Mark Cuban’s Comment’s: What Is Prejudice?, Where Does It Come From? and How Do We Overcome It?

Mark Cuban, who is known primarily as the owner of the NBA team The Dallas Mavericks, recently made comments during a sit down with Inc. Magazine’s Growco Conference[1] online that has gotten the sports world buzzing. What did he say exactly to get people talking? He acknowledged his prejudices and expounded on the subject as a whole, highlighting that everyone- famous or not, black or white- has their own prejudices whether or not they would like to admit it.

I can understand the sensitivity people may have to Cuban’s comments due to the climate surrounding the NBA at the moment. The Donald Sterling situation, where he appeared to say racist statements about African Americans[2], is still heated and does not appear to be going away anytime soon, even though it seems like former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer just bought the L.A. Clippers for a reported two billion dollars[3]. This is pending the approval from the NBA’s Board of Governors (the owners). Sterling vows to sue the league[4].

Donald Sterling’s History of Racism and Discrimination

His behavior is egregious and disgusting. It is deep within his soul, and as his history shows, it will never change.  He has made his racism into more than a 30 year career. His prejudice, racism, and acts of discrimination have been well documented from not paying his African American coaches[5] to refusing to rent apartments in buildings he owns to African Americans or Latinos, for which he was sued by the United States Department of Justice for housing discrimination[6] in 2006.

The Difference Between Prejudice, Racism And Discrimination

Now I think that it is important to highlight the various distinctions of three terms: Prejudice, Racism, and Discrimination. Prejudice, as stated in the word itself, is to judge something or someone only on what you see, hear or what is in front of you. Racism stems from someone feeling superior to another person, whether in intelligence or ability, because of their race. Discrimination involves the act of treating someone unfairly or different. The reasons for discrimination could vary from race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc. Some people upon hearing either one of these terms may automatically think of the other two because they may assume the terms are mutually exclusive; as to say if someone hears that another person has a prejudice then that must mean that they are racists or that they practice discrimination. Although they can co-exist in certain scenarios, they are not the same and not exclusive to one another.

The Evolution of Prejudice?

Prejudice is something that is hardwired in to every human being who is capable of forming thoughts. It is something for which we have evolution to thank.

Homo sapiens[7], or modern day humans, you and I, came into evolutionary existence around 100,000 years ago. Back then there were no laws, no supermarkets, or highly structured societies. Back than it was kill or be killed. 100,000 years ago every animal and disease was trying kill and/or eat the human being. In order to survive those conditions you had to be choosy not only about what you ate, but also about whom you associated with.

If you saw a berry or a plant you had to make a decision by smell or sight on whether or not something was safe enough to eat, because eating or drinking the wrong thing could mean severe sickness or death. When humans began to travel in groups of hunters and gathers the prejudice expanded to not just what you ate, but also the people you allowed to be in your group. You had to quickly judge and think “is this person a friend or a foe?”, “Can I trust this person?”, “is this person a good hunter/gather?” and “how can they help the group?” Even though they might not have had the language to say those things their actions conveyed such thinking.

Having certain prejudices not only helped in selecting food or groups it also played a role in choosing a mate for the survival of the species. Known as ‘sexual selection[8]’ by Charles Darwin, mates could be chosen based on a variety of factors, one of them being strength. Even though sexual selection can be seen as the female having the choice to pick the male that is not always the case. In certain instances males can become the ones with the choice while the female compete[9]. If you were successful enough to find a partner that meant your genes and not that of your competition would be passed on. Sexual selection still goes on in the animal kingdom today; take for example the peacock [10]that will show off his bright tail in hopes that a female may want to mate with him or birds singing[11] in order to attract a mate with their song.

 If You’re Going To Use Darwin’s Theory To Explain Hatred… DON’T!!!

It is important to note that Darwin’s theory was meant to be used to describe how a species could survive and adapt. Anyone who tries to use his theory to explain their racism or hateful prejudice or bigotry is misusing and distorting it.

Where Does Prejudice Come From?

