…and it’s still only Spring 2014…
“I’m the one guy who says don’t force the stupid people [racists] to be quiet — I want to know who the morons are.” -- #Mark Cuban, billionaire entrepreneur, #NBA owner of the Dallas Mavericks and one of the star investors on the television series #Shark Tank
An honest discussion of race in America picks up once again with a twist, thanks to #Mark Cuban. Although #Donald Sterling claimed he was no racist even after his racist rants, Cuban said Sterling’s comments were“abhorrent” and “obviously racist” during his Inc. Magazine interview. Perhaps that is why the unapologetic former #New Hampshire Police Commissioner Robert Copeland resigned after he called President Obama the #n-word. In a commencement speech at #Morgan State University, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the greatest threat to equality are “subtle” expressions of bigotry that remain a “troubling reality…”
“While we all have our prejudices and bigotries, we have to learn that it’s an issue that we have to control,” said Cuban, who describes it as the “cost of progress.”
In many ways, Cuban is right. It appears as though Cuban’s point is that we all have preconceived notions—prejudging someone or a group of people before we know the truth. This prelabeling leads to racism and forming stereotypes. A CNN opinion article indicated that racists are not always hateful or uneducated. They are complicated, resistant, underdeveloped people, often the product of complex, cruel, greedy times and institutions. Perhaps it’s the “underdeveloped people” Cuban identifies as “stupid bigots,” of which he admits he is occasionally a part of along with everyone else.
According to Forbes, “America is changing, and the new population carefully evaluates how organizations relate to it. If you are not authentic, consumers and employees will begin to question the authenticity and leadership of your organization. No longer can America’s corporations hide behind their lack of cultural intelligence. Organizations that seek global market relevancy must embrace diversity – in how they think, act and innovate.”
When I first started working at a PR agency in Philly, the agency’s primary client stereotyped me as probably being lazy with minimum education and hired as a token. I proved them wrong. I exceeded their expectations, provided quantitative and qualitative research analysis and findings, and I executed an impactful communications campaign for citywide utility customers of 1.4 million at the time, winning accolades for innovative implementation, especially after they saw the final measurement of unexpected positive results. My manager was happy, the client was happy and customers were happy. This resulted in renewed, extended contracts and new business for the agency.
You see, the clients knew nothing about me. They did not know I was raised by hard-working parents who passed down their strong work ethic and pro-education mindset to me. They did not know I was propelled to the top in my honors class because I turned a routine U.N. project into an impactful PR campaign for a country I was assigned to represent, giving me my first glimpse into communications. They did not know that I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth but was one of five who worked my way through college, graduating with honors. They did not know that I did not learn about racial differences until the third grade when my peers “educated” me. (Racial differences was never a topic of conversation in my home as I was growing up.)
They did not know I married a patriotic Air Force man who never heard the n-word used until he was seven-years-old after his family moved into a nearly all white neighborhood. He was called the n-word by young bigots. Not knowing what it meant, he ran home to his mother and asked, “Mom, what does n—- mean?” She said “that’s a word that ignorant people use to make themselves feel superior over someone else. But don’t let it bother you. You just focus on your studies.” So every time he was called the n-word, he just reasoned to himself that they were using that word because they were ignorant.
In short, we turned their negative perceptions of us into positive perceptions. The only negative cases that remained came from those who chose to remain “stupid bigots,” as Cuban explained. It did not matter to us. For us it was about the pursuit of happiness. That is why God is first in our lives. Perhaps that is why I am so happy and love people today, no matter the race. I look at commonalities. We all have them, beginning with the color of our blood.
So as #Cuban pointed out, as a leader in his own businesses, he focuses on solutions, such as sensitivity training for “stupid bigots.” He smartly encourages them to engage with the very people they fear or don’t understand. “Because it does my company no good, it does my customers no good, it does society no good…” said Cuban. He’s right.
We all know that diversity is about embracing many different types of people who stand for different things and represent varying cultures, generations, ideas and thinking. Having an honest, open discussion about this perennial issue is mutually beneficial for our society and people at-large. BUT IT MUST BE FOLLOWED-UP WITH ACTION that results in positive behavioral change. If I can help make a positive societal difference in this regard, I am willing.