Friday, May 23, 2014
Stephen A. Smith: Mark Cuban is just being honest. Get over it
Mark Cuban said he would cross the street late at night if he saw a “black kid in a hoodie” or a “white guy with a shaved head and lots of tattoos.”
The “hoodie” reference rekindles memories of a hooded black teenager holding a bag of skittles and ice tea, while walking in his father’s gated neighborhood. He was killed that night. It’s too soon to cite an example connecting hoodies, black youth and fear.
Trayvon Martin’s death exposed the power of perception. Cuban’s honest analysis reminds us of how prejudices lead to dangerous outcomes. Be it walking across the street, refusing to hire a person, or shooting a person due to fear, first impressions go a long way toward determining what happens next.
Cuban claims bigotry is something we all carry. He admits it shows up in his life and among people working for him. Rather than fire them, Cuban sends them off for diversity training. He gives them a chance to learn from their mistakes. He says it’s best to teach lesson versus kicking the can down the road.
Cuban’s comments reflect the knotty nature related to dealing with bigotry in the workplace. Given bigotry is deeply engrained in human nature, what’s the big deal? That’s Cuban’s position.
“I also try not to be a hypocrite. I know I’m prejudiced. I know I’m bigoted in a lot of different ways,” Cuban said. “I’ve said this before. If I see a black kid in a hoodie at night on the same side of the street, I’m probably going to walk to other side of the street. If I see a white guy with a shaved head and lots of tattoos, I’m going back to the other side of the street. If I see anybody that looks threatening, and I try not to, but part of me takes into account race and gender and image. I’m prejudiced. Other than for safety issues, I try to always catch my prejudices and be very self-aware.”
Is Cuban correct to assert that we all have prejudices impacting our daily decisions? If so, who is liable for the pigeonholes formed to keep people at a distant?
ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith said those criticizing Mark needed to "grow up."
"I took no issue whatsoever with what Mark Cuban said," Smith said on ESPN’s First Take on Thursday. "He happens to be correct."
“I’m sorry, I don’t see a problem with that whatsoever. I don’t think there’s any ethnic group in America that should take issue with it as a personal affront to them as if he was isolating them or talking about them. He was simply being honest, forthcoming and very open about some of the fears and prejudices that he may have.”
Cuban is just being honest. He helps us by sharing his personal views. Is it that simple? Is Smith right in granting Cuban a pass after using hoodie to reference his own bigotry?
What is implied in our granting space for a person to admit they are bigoted in a lot of different ways, and that all of us are confronted with the same? Should we embrace our bigotry as a reflection of our humanity, and blame others for fueling our bigoted ways.
If I have prejudices against black boys wearing hoodies, it’s up to those boys to stop wearing hoodies. Is that the answer to all forms of bigotry? Rather than exposing bigotry for its evil consequences, are we to assume it as normative, and attack those who bring our prejudices to the forefront?
Smith argues a practical approach to confronting bigotry and prejudice. He wants black boys to pull up their pants and put on a suit and tie. He embraces Cuban’s position as real talk about how black people need to take responsibility for how they are perceived by others. Bigotry and prejudice, in the mind of Smith, is the responsibility of the individual to overcome.
There’s truth to Smith’s claim. It is up to the individual to create distance from those fixated in a culture that correlates dress with behavior. Smith’s call for personal responsibility challenges youth to dress in a way that helps ease the apprehension of those carrying prejudices?
“It is about how you present yourself,” Smith said on Friday’s broadcast of First Take. I’m trying to educate you on the minefield that you face.”
Smith claims black people are too busy pointing the finger of blame while not taking responsibility for what it takes to be a success. He says Cuban is correct to draw attention to his prejudices and bigotry around black boys wearing hoodies.
Smith’s position may be correct, but it offers space for people to remain comfortable with their bigotry. If we all have prejudices, and that may be true, it is up to others to make concessions. Bigotry is not about a system of thought rooted in misconceptions about a group of people. It’s about the failure of that group to capitulate to the demands of those with the power to open doors to success.
Cuban offers an explanation for the existence of the bigotry of people like Donald Sterling, owner of the LA Clippers. All of us have issues with bigotry and prejudice. Sterling is no different than the rest of us.
The conclusion is simple. Since all of us have issues, deal with your own rather than throwing stones.
To that Smith offers a recommendation to black youth. It’s your fault for failing to make the necessary adjustments.
Conclusion: bigotry is your fault.