Prejudice stems from FEAR. Fear of the unknown. Someone may be afraid of someone else by the way they look or dress or speak, but as soon as they begin knowing each other the prejudice can be lessened or go away. Now, that is not to say that certain prejudices or bigotries can be solved as easily as a math problem; saying ‘this minus this equals that’ does not work in these cases. Prejudice, racism, and discrimination are all far too complex for someone to solve in an article no matter how long it is.

Prejudice As HATE

At times during the course of human history that fear of the unknown has been used as a way to turn populations against themselves not as a means of survival, but as a form of hatred just because someone or a group may be different from you. These examples include the holocaust (around 6,000,000 Jews were murdered including 91% of the Jewish population of Poland[12]), the anti – Irish sentiment[13] in the U.S. and Britain in the 19th century, the prejudice and discrimination against Muslims after 9/11 (according to a report from the Department of Justice[14] from 2011 “The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) reported a 1,600% increase in anti-Muslim hate crime incidents in 2001), the caste system[15] (which still exists) in India in which you are treated differently based on what family you happen to come from. The worst victims of the caste system are known as the ‘untouchables.’ They are systematically denied food, proper housing, medical care and an education. And of course America’s all too well known history of prejudice, discrimination AND racism with slavery and the Jim Crow laws[16].

I would detail the crimes against the Native American’s[17], but that would require five more pages just to start.

Everyone May Have Prejudices, but Not All Prejudices Are Equal

Now, it is important to note that not all prejudice should be treated the same. To say so would be illogical and just plain nonsense. I point this out as to say trying to compare Cuban’s comments to that of Donald Sterling is incorrect in my opinion. Trying to compare the two would be like saying one guy stole a pencil and the other rubbed a bank at gunpoint and they should both get 50 years in prison. Although, they both committed crimes under the law wouldn’t 50 years in prison for stealing a pencil a little excessive?

A Form of Acceptable Prejudice?

As a people most, if not all of us, are aware (consciously or unconsciously) that at least some forms of prejudice, for a variety of reasons, exist in our society and we have come to accept them, take for example judging someone based on appearance. Anyone who has a job or who is looking for a job knows how important dressing well for an interview is. If you were to go interview to try and land your dream job would you show up in sweatpants, sneakers, wearing a white tank top or even in denim jeans that are down to your knees exposing your underwear? Most of you, man or woman, would probably not. Now look at it from this perspective: if you were an employer and someone walked in dressed like that would your first instinct be “I have to hire that person?” probably not.  Your resumé may clinch the job for you, but anyone who has had to go through the job process knows that appearance and presentation matters.

In 2011 an article on BusinessInsider.com[18] listed several factors associated with appearance and presentation. Several studies indicated colorations between how someone spoke, dressed or even the color of their hair, among other attributes, could affect whether they were given a job, promoted or even paid more. Among some of the results were if you were a woman “64 per cent of directors said that women who wore make-up look more professional and 18 per cent of directors said that women who do not wear make-up “look like they can’t be bothered to make an effort”. If you were a man “60% of businessmen without beards or moustaches feel that these features are a bad sign. Some feel [sic] that the person can’t be bothered to shave and others that they are hiding something.”

Is that fair? Depending on who you ask the answer may be ‘yes’ or it may be ‘no.’

These characteristics of how someone is judged in the corporate world can seem downright ridicules, but they are there.

Some years from now that may change and society may feel that dressing however you want to go to a job interview is acceptable and that will be the new norm, then the businesses and employers would have to change to that norm, but that has not happened yet.

According to Malcolm Gladwell[19], in his book Blink[20]: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, we make snap judgments or what he calls ‘thin-slicing’ as soon as we “meet a new person or have to make sense of something quickly or encounter a novel situation…Snap judgments are, first of all, enormously quick: they rely on the thinnest slices of experience … they are also unconscious.”

No One Should Rely On Anyone Else To Eliminate Their Prejudice… That’s Their Job!

