Gurriel was wrong to mock Darvish's eyes, but why?

tags: racism

Jonathan Zimmerman teaches education and history at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author (with Emily Robertson) of "The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools." Email:

Here's an easy question: was it wrong for Houston Astros slugger Yuli Gurriel to mock the eye shape of the Los Angeles Dodgers' Yu Darvish?

Sure. But here's a harder one: Why? What makes certain gestures or comments about a group of human beings repugnant or offensive?

The answer lies in history, of course. There's an ugly two-century record of Westerners denigrating Asian eyes. So every time we do that, we conjure a hateful part of our past.

That's also the part that has been missing from discussion of Gurriel's gesture, which was captured on video after he homered off Darvish in Game 3 of the World Series on Friday night. It earned him a five-day suspension starting next season, which will cost him more than $300,000.

Gurriel said all the right things afterward, issuing an unequivocal apology to Darvish. And Darvish, who is of Japanese and Iranian descent, graciously accepted it, confirming that Gurriel's gesture was "disrespectful" but urging everyone to "learn from it" and "move forward." ...

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