We all know the story of what happened to Trayvon Martin, when neighborhood vigilante George Zimmerman racially profiled and murdered him. I can’t forget Saturday, July 13, 2013, because it was the day that Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder and Trayvon was found guilty of being a young, Black man in America. Trayvon was found guilty of mistaken identity while walking home wearing a hoodie, and being treated more like a criminal than a victim, while having nothing more than a can of iced tea and a pack of Skittles in his possession.
The brutal shooting of Trayvon gave all of us the opportunity to look at racial profiling and stereotypes and have genuine and frank discussions about race and the perception problem surrounding African Americans in this country. Then, out of the blue, you have Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban seeking to "be honest" by saying what was on his mind, and making comments that reinforced the very stereotype that led to the death of young Trayvon.
Coming off the heels of controversial and racist comments made by his peer Donald Sterling, who is a part of the culture that Donald Sterling so eloquently stated when he was being secretly taped by his girlfriend, Cuban delivered one of the most ill-timed and irresponsible set of comments that I have seen deliberately come from a person in authority, in some time.
See, Cuban’s comments, while attempting to be true and honest about being a bigot and having prejudices, made comments that were more damaging than they were praiseworthy and I refuse to applaud him because his comments did not go far enough and definitely didn’t address the end result of what typically happens when people in authority, like him, use those same prejudices to inflict harm upon and disenfranchise others.
Cuban said, "I mean, we’re all prejudiced in one way or another," he 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 we all live up to and are fearful of."
Cuban eventually offered up a half-baked apology to the family of Trayvon Martin and even with that apology, made it worse. Cuban got on Twitter and publicly apologized to the Martin family, writing, "In hindsight I should have used different examples. I didn’t consider the Trayvon Martin family, and I apologize to them for that."
But then, Cuban turned right around and boastfully defended his original statements on Twitter by writing, "Beyond apologizing to the Martin family, I stand by the words and substance of the interview. 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 may 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."
The question I have is, what is Cuban actually doing to solve the issues of racial prejudice in America and why did he just apologize to the Martin family? There are countless young, Black men who have been killed and assaulted because of mistaken identity and racial profiling.
If everybody, as Cuban stated, deals with some form of prejudice, then why did he have to bring up race and single out a hoodie-wearing Black kid and then attempt to counter it with a White guy with tattoos and a shaved head, and use those as people he is prejudiced against? Why couldn’t the Black guy have had the shaved head and tattoos and the White guy wear the hoodie?
Whether intentional or not, Cuban justified his prejudice and gave other people the green light to justify their prejudice towards young, Black men.
You see, in America, the Black man has been labeled as a thug, criminal and threat to everyone in America. Black people are looked at as the guilty aggressor, while Whites are viewed as not guilty and focused on protecting themselves. Do you honestly believe that White people are more threatened about a random bald-headed White man with tattoos walking down the street versus a young, Black kid wearing a hoodie?
Through the media and popular culture, the overarching perception is that Black people are overly aggressive criminals and inherently up to no good and it is an issue that needs to be discussed beyond just acknowledging that these thought processes exist. It’s one thing to be so "brave" as to admit you’re prejudiced and a bigot like Mark Cuban is being praised for, but what is he committed and willing to do to address systematic, institutionalized racism in this country and address how prejudicial views like his have historically had a negative impact on Black people in this country; even young, Black men wearing the hoodie he described.
If the only thing Cuban was going to admit to and say is that he is a bigot and has prejudices, then he should have just shut his mouth because his comments added nothing to the discourse of race relations in America.....NOTHING! All Cuban did was run his mouth and did nothing to move the discussion forward or increase racial understanding. When it comes to society, all of us can choose to wear tattoos, shave or not shave, wear a hoodie or not wear one; but tell me when we can stop being Black in America?
Having prejudices, that are negative in particular, doesn’t make them right and I definitely won’t be saluting Cuban because he chose to be "honest" about something that is well known. Of course Cuban has every right to express his opinion; but I have every right to address his ill-timed comments that were given during an extremely sensitive time in America.
While I may have prejudices, I can be as "honest" as Cuban and confess that I do not believe every White person I see is going to lynch me like James Byrd Jr., nor do I believe every White person in a suit is going to discriminate on me in business. If I had those thoughts, would I be justified in thinking that way, the same way Cuban seeks to justify his prejudicial beliefs?
No one can tell me who I am prejudiced against, unless I open my mouth or show them with my actions. I believe that people should think twice about judging people too quickly and too harshly and should sincerely give people the same respect and benefit of the doubt that they would want if they were in their shoes.