In different segments of society there are different ways of dressing and speaking or acting that are deemed acceptable or not acceptable. I bring that up because although in certain situations (such as a job interview) where someone may have to conform at least a little that should not always have to be the case. It should not be the job of the person who is prejudiced against to conform to the person who has shown such prejudice. The person who has that prejudice should acknowledge that it is there and work on it.  Especially, in today’s world with laptops, tablets and Smartphone’s where it only takes a few key strokes to find out information on a culture or segment of the population once unknown to them; it is their job to educate themselves and eradicate their ignorance. Once they educate themselves that fear that may have once been there, can no longer be used as a crutch, as it once was. If that person still holds such prejudice it is by choice. In an age of technology where access to the internet is as easy as looking at your cell phone ignorance is a choice not something set in stone.

Shining a Light on Prejudice

I share this information not say that we, as a society, must accept someone’s prejudice or condone it, but instead to say that when we see or hear prejudice we must, as a collective, call it out and give it a voice. If we pretend to be such an evolved species that we do not have prejudices, no matter what they are, we are fooling ourselves. The way to battle prejudice is not to pretend it doesn’t exist and sweep it under the rug, but to shine a light on it and try to figure out why someone would have such intolerance. We must not only be aware of others’ prejudice, but also the ones within ourselves.

In Closing: The Difference Between Donald Sterling and Mark Cuban and Becoming More Informed

The difference between Donald Sterling and Mark Cuban is that Sterling has systematically, over time, used his racism to discriminate and transgress against others. His racism runs as deep as the ocean. Over the years there has been no evidence to suggest that he wants to change. Whereas someone’s prejudice that stems from fear can change with knowledge, his racism will always be with him. He will always feel that he is better than someone else because he is white and they are not, no matter who they look or their other qualities.

Cuban admitted to having prejudices and bigotries and admitted that having them is wrong. In that interview I didn’t hear him say that it was someone else’s job to teach him how not to feel that way. He took ownership of his feelings and said that he, not anyone else, had to change them. In Cuban’s history, which we know of, there has never been a documented or suspected case of him discriminating against someone. Could he have used better analogies or examples to prove his case, certainly, but a couple of seconds or bad wording should not lead someone to throw away his entire argument. I would say that the fact that he thought it appropriate, at the time, to use those descriptions lends to his point that he obviously needs to become more informed.

After the interview with INC. Mark Cuban issued an apology to Treyvon Martin’s family concerning his ‘hoodie’  comment, but stood by the rest of his argument.

The statement read:

“In hindsight I should have used different examples. I didn’t consider the Trayvon Martin family, and I apologize to them for that. 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.”

 

                                                                                                                                                      

Links for further reading and viewing:

Reading:

Origins of Slavery in America, History.com – http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/slavery

• Tale of the Peacock, PBS -www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/01/6/l_016_09.html

• Understanding Prejudice – http://www.understandingprejudice.org/

• What does it take to spark prejudice in humans?, BBChttp://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130409-what-sparks-prejudice-in-humans

• Critical Thinking and the Nature of Prejudice, criticalthinking.org –       http://www.criticalthinking.org/data/pages/19/cbb793a3159353eb2051dc5f5804cffb5135355a9cf6a.pdf

• Test Yourself for Hidden Bias, Southern Poverty Law Centerhttp://www.tolerance.org/Hidden-bias

• Musicians’ Appearances Matter More Than Their Sound, Nature.comhttp://www.nature.com/news/musicians-appearances-matter-more-than-their-sound-1.13572

• How We Are Judged by Our Appearance, Psychologytoday.com –     http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/subliminal/201206/how-we-are-judged-our-appearance

 Videos:

First Take Reacts to Mark Cuban’s Comments — Part 1

First Take discuss society’s challenges with racism

Works Cited

[1] Aspan, Maria. “Mark Cuban, Post-Sterling, on Combating Racism: ‘We All Have Our Bigotry’.” INC. N.p., 2014. Web. 28 May 2014. <http://www.inc.com/maria-aspan/mark-cuban-discusses-bigotry-post-donald-sterling-fiasco.html?cid=sf01001&gt;.

