celebrities · Hispanics/Latinos · Junot Diaz · news

Ode to Manny Ramirez

Dominicans are more than baseball players, I wrote on Twitter. But all the news articles that mentioned Dominicans, which Google Alerts kindly scoured the Internet for and compiled for me, seemed to say something different. The latest articles all focused on Manny Ramirez and how he recently confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs during some of his baseball games.

My hometown of Washington Heights, the Dominican ghetto Ramirez moved to from the Dominican Republic as a teen, is not a really happy place right now. Manny Ramirez was supposed to be a role model for our kids, kids like me growing up in Washington Heights who were worried they weren’t going to get very far. Ramirez was supposed to show us that the American dream was possible, even for kids like us growing up in el barrio. If Manny could do it, we could do it. But Manny has let us down, so now what?

I don’t know who to lay the blame on right now. Who is at fault when the boys in the neighborhood grow up wanting to be like Manny instead of dreaming they’ll become the first Latino president of the United States or win the Pulitzer Prize like Junot Diaz? Why are our boys looking up to baseball players as their only role models? And why are the ones who can’t hit a ball aspiring to be rap stars? Where does all this leave the aspirations of our girls?

No, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with baseball players, rap stars (and movie stars), they’re people and like all people they are fallible, but I do worry about a culture that puts them on a pedestal and tells our kids to glorify them.

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