Is it sexism or racism? Or racialized sexism?

by Guest Contributor Luke Lee

Let’s say you’re a woman of color climbing the ladder in one of the most male-dominated “boy’s clubs” in America. You’re the assistant to the top spot and when at a meeting with others in your business, a man singles you out asking who you are, why you’re there, what you are and then proceeds to make fun of what he perceives to be your race. While that strikes (and rightly so) everyone as racist, Kim Ng makes an important point here in that when this happens, it’s also sexism. Or more so sexism than racism, according to Ng.

Going on five years ago, Ng’s private journey – the work day of an assistant GM is a mostly anonymous one – became a national story. Bill Singer, a former big-league pitcher and at that time a special assistant to New York Mets GM Jim Duquette, stopped Ng during GM meetings in Phoenix. He asked her who she was. He asked her why she was there. He asked her about her heritage. Ng, recognizing the situation as potentially flammable, patiently answered his questions. He then mocked her in gibberish-speak that was supposed to approximate Chinese.

She calls it, “the Bill Singer incident.” She calls it the worst episode of sexism – not racism – she has experienced.

“I think that’s the ironic thing,” Ng says. “People match it up to race, and I think it was more about gender.”

I remember when the story about Ng and Singer first broke the response seemed to be “wow, what a racist guy. He should be fired” (which he was). Second, people were a little shocked to realize that “hey, a woman is in a top spot in a major baseball organization” but the one and two were never connected. That Singer’s comments weren’t just racist but that he was most shocked to see a woman who is a person of color.

(Photo credit: MLB.com via The New York Times)