Last week, I posted a Web-only Leonard Pitts Jr. column about baseball player Sammy Sosa’s startling new skin hue. Here Pitts has a followup in which he responds to criticism of that column.
By Leonard Pitts Jr.
Please indulge me as I answer an e-mail from a guy named Dunbar. It says in part:
“Your column on Sammy Sosa’s skin cream use is off base and sends a wrong message. The issue is the man’s character — not the color of his skin. Your column seemingly assumes he lightens his skin color out of shame and fails to recognize that he may simply be doing it out of vanity or his own sense of personal style. Plenty of fair-skinned people use skin-darkening creams, sun baths, tanning beds for that purpose and the only criticism leveled at them is vanity and stupidity for ignoring skin cancer warnings. The same should hold for Sammy.
“… I think I know what point you are trying to make and that is a laudable one. But your delivery was clumsy and it might come across to some as ’methinks thee doth protest too much.’”
Thank you for writing. It’s always a treat to receive such a thoughtful dissent. Hope you don’t mind my using your e-mail as a vehicle for revisiting my recent column on Sosa, the once-black former baseball star who now looks like a photo negative of himself, but that piece generated so many missives like yours that I thought doing so might be of value.
I’m intrigued that you “think” you know what point I was trying to make. The fact that you have to guess, that it wasn’t starkly obvious to you, suggests that what we have here is a gulf between life experiences. It brings to mind a parable to the effect that the rabbit and the bear will never agree on how threatening is the dog.
I’m going to assume — I apologize if I’m wrong — that you’re not black. I say that because I’ve not yet encountered a single African-American reader who did not know immediately what my point was. My white readers, though, were more likely to see me as chiding Sosa for what they regarded as a benign cosmetic choice, such as when they color their hair, inject Botox in their faces or, yes, lie under the sun trying to get a tan. From where they sit, it’s the same when a black man lightens his skin. Read more »