Haunted by an Adverb



It's mid-December, Christmas lights are up, and the World Series—the "fall classic" that marks the climax of the 27-week baseball season—feels like a fast-fading memory. Except it still haunts me. Not so much the games themselves, although the Series went the distance. And to sports fan there's no thrill quite like a "game 7." But you may have heard about an incident that occurred after Astros hitter Yuli Gurriel homered off of Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish. Gurriel celebrated his home run by pulling his eyes into slits. Not your typical gesture of jubilation. In fact, a completely nonsensical one—unless you know that Darvish is Asian. And then it makes all the sense in the world.

If you're Asian and you're reading this, you know exactly what I mean. You've been the recipient of "slit-eyes." Probably more than once. You know that, as racial slurs go, it's the equivalent of the N-word.

If you're not Asian, maybe you don't know this. I'm assuming the [non-Asian] writers and editors at Sports Illustrated, the country's leading sports publication, didn't know it. Because what else could explain their headline describing the slit-eyes as a "seemingly" racist gesture?

Damn, that adverb still galls at me.

If slit-eyes aren't racist, what are they?

The day after seeing that headline I wrote this poem. My first-ever "slam" style poem. I think I needed that music, that rhythm, that you-are-going-to-HEAR-me intonation to express what I couldn't not express.

"Seemingly racist" indeed. My blood is still boiling.

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