Dr Boyce Watkins: 7 Really disturbing things about Mark Cuban’s “hoodie” interview

Updated: June 8, 2014

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

Via Financial Juneteenth

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is known for speaking his mind.  I respect that, and so should you.   But having the freedom to speak opens the rabbit hole of recursive action:  You can say whatever you want, but people also have the right to express an opinion about your remarks.

 Here is what Cuban said during an interview that aired on ESPN:marks

“I know I’m prejudiced, and I know I’m bigoted in a lot of different ways.  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. If I see a white guy with a shaved head and tattoos (on the side he now is on), I’ll move back to the other side of the street. None of us have pure thoughts; we all live in glass houses.”

We thank Mark Cuban for his honesty.  I am not sure if he’s going to thank me for mine.  Here are a few serious problems with Mark Cuban’s remarks and why the interview was problematic in the first place::

1)    Black men have the right to wear hoodies:  Mark, I respect the fact that black men in hoodies scare you, I know grown men who are frightened by clowns.   I also hope you’re not concluding that because you’ve admitted to your racism that this somehow makes it less painful to those of us who’ve dealt with bigotry our entire lives.  I wore a hoodie to the gym this morning, and it undermines my humanity to know that being a professor in the hoodie suddenly makes me equivalent to “a white guy with a shaved head and tattoos.”

2)    Stop defending Donald Sterling’s right to own the Clippers:  My concern is not that Cuban expressed his inner bias.  Most people have some kind of racial bias, we can agree on that.  The deeper concern is that Cuban is using subtle, relatively harmless forms of bias to justify 30 years of blatant, documented and undeniable bigotry by a man who has consistently made unacceptable remarks about people of color.  If Cuban wants to admit that he’s a bigot, then fine.  But he shouldn’t be using this nationally-televised confession to explain why Donald Sterling is not a bad guy.  One doesn’t have to be linked to the other…..unless you have an unspoken agenda.

3)    Cuban is comparing Apples and Oranges:  There’s a huge difference between admitting to having racist thoughts and admitting to engaging in racist ACTIVITY.   Also, there is a difference between saying “black men in hoodies make me want to cross the street,” and saying “I don’t want black people coming to my games.”   The first comment involves a natural decision by an independent citizen to engage in self-preservation by protecting himself from those he’s profiled as criminals.  The second statement represents a billionaire owner openly stating that he doesn’t want black people of all backgrounds in his physical presence, even if they are law-abiding citizens not wearing hoodies or tattoos.   The first case discriminates against subgroups that you have (rightly or wrongly) identified as potential threats.  The second statement discriminates against EVERYONE.

4)    Sterling has the right to be openly racist, but not the right to hire black people and destroy the NBA’s brand:  The NBA’s decision to get rid of Sterling is a logical business move to eliminate an owner who destroys wealth of the cooperative with words and actions that threaten to undermine the value of a multi-billion dollar brand.   The Los Angeles Clippers aren’t a stand alone bakery in the north side of Chicago.  They are a major sports franchise which exists as part of a broader, inter-related entity of many, many stakeholders.  If Sterling has the right to say that he doesn’t want black people coming to his games, then the NBA has the right to say we don’t want bigots to be part of our organization.

5)    Sterling’s recorded remarks were the tip of the iceberg, now let’s focus on the iceberg itself:  OK, let’s presume that one believes that Sterling’s comments about wanting black people out of his arena are irrelevant.  Even without those remarks, Sterling has a very long and frightening history of serious racial discrimination.  He has kept black people from having a place to live, made their lives a living hell in the workplace and only God knows what else he’s done along the way.  He even conspired with corrupt NAACP officials to thwart the ability of African Americans to speak up in situations where Sterling had violated them because they were black.  Sterling should be punished for buying off the NAACP for the same reason that a citizen is punished for bribing a cop.  The NAACP is, for some, a last resort to find racial  justice and protection.  But the NAACP in LA wasn’t protecting its citizens; they were instead giving Lifetime Achievement Awards to a man who once said that he didn’t rent to black tenants because they stink (seriously, he said that).

6)    Stephen A. Smith should realize that when he defends Mark Cuban (as he did on ESPN recently), he’s indirectly defending Cuban’s ability to defend Donald Sterling (if that makes any sense).   Stephen may have relationships he’s seeking to protect, or maybe he truly believes the stuff he was saying.  But no matter how you slice it, Stephen A’s defense of Cuban on ESPN is a) blaming white racial bias on black people who wear hoodies, and b) Supporting Cuban’s quest to use his own credibility to convince us that Sterling should be let off the hook.  Come on brother, are you really doing this?  Not cool.

7)    Why was Cuban doing that interview anyway?  Most celebs do interviews for a reason, whether it’s to promote a film, a book or an idea.  Ever since the public went after Donald Sterling for his remarks, Cuban has consistently defended Sterling’s right to keep the team.   So, by making remarks that effectively water down the devastating impact of racial bias, he is then consistently leading to the predictable conclusion that Sterling has a right to be an owner.  The debate at this point is not whether or not Sterling’s remarks were despicable, and it’s not even about whether he should be punished.  Instead, it is about deciding on what is an acceptable punishment and just how much power we should agree to give a man who is a proven and confirmed racist.

One fundamental fact is that if the punishment is not severe, and Sterling is kept in power, it reminds us of how little our nation cares about truly battling racism.  In other words, it might just be business as usual.

Dr. Boyce D. Watkins, The People’s Scholar,” is one of the leading financial scholars and social commentators in America. He advocates for education, economic empowerment, and social justice. He pioneered a movement to give Black social commentators and Black scholars a presence on the Internet


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