I was hosting an on air panel of young Hamiltonians from different back- grounds. Race, ethnicity, language and religion were the agenda. Just how well was the city’s increasingly non-Caucasian dominated population accepting this change? An African Canadian member of the panel spoke of being at Jackson Square not long before and finding himself heckled by a crew of self-anointed guardians for the disappearing racial status quo.
“Hey, why don’t you go back where you came from” set the bar.
“Mr. Green, I was born and raised in Hamilton. Where exactly am I supposed to go back to.”
I’ve related that incident many times in the fifteen or so years since that particular broadcast, including on the pages of the Bay Observer. It speaks to the issue of acceptance, as well as prejudice in a context easily understood.
Recently, Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, while being interviewed about exiting Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racial phone rant, created headlines himself with some subsequently accusing Cuban of bigotry.
In part, here’s what Mark Cuban said, words I played on air.
“We’re all prejudiced in one way or another. 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 that we all live up to and are fearful of.” Cuban added if one of his employees were to display racial or other prejudice, he, Cuban, would “send them to sensitivity training” and “I’ll try to give them a chance to improve themselves.”
So, is Mark Cuban a racist poking his head out of the proverbial closet seeking kindred spirits to promote an agenda of intolerance? Or is Mark Cuban an honest man who provided us with opportunity to speak openly and person- ally about racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious issues?
I choose the latter, but you decide for yourself. And Cuban did tweet an apology to the family of Trayvon Martin for the hoodie analogy.
The most interesting exercise was to tap into spontaneous national reaction from callers responding to the Mark Cu- ban commentary. Phone lines lit up and opinions were willingly expressed. Not one caller attempted to either promote or protect intolerance.
It wasn’t just Mark Cuban whose statements were addressed.
I quoted the Reverend Jesse Jackson. “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.” Words spoken by Reverend Jackson in 1993, in inner city Chicago during an anti-crime speaking tour.
I haven’t heard from the young man who shared his experience of being subjected to ugly derision at Jackson Square. I’ll never forget him or his words. I was thinking about him while listening to Mark Cuban’s interview and then fielding calls. I will though continue to share his experience when dealing with the issues of race, ethnicity or language when and where those issues are exploited for the sake of mean-spirited and ugly agendas.
Written by: Roy Green