Closet Bigots

cubanIf 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 aboutsterling 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?

 

 

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4 Comments on “Closet Bigots”


  1. I don’t know why your posts never show up in my reader feed anymore…

    I have two differing thoughts on this. I agree that we’re all apt to have a viscerally -ist reaction (any kind of -ism will do). We’re conditioned to respond certain ways over the courses of our lives, because of our socioeconomic status, our neighborhoods, our schools, our workplaces, our places of worship, etc. However, I don’t think that giving voice to that is necessarily refreshing. While I understand your point about Mark Cuban – and while he is nothing if not noted for his brutal honesty – I also think that there is no reason to think highly of oneself for that honesty. The mark of a progressing society (and I use the term “progressing” without political implication) is an acceptance of that which was previously unfairly unaccepted – like interracial marriage and, as you point out, homosexual relationships. But the vocalization of inherent -isms did not help that progress. What helped that progress was the recognition that those inherent -isms were misguided, and the suppression of them in favor of a greater understanding and openness. In a new society where everything winds up on the internet three seconds after it happens and everyone with fingers and a keyboard has an equal voice, regardless of intellect, sensitivity or respect level, that kind of “honesty” just feeds like minds and makes them feel justified. “Hey, that famous rich guy said it! So it’s okay for me to feel that way, too!” I’m not saying Mark Cuban was wrong. But sometimes it’s better to keep one’s thoughts to oneself, in the interest of the greater good.

    • oldereyes Says:

      I guess I don’t see the suppression of the vocalization of various “isms” as true progress … which would be the elimination of those “isms” in our people. Remember, I’m from the era of Lenny Bruce … and later, Archie Bunker … who used outrageous humor to fight prejudice. I also think it’s useful for people who struggle to be unbiased to know it’s not easy for everybody. Cuban didn’t express any pride in his attitudes … in fact he talked about using such situations as a teaching moment. I’m not a Mark Cuban fan, but in this case, I find his statements not only refreshing but useful.

  2. jenihill Says:

    WOW! When you tackle a subject that is as controversial as this one can be, you sure don’t mess around, do you, Bud? I’m not criticizing your words, not in the least, as I do believe that perhaps Mark Cuban’s words are very honest -if we all want to ‘fess up and be gut-level honest about the subjects that frequently do come under attack if we don’t appear to be all warm and fuzzy feeling about any of the areas you mentioned. I’m still working on this aspect in my life just as I think most every other individual in this country probably is doing, deep down inside, today too! I don’t dislike, much less hate people for the color of their skin, for the slant of their eyes, their hair, you name it, any of the physical traits that are common in most other races. As long as others are respectful to me, I am respectful in return. We are all alike under the skin, under the physical traits that identify us as a member of one race or another or another ethnic group and sometimes, also as worshiping in a different way too. But, at times, I do find myself a little leery if -depending on the circumstances -I encounter people who are not exactly like me in one -or several -ways or another. And yes, that fear does bring the old worries, primarily due to stereotypical thought, do surface now and again. We are, none of us, perfect in our words, and certainly not in our minds but if we are mindful of those areas of bits of fear or distrust that still lurk about, doesn’t that too help us eventually to think clearer about the people who also populate the world? Will completely clear minds come about in my generation? Probably not, perhaps not even with my children’s peers but more and more, I see a better horizen coming with my grandchildren who are being raised without the little threats about associations with those who are different that existed widely when I was a child. Society doesn’t exactly evolve at a rapid pace and in this aspect, I have seen a whole lot of change that has taken place over the past half-century to try to eradicate those old ways that were, for so many centuries before totally acceptable. Just keep working on it and it will become second nature and the change will take place.

    • oldereyes Says:

      I agree with most everything you say … but I truly believe that our PC society makes us look better than we are. And I don’t see any value in that.


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