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January 13, 2000
Demonstrations Against Rocker Planned
Arthur J Pais
With Andrew Young, the former Atlanta mayor suggesting that the loud-mouthed John Rocker should learn compassion and sensitivity from the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr instead of being suspended from the Atlanta Braves, the debate over Rocker's crime and punishment continues.
Rocker, of course, is the man who said about a month ago that he hated New York because it was full of foreigners. He hit out at Asians in particular. The Atlanta Braves have ordered him to see a therapist. Rocker has since apologized for his comments and asserted that he is not a racist.
But many Indians -- along with other Asians, African Americans and liberal whites -- have demanded more formal punishment. Andew Young's passionate plea to try creative Gandhian methods to change Rocker's heart have found positive response in many Indian Americans. Even then many others, including Subash Razdan, former president of the National Federation of Indian Associations and currently the chairman of its trustees, is urging demonstrations against Rocker.
Whether Gandhian punishment is the need of the hour (Atlantans are saying that's not enough) or first a gesture of discipline and then Gandhian redemption and healing, Razdan reasons, the Atlanta Braves should act fast to censure Rocker.
"I have personally met with the Braves management and the outlook there (Braves management) is more of capitalism than of morality," Razdan notes.
"They are looking more at what is good for Braves business and Atlanta economy than the wishes of the masses, particularly the minorities. If Braves don't show genuine remorse and swift action, there will be protests in Atlanta -- starting Martin King Jr week next month."
Meanwhile, Narender Reddy, president of Indian Americans for Political Education (Georgia), and Dr Behroze Sethna, interim senior vice-chancellor, university systems of Georgia, are endorsing Young's views.
"This 'Redneck' kid has already been punished enough by friends and foes alike," Reddy notes, adding that he is speaking in his personal capacity. "If he is a racist, he has a problem, and not me. Considering other hypocrite politicians who say one thing and practice another, this guy is not going to harm any of us. Thus far, he has done a pretty good job of damaging himself. Everyone needs/gets a second change and let Rocker have one too."
Sethna offers some of his own thoughts on the controversy.
"There are two issues here, related but distinct: One is that of John Rocker and the other is that of the Atlanta Braves. What should the reaction be to each one?" asks Sethna.
"I actually like Andrew Young's reasoning ('Rocker is still young enough to change, young enough to be redeemed, young enough to learn those lessons...') and his recommendation (except for one part -- invite 'Yes' -- honor 'No'). I would rather see Rocker turn around and be able to retract his statements with humor, than be changed into a real 'hater.'
"From what I understand (very limited), this was unusual behavior for Rocker -- if I am wrong and this were a pattern for him, I would advocate strong measures. If this was unusual behavior for him and he is punished, he will be driven into the camp of the bigots, because those are the only people who will contact him and offer support. If he is able to find ways to say that he did a dumb thing, and that he understands how he was wrong, he will receive support from the 'good guys' and will be more likely to join that camp."
"The issue of the Atlanta Braves is more difficult," he continued, adding that Razdan has met with them and is understandably frustrated by the perception that they care more for dollars than the right thing to do.
"So, I can see why the protests might serve to bring the matter into focus -- i e, convert something that you believe they don't understand (morality) to something they do understand (potential loss of dollars). "
"It appears (only from accounts, not from any personal knowledge, so I could be wrong) that Rocker's act was a momentary thing, but the Braves act (or lack thereof) is a cold, deliberate, calculating thing. That is why I thought the two are distinct. "
Meanwhile, many Indians are saying the community should examine its own attitudes towards African Americans, Hispanics and whites.
"Many of us call African Americans kallus," says Simran Singh, a recent graduate of New York University.
"Perhaps we don't know that many of the civil right protections minorities including Indians enjoy today is the direct result of the fight waged by African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s."
"And we think the whites have no family ties, no family values and no inner life."
"Rocker may deserve to be suspended from the Atlanta Braves for a season or two, but who will punish the bigots in us?"
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