Jeremiah Short, Feature Columnist
Mark Cuban caused a media firestorm with his comments on race. But it should create much needed dialogue, not controversy.
Sports and race are becoming more and more intertwined. Riley Cooper. Richie Incognito. Donald Sterling. Cuban, who’s the Dallas Mavericks owner, revealing his own personal bigotry in an Inc. magazine interview is the latest case.
“I mean, we’re all prejudiced in one way or another. If I see a black kid in a hoodie and it’s late at night, I’m walking to the other side of the street. And if on that side of the street, there’s a guy that has tattoos all over his face — white guy, bald head, tattoos everywhere — I’m walking back to the other side of the street, “Cuban said. “And the list goes on of stereotypes that we all live up to and are fearful of. So in my businesses, I try not to be hypocritical. I know that I’m not perfect. I know that I live in a glass house, and it’s not appropriate for me to throw stones.”
Cuban’s statement came in wake of the Sterling scandal, which rocked the NBA to its core and led to Sterling’s expedited banishment from the league.
The self-made Billionaire’s black kid in a “hoodie” reference elicited imagery of Trayvon Martin, a black teen who was killed by neighborhood watchmen George Zimmerman. Cuban apologized for the reference. But it didn’t stop the blogs and “Social-Media” police from calling him a “bigot” and “racist.”
No one paused and asked: What is Cuban really saying?
He’s saying there’s a perception and stereotype associated with certain clothing choices and body art. If you’re a black teen who wears a hoodie late at night, you must be up to no good. And if you’re a white guy with a bald head and tattoos everywhere, you must be part of a biker gang.
America has a negative viewpoint of young and old black males. Cuban was honest enough to share his. When America thinks of black males, they think of T.I. and Floyd Mayweather brawling at a Fatburger. To America, black males can’t solve their issues through amicable discussion. They have to solve them with their fist or a gun.
That’s the perception. And perception is reality.
The sad and ironic part about Cuban’s comments on a black teen late at night is that the kid is scared of him, too.
Why would that kid be scared of Cuban? He’s a successful, wealthy NBA owner who doesn’t get into any trouble with the law.
Cuban is all those things you say he is. But he’s also a “white male.”
Black males have a deeply-rooted fear of white males. I know I did for most of my life. I have vivid memories of white teammates in high school threatening to hang a black teammate and friend for engaging in a relationship with a white girl. I have images of a coach from that same team threatening to hang another teammate from his family tree if he didn’t stop trying to date his daughter. And I personally have scars from getting racially profiled by two different white, male cops. I still get nervous when pulled over by them.
I’ve learned to let go of some of those fears as I matured as a person and Christian. But it’s been hard. You don’t want to let your guard down and get burned.
People fear what they don’t understand. And the lack of understanding is the real cause of division in America.
Instead of crossing the street when he sees that black kid in a hoodie, Cuban should invite the kid to dinner and have a conversation with him. He might find out that he was wearing the hoodie to shield himself from the rain or doesn’t have the money to buy more expensive winter attire.
He should then invite the bald headed white guy with tattoos all over his body to dine with them. He might find out that he got abused as a child–mentally, physically and sexually. And the tattoos are the only thing he’s ever had control over in his life.
After the two men share their story with him, Cuban could share how he came from humble beginnings and was once in the same place as them…scared and looking to make a name for himself in the world.
In one conversation, three stereotypes would be shattered. If every person decided to have discussion with one person who they don’t understand, how many stereotypes would be shattered? That should be what we take from Cuban’s comments.
We all have personal bigotries and fears. But we should work to overcome them. Peace doesn’t just happen…It’s made through hard work.
It can only be accomplished with conversation and understandin
g, not turning every statement into a referendum on bigotry in America.