Virtual Voices
Mo’ne Davis delivers a pitch in the Little League World Series.
Associated Press/Photo by Gene J. Puskar
Mo’ne Davis delivers a pitch in the Little League World Series.

What a girl ballplayer taught me about prejudice

Sports

Mo’ne Davis is a baseball star, one of the best pitchers in the world. Well, among 12-year-olds. Davis has made a name for herself—that’s right herself—in this year’s Little League World Series by dominating many of her male peers on the mound and at the plate. Her team from Philadelphia fell just short of being the best Little League team in the world, eliminated by a team from Chicago last night. And she is the star. I think it’s fantastic.

I grew up, like most little boys, a total sexist. First, girls were just gross (cooties and all that) then they were inferior—especially in sports. I didn’t like watching girls play sports. I didn’t like playing against girls. And fie on any coed league nonsense. To me, they were inferior athletes. I would have been embarrassed to see a team of my fellow superior males sent trudging back to the dugout, at-bat after at-bat, at the hands of a girl.

Then I got married to a girl.

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Then we had a daughter.

Then a few years later we had a second daughter.

All of a sudden I had to think about all those suppositions. Are my daughters inferior? No! Do I want them to ever see themselves that way? Never! No longer could I quote Ham Porter with fervor: “You play ball like a GIRL!” Well, I could, but not as an insult. Frankly, if my daughters want to play ball, I want them to play ball like girls. Really good girls. Like Mo’ne Davis.

I was confronted with my own sexism. That’s what happens when prejudice falls in love with its object. All my assumptions and baseless criticisms fell apart. No longer were they about “girls.” No longer were the objects of my derision out there. They live in my home, they depend on me, and I love them. No those objects are real, priceless people. Something had to change, and it had to be me.

The same can be said of many Christians. Prejudice thrives in their lives because its object is out there somewhere distant, instead of being real, having a name, being close. Whites can be prejudiced toward blacks because it’s so easy to be that way toward those we do not know and love. Evangelicals can be prejudiced toward homosexuals because it’s easier to keep them at arms length than to love them. But closeness and love are the change that needs to happen. Those are the ingredients to break down prejudice.

It wasn’t so long ago that I would not have said that Mo’ne Davis is great or been excited for her success. My prejudice undermined my ability to enjoy a wonderful achievement and an exciting moment. That’s what prejudice does—it stops us from rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. It keeps us from feeling what they feel and caring about them. And often the only way to recognize it in ourselves is to get close to those against whom we are prejudiced. 

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