the name Munoz into the NFL.

We noticed that. Maybe you didn’t.

I felt pride in Anthony Munoz’s rise in professional football, at least at some nuclear level. There wasn’t much in the way of racial reckoning going on back then. We still teased each other as kids over our heritage.

Finding Pride in My Heritage

Munoz’s hall of fame career, much like Rita Moreno’s rising star in the 60s was to my parents’ generation, with West Side Story, represented a milestone. Or how Cesar Chavez worked hard just working hard, and leading by example the push for Latin American and Working American rights — kind of under the radar, did.

Regardless of my political leanings or baseball loyalty, I must acknowledge Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Roberto Clemente for the trailblazers they are and were. Not specifically for brown kids like me, but for all kids, really. Living out an American dream, in some form.

That’s why I don’t really care what is disproportionately affecting my people. I don’t need the helping hand up. Sometimes, we might have to work harder, or maybe that’s just our perception. And again, maybe it isn’t.

Maybe the bike couriers, carpet fitters, pest controllers, party planners, and firefighters who carry their Hispanic heritage to places to be proud of are fine with that. We’ll just put in the work.

I don’t remember when, but I do recall the feeling I had the first time I saw a Hispanic name on a work truck. Not just on a hardhat for a guy working for The Man, but for a Latino who opened his own business.

Today, they’re everywhere — men who are The Man, not working for him.

For his family and community, at least. For his workforce. For every Munoz in the pros or Chavez on the front lines of civil rights, there’s a Costa or Villa or Hurtado carving out his own niche, her own legacy, as a forest technology professor, environmental compliance inspector, or clinical audiologist, and creating a higher ground for the next generation to rise on its own, without help from anyone other than those around them — and themselves.

And that feels pretty proportional to me.

Written by

Coach, father, writer — sometimes all at once. Writes content for the 💸 by day, writes blogs for the 😍 by night. coachdaddyblog.wordpress.com

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