The Donald Sterling mess has opened up a lot of wounds and led to some frank discussions about race and race relations.
What Sterling said on that tape recording struck a nerve with the NBA community and the response and backlash against him was universal. Everyone wanted and received swift action to kick Sterling out of the league.
There is still the mess to clean up of the aftermath. Mark Cuban was the first and only owner to speak publicly and urge caution. He wondered if kicking Sterling out would be a slipper slope. Ultimately, he approved and will vote for Sterling’s ouster.
But while indignation ruled the day and everyone was quick to express moral outrage (rightly), there was a deeper discussion about race and a chance to get to the heart of stereotypes. Mark Cuban attempted to do that in comments he made to Inc. Magazine.
“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. I know that I’m not perfect. While we all have our prejudices and bigotries, we have to learn that it’s an issue that we have to control, that it’s part of my responsibility as an entrepreneur to try to solve it, not just to kick the problem down the road.”
Some certainly took Cuban’s words well out of context. But Cuban was unafraid to speak honestly and have an honest moment about race. Stereotypes exist and they are ingrained (unfortunately) deep within us. They are perpetrated by the media and popular culture, embedding them deeper into our collective subconscious.
What made Cuban’s comments so noteworthy was that he recognized and admitted his own biases and that they exist. He did not brush them aside and claim the world is “colorless.” It is much more complex than that. Cuban’s answer to this question gets to that and gets at the fight we all have to struggle with to live in a modern society with the baggage our country and history have.
That probably got lost int he headline grabbing of the Internet. An honest discussion about race and feelings about it can easily get passed over.
What was interesting was Cuban admitted his prejudices and recognized that he recognized them. Now comes the hard part for all of us — doing something about it.