Mark Cuban and the dangerous trap of truth

Ed touched on this briefly, but Mark Cuban has probably opened up a bigger can of worms than even he could have imagined when he decided to have a rather frank discussion on people’s preconceived notions.

“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.”

This, of course, set off the usual alarm bells with our nation’s keepers of the watchful flame of racial tensions. Finally they had it on the record. Mark Cuban is obviously a racist! Sure, some of the chief monitors of all thing race card related, such as Travis Waldron at Check Your Privilege Central, were willing to slide a smidgen of credit toward Cuban for admitting he’s a despicable monster, but he still had to ask The Big Question: does he still cross the street?

When CNN’s Don Lemon dared to wonder exactly what it was that Cuban should be apologizing for, he was quickly swatted down by Marc Lamont Hill and Sunny Hostin. Our own Katie Pavlich felt the sting of Mediaite’s hall monitors when she suggested that she might cross the street herself in certain circumstances. Said monitors were also quick to note that Cuban felt compelled to apologize to the family of Trayvon Martin for mentioning the word “hoodie.”

This brings up two questions – one relatively minor and the other having more far reaching implications – which merit attention.

First, and of far less import, is a question of sartorial style. Since when does the entire planet apparently owe a mea culpa to the legacy of Trayvon Martin for saying hoodie? I’ve got news for you.. the rest of the world is still allowed to talk about people wearing hoodies in whatever context they wish. If they are common in high crime areas and you find them unsettling, you are free to be unsettled. (As a startling side note, I have a black hoodie and wear it every spring and fall. It has a graphic of a loon on it – I mean the bird, not Nancy Pelosi – and I find it comfortable. But I’m sure I’m unsettling to a lot of people also.)

But the second, and larger issue here has to do with this fundamental concept of people crossing the street. I was reminded of a rather eerie parallel while reading the interview conducted by Don Lemon which I linked above. For the last couple of years I’ve had to do a lot of traveling in the “deep South” as it’s called – particularly through the Appalachian Mountains – and gotten to know some of these areas pretty well. I’ve learned that once you get outside the clearly defined borders of a couple of cities down there you immediately enter into more mountainous, less populated areas which some natives affectionately refer to as the hollers, or simply, out in the county.

There are, to assign a charitable name, “towns” out in some of these backwaters, populated almost entirely by white people. Small collections of houses and trailers are interrupted by the occasional dimly lit bar with country music blaring out the windows and a collection of bikes and pickup trucks with gun racks and frequent confederate flag NRA (Edit *) bumper stickers in the parking lot. I find myself wondering… if Marc Lamont Hill or Sunny Hostin had the misfortune of encountering car trouble in one of these hamlets and found themselves walking toward a service station past one of these bars where some guys with Duck Dynasty beards were hanging outside swilling Budweisers, would they cross the street? And if so, would that make them racists?

Conversely, we have areas near me, even in the “blue” regions of upstate New York, where what we laughably refer to as “cities” contain neighborhoods which generate a lot of law enforcement issues. The cops are there all the time and the police blotters ring up unseemly numbers of busts for drugs, assaults, prostitution and theft. And, yes, they are almost entirely populated by minorities on any given evening. Then I look at the picture of Travis Waldron, who reminds me somewhat of myself at a younger age, mostly for seeming to have the street cred of a Miracle Whip sandwich on Wonder Bread. If Travis were wandering through one of these neighborhoods on a Saturday night and approaching a group of young black men in hoodies standing on the corner, would he rush up and ask, “Say! Would you fellas like to tip off to Starbucks with me, slip on some pajamas, drink some hot cocoa and rap about the future of race relations in America?”

Or might he cross the street as well? If it was me in that situation, I wouldn’t be crossing the street. I’d be turning around and exiting as quickly as possible because I’d have made a very wrong turn at some point in my travels. This isn’t a question of prejudice. It’s an issue of common sense and self-preservation. And this entire conversation about Mark Cuban and his so-called racist tendencies is a farce. But as a businessman, Cuban clearly has learned that you can’t go around saying something obvious if it’s politically unpalatable to the Left. That’s just bad for business.

EDIT: (Jazz) A commenter pointed out that in the hypothetical example above, the presence of confederate flag bumper stickers could carry a connotation of racism. I tend to disagree since, having spent a fair amount of time in the South, I’ve become friends with several people who proudly fly the stars and bars but are about as far from being racists as one could imagine. They’re just proud of their Southern heritage. Still, rather than provide fodder to those seeking to derail the conversation, I would substitute NRA stickers. If you choose to next argue that being a member of the National Rifle Association somehow carries with it an implicit charge of racism, feel free, but I’ll pretty much have stopped listening by that point.