The default expression for the exchange between Orioles outfielder Adam Jones and retired pitcher-turned-right-wing commentator Curt Schilling over racism in baseball (and, by extension, America) is "a war of words," but that would imply a battle between two sides. Instead, what's abundantly clear is that there is only one war currently being waged: Schilling's against objective, simple reality.
To recap for those of you lucky enough to have missed all of this mess when it originally occurred: Back on May 1, Jones claimed (both on his Twitter account in a since-deleted tweet and to USA Today reporter Bob Nightengale) that he had been called a racial slur and had peanuts thrown at him by fans at Fenway Park during a game against the Red Sox. Jones's account of racial abuse was backed up by other black players around MLB, who over the following days shared their own tales of being taunted by fans. Despite this, Jones was pilloried by a small but loud contingent—comprised mostly of conservatives and right-wing media—who insisted that the five-time All-Star was exaggerating at best and lying at worst about his encounter.
That group included Schilling, who claimed that Jones had made the whole incident up to get attention, and that he wanted proof that someone had actually yelled something at Jones. He also claimed that, in his playing career, he had never heard a fan yell anything racist at a black player, and that Jones had no right to be offended given the air-tight argument of "black people use the n-word all the time," including in rap songs.
Schilling was mostly ignored, and the whole controversy seemed to die down from there. But on Tuesday, Jones, in an expansive and terrific Q&A on race and baseball with Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, called Schilling out for his ignorance in no uncertain terms.
[Curt] Schilling is over there with his rants. He just wants an outlet. Somebody will take his call, take his rants. He can keep them for himself. Because he’s never experienced anything like I have. I’ll stick with what [Mark] McLemore said about it: Schilling, hell of a career. But he’s never been black, and he’s never played the outfield in Boston.
Unsurprisingly, Schilling decided to double down on his original assertion, telling Boston radio station WEEI, "If he wants to maintain the lie he made here, that’s fine. No one denies racism exists, but when people like him lie about an incident and others just take him at his word, it perpetuates a mythical level of racism."
There are many, many, many things wrong with Schilling's stance: that people of color constantly have to show receipts when they are racially abused and that racism doesn't exist unless another person can back up the allegation; that using a certain word absolves you of the right to be offended by its use as a pejorative by another person; that people of color invent instances of racism in order to gain attention and, as he put it, perpetuate "fake racist hoaxes" (for reasons he never states) against white people. These are all tried and tired strategies that racists and idiots use to downplay abuses and slurs: They gaslight, they move the goalposts, they insist that only certain types of racism are bad, they demand proof instead of taking another human being at his word. They do everything in their power to shift the burden off the racist and onto the person who was attacked. Some do it out of a genuine antipathy for people of color; others do it because the very idea of racism existing is too difficult for them to deal with.
I don't know which category Schilling falls under (though there's plenty to suggest the former). I do know this: There are few people on this earth who are more ignorant about race than Curt Schilling, a woefully uneducated man trying his best to ignore actual, observed racism because it doesn't fit in with his idiotic and narrow worldview—one in which Muslims are evil, transgender people are grotesque, lying dangers, and black people constantly try to entrap white people in racist scandals. Schilling is a man who sees the world as one constant attack on white men, the most privileged and protected group on the planet, and has made it his goal to keep intact the reality he wants, no matter what lunatic conspiracy theory he has to espouse to defend himself and whatever horrible position he currently stands for.
Schilling has never in his life understood what it is to be a person of color in the United States—to exist as a targeted group living under a power structure created and maintained by white men, to be singled out for hatred simply because of the color of your skin or your gender or your religion. He thinks he knows what it's like to be persecuted, living as he does in the far-right-wing bubble in which people like him—white, Christian and heterosexual—believe they are under constant attack. They are told this by a wing of the media devoted to keeping its consumers paranoid and suggestible, glued to their TVs or computers out of fear of a changing world. They are fed lies and conspiracies, mobilized to defend unthinkable stupidities, and told that the rest of the world hates them without any exploration of just why that might be.
Schilling can't fathom what Jones or other black Americans have gone through. He is too lazy ever to try to find out and too ignorant to accept it. All he knows is what he's lived, and in a world that has become increasingly and rightfully cognizant of the sensitivities and needs of women, people of color and people of different sexual orientations, what he lives now is a nightmare in which he can't just say whatever he wants at the risk of offending some "social justice warrior" or "PC liberal snowflake." The world long ago left Schilling behind, and all he can do is rage and blubber about how unfair that is.
The worst thing, though, is that there have been microphones and reporters aplenty ready to capture Schilling's latest racist tantrum, or to give him an outlet to express his stupidity. TV network and newspapers with an eye on the flaming car wreck that has been his post-playing career see the traffic he drives and decide to rubberneck. Jones is right: Schilling just wants an outlet, and he will get one, because what he says will move the needle.
Enough. Curt Schilling is a racist idiot, full stop. He is one of the least qualified people in the country to talk about matters of race. His opinions on race, gender, society, and literally anything that is not the sport of baseball are thoughtless and should be ignored. He should not be amplified, only shouted down. His ideas should be exposed for the drivel that they are.
There are two sides to pick here: the world as it exists, in which people like Jones remind us of the struggle they face and all the progress we still have to make, or the world as people like Schilling see it, where a regressive group of racists tries its hardest to drag us all back into the dark ages of American history. To me, that doesn't seem like a difficult choice.