[2] Golliver, Ben. “NBA investigating Clippers owner Donald Sterling for alleged racist comments.” Sports Illustrated. Time Warner Company, 29 Apr. 2014. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://nba.si.com/2014/04/26/donald-sterling-nba-investigation-racist-comments-clippers/&gt;.

[3] “Clips Sale Pending Board Approval.” ESPN Los Angeles. ESPN, 30 May 2014. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/11008952/nba-approves-steve-ballmer-bid-buy-los-angeles-clippers&gt;.

[4] “Donald Sterling Files $1B Lawsuit.” ESPN Los Angeles. ESPN, 30 May 2014. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/11008282/attorney-says-los-angeles-clippers-owner-donald-sterling-suing-nba-1-billion&gt;.

[5]Adande, J.A. “Legal Filings Show Frustration of Clipper GMs.” ESPN. N.p., 6 Jan. 2011. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/23649/legal-filings-show-frustration-of-clipper-gms&gt;.

[6] “Sterling Sued by DOJ for Housing Discrimination.” ESPN. Associated Press, 7 Aug. 2006. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=2542741&gt;.

[7] “Origins of Humankind .” Evolution. PBS, n.d. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/humans/humankind/o.html&gt;.

[8]“Darwin, Beauty and Sexual Selection.” Endless Forms Charles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts. The Fitzwilliam Museum, Unversity of Cambridge, n.d. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://www.darwinendlessforms.org/gallerydarwin/darwin-beauty-and-sexual-selection/&gt;.

[9] Stockley, Paula, and Jakob Bro-Jørgensen. “Female Competition and Its Evolutionary Consequences In Mammals.” Biological Reviews 86.2 (2010): 341-66. Web. 28 May 2014. <http://www.liv.ac.uk/mbe/pdf/11_Stockley_BR.pdf&gt;.

[10] Brennan, Patricia L. R. “Sexual Selection.” Scitable. Nature Education, n.d. Web. 27 May 2014.      <http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/sexual-selection-13255240&gt;.

[11] Mayntz, Melissa. “Bird Courtship Behavior.” About.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://birding.about.com/od/birdingbasics/a/courtshipbehavior.htm&gt;.

[12] “Statistics of The Holocaust.” The History Place. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/holocaust/h-statistics.htm&gt;.

[13] Daniels, Jessie. “St. Patrick’s Day, Irish-Americans and the Changing Boundaries of Whiteness.” Racism Review. N.p., 17 Mar. 2012. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://www.racismreview.com/blog/2012/03/17/st-patricks-irish-whiteness-2012/&gt;.

[14] “Confronting Discrimination in the Post-9/11 Era: Challenges and Opportunities Ten Years Later .” United States Department of Justice. N.p., 19 Oct. 2011. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://www.justice.gov/crt/publications/post911/post911summit_report_2012-04.pdf&gt;.

[15] The Impact of India’s Caste System on Woman. Narr. Urmi Basu. Perf. America Ferrera. Independent Lens, 2012. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://video.pbs.org/video/2276630812/&gt;.

[16] “Jim Crow Laws.” Separate Is Not Equal: Brown V. Board of Education . Smithsonian National Museum of American History, n.d. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://americanhistory.si.edu/brown/history/1-segregated/jim-crow.html&gt;.

[17] Lewy, Guenter. “Were American Indians the Victims of Genocide?.” History News Network. George Mason University, Sept. 2004. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://hnn.us/article/7302&gt;.

[18] Shontell, Alyson. “If You Look Like This, Your Pay Check Will Be Higher Than Average .” Business Insider. N.p., 26 Feb. 2011. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://www.businessinsider.com/if-you-have-any-of-these-20-physical-features-your-pay-check-will-probably-be-higher-2011-2?op=1&gt;.

[19] Gladwell, Malcolm. Gladwell.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://gladwell.com/&gt;.

[20] Heathfield, Susan M. “Why “Blink” Matters: The Power of First Impressions.” About.com Human Resourses. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2014. <http://humanresources.about.com/od/workrelationships/a/blink_effect.htm&gt;.

 

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