Mark Cuban Says He's Scared of Black Kids in Hoodies, Sets Internet Aflame
Mark Cuban has taken a thoughtful, nuanced approach to the Donald Sterling controversy, at once condemning the unapologetic racism the Clippers' owner expresses on a leaked audiotape, and expressing deep discomfort with the precedent it sets to punish someone so severely for expressing his personal beliefs in private.
Thoughtfulness and nuance don't play well on the Internet, though. So when Cuban continued the conversation with Inc. yesterday, this admitting that he would cross the street to avoid a black kid in a hoodie late at night, the Internet blew up. So, too, did Cuban, who's spent the morning Twitter feuding with sportswriter Bomani Jones, among others, accusing them of taking the hoodie comment out of context.
Here's what Cuban actually said to Inc.:
In this day and age the country has really come a long way in putting any type of bigotry behind us regardless of whether it's the LGBT community, whether it's xenophobia, you know, fear of people from other countries. And we've come a long way, and with that there's a price where we're a lot more vigilant in what we do. We're a lot less tolerant of different views, and it's not so easy for everyone to adopt or adapt or evolve.
We're all prejudiced in one way or another. If I see a black kid in a hoodie late at night, I'm walking to the other side of the street. If, on that side of the street, I see a guy with 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 I live in a glass house, and it's not appropriate for me to throw stones. And so, when I run into bigotry in organizations I control, I try to find solutions. I work with people, or I'll send them to training, I'll send them to sensitivity training because I want to give them a chance to improve themselves, because I think that helping people improve their lives, helping people engage with people they may fear or may not understand, and helping people realize that while we all have our prejudices and bigotries, we all have to learn. It's an issue we have to try to control, that it's part of my responsibility as an entrepreneur to try to solve it instead of kicking the problem down the road.
It does my company no good, it does my customers no good, it does society no good if my response to somebody in their racism and their bigotry for me to say it's not right for you to be here, go take your attitude somewhere else.
Cuban's broader point -- that racism is a problem that can't be solved by drumming out the Donald Sterlings of the world, and should be addressed head-on in a substantive way -- seems right. It's the hoodie comment people are getting caught up on. Jones' critique is one of the more thoughtful ones, inasmuch as a string of tweets can be thoughtful:
cuban did punk out with that "i'm scared of white guys with tattoos" point, too. not the same as a hooded sweatshirt, slugger.— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) May 22, 2014
being tatted up and down has undeniable ties to prison culture. a black kid in a hoodie is staying warm. false equivalence, no?— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) May 22, 2014
. @bomani_jones you're trying to make this about a Hoodie. You know damn well its not. It's about whatever makes You feel threatened— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) May 22, 2014
. @bomani_jones the point was that before we can help others deal w racism we have to be honest about ourselves.— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) May 22, 2014
Surely, though, Cuban could foresee that deploying a symbol as fraught as a black kid in a hoodie would inevitably obscure whatever larger point he was hoping to convey.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.