We Should Be Thanking Mark Cuban

The outspoken NBA owner showed us the right way to start a conversation about race.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban before an NBA game against the New York Knicks on Feb. 24, 2014 
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban before an NBA game against the New York Knicks on Feb. 24, 2014  STAN HONDA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

WE DIDN’T NEED AN APOLOGY, BUT WE DO NEED MORE MARK CUBANS

The News: Mark Cuban, owner of the National Basketball Association’s Dallas Mavericks, has issued an apology to Trayvon Martin’s family after telling an interviewer at a conference, “If I see a black kid in a hoodie on my side of the street, I’ll move to the other side of the street.”

The often outspoken Cuban has received criticism for the remarks, delivered to a group of business owners gathered in Nashville, Tenn., earlier this week. 

“We’re all prejudiced in one way or the other,” Cuban said. “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. And the list goes on of stereotypes that we all live up to and are fearful of.”

Cuban and his fellow NBA owners are scheduled to vote June 3 on whether to strip Donald Sterling of his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers. Cuban has said that Sterling’s racist remarks are “abhorrent” and that the NBA, or any of the other businesses he owns, is “no place for racism.”

The Take: If Cuban really crossed the street whenever he saw one of his bogeymen, he’d never get anywhere. Good thing he can afford a driver.

He seems to be coping quite well with his fear of black guys in hoodies, or he would have cut most of his own players. I’m sure it helps that when not wearing hoodies, his black players have won Cuban a league championship, made his Mavericks one of the most valuable NBA teams and turned him into a celebrity.

But let’s not confuse ourselves about Cuban’s bigotry. It doesn’t come from the strain of unrepentant, “men of a certain age” racism expressed by Sterling, in no small part because Sterling institutionalized his bigotry in his business practices. Cuban, by any account, has committed no such sin.

Cuban is like every other American. He has biases.

Bias exists in each of us. It is an essential function of the brain, an early survival instinct to distinguish friend from foe, and today a tool we use to categorize people and experiences. “Categories,” as Tolerance.org explains, “give order to life.” So biases can be helpful.

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