If you’ve been coming by Older Eyes – Bud’s Blog for a while you know that not only do I enjoy sports, I enjoy participating in some of the discussions of social issues that American sports’ larger than life persona stimulates. Certainly, the statements of Donald Sterling to his so-called assistant have ignited a firestorm of discussion about racism … and bigotry in general … in our society. Yesterday, owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, commented on the situation in an interview with Inc Magazine. Here’s what he said, in part: 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. 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.
In a time when political correctness dictates the comments of most people in the public eye, Mark Cuban’s comments are refreshing, in spite of the storm they’ve generated. In the face of over-the-top indignation about Sterling’s admittedly racist comments by nearly everyone in sports, politics and media, I’ve wondered, How many of these outraged individuals are completely without prejudice themselves? How many have never let loose in private an epithet for which they’d be crucified if said in public? How many of the indignant athletes or sport announcers have used slurs toward gay people … or white people … in private? I think Cuban is right when he says most of us harbor prejudices. Let me give a personal example. I was raised in a time and place where the ultimate insult from one young man to another was to call him a queer. I was raised with a visceral abhorrence to the idea of sex between men and my childhood religion taught me that it was a sin. That part of me still cringes when I see two men kiss and those epithets still drift around in my brain. It is not inconceivable that in some situation one could slip, regrettably, from my lips. Without acknowledging my prejudices, I’d never have made it from homophobe to gay rights supporter, a trip, by the way, I take pride in taking because of its difficulty.
Like Cuban, I detest hypocrisy and we seem to be evolving into a society of hypocrites, willing to condemn others’ politically incorrect prejudices while ignoring or excusing our own. Those who reveal their prejudices in public … or have their private statements publicized … are vilified, ostracized and, perhaps, stripped of their business holdings by others who live in glass houses. The fact that Cuban felt the need to apologize to the Trevon Martin family for his example of a black kid in a hoodie is evidence of how hyper-vigilant we’ve become. The content of the message gets lost in the shouts of racism and so we become a nation of Closet Bigots, revealing our biases in anonymous places, like message boards and internet comments sections, but pretending in public that we are prejudice-free. Cuban has said, I’m the one guy who says,’Don’t force stupid people to be quiet.’ I want to know who the morons are. He spoke of using incidents of bigotry in his business holdings as an opportunity to educate the offender, not ostracize him.
Can Donald Sterling be rehabilitated? Probably not. But selective stoning of our bigots drives our bigotry underground and makes our national dark side appear smaller than it is. In many spiritual programs, personal growth is believed to hinge on knowing one’s dark side, the idea being that if you don’t know your dark side you can’t heal it. As a nation, keeping our prejudices out of sight simply allows us to pretend we are better than we are. And crucifying individuals for some prejudices while tolerating others (think about banning Donald Sterling in one sports league while tolerating a team named the Redskins in another) just adds to the hypocrisy. It is time we stopped pretending and looked our national dark side in the eye. We need to talk about our prejudices, not run around screaming bigotry every time that the prejudices we know exist in private emerge in public. We can be better as a nation but not by pretending we’re something we’re not.
That’s what I … and it appears, Mark Cuban … think. What do you think?