By Harriet P. Gross
Do we love Mark Cuban, or do we hate him? Very rich and very outspoken is a potent combination, and that’s him in a nutshell.
Mark Cuban is a Pittsburgher by birth and basic education, as am I. I’m older than he is, but about the same age as one of his uncles, whom I saw at a high school reunion just about the time Mark hit the big time and came to Dallas as purchaser of the Mavericks.
“What’s what with your nephew?” I asked Cuban the elder, then retiring from a long career as a math professor at a leading California university. “We’re trying to figure it out ourselves,” is what he answered, in the name of the whole Cuban family.
So now, more than a decade later, many locals were left reeling by Cuban’s recent, highly vocal assessment of current racial (read: black-and-white) problems here in America.
The cause for his newest outspokenness was the charged comments of another Jew, Donald Sterling, who just happened to be the owner of another leading professional basketball franchise. (I use the past tense here because Sterling’s estranged wife has since then apparently claimed that $2 billion Los Angeles prize for herself.)
So Cuban the younger was responding, in a way, to the crass, unfeeling words that escaped from the too-big mouth of his fellow Jew and fellow NBA owner, who happened to be taped in a personal moment by a paramour less than half his age. That’s fodder for another discussion.
But what Mark said was controversially quotable: he remarked that he himself would cross the street if he saw a young black man in a hoodie walking toward him.
Hit by an avalanche of nasty reactions, he quickly apologized to the family of the late Treyvan Martin for any non-intended hurt he’d caused.
But some of the complainers failed to notice that he’d coupled his first statement with a second: he would also walk away from a baldheaded young white man covered in tattoos. Actions and reactions cut both ways.
I react as a Pittsburgher who grew up, along with Mark Cuban’s uncle, in a middle- to upper-middle class city enclave that was largely Jewish and virtually 100 percent white.
The school whose reunion we attended was junior and senior high combined; in grades seven and eight, the student makeup was that of our pale-faced neighborhood.
In grade nine, there was an influx of kids from a large feeder school in another nearby neighborhood, mostly lower-middle class, both black and white. So we were integrated — but in name only. Social mingling outside of our required time together was unheard of.
Mark’s branch of the Cuban family lived at a different time in a different area, in a neighborhood of a more mixed makeup — economically, religiously and by color. As a white Jew there, I’m sure he had many more bouts with anti-Semitism than his uncle and I had in our homey comfort zone.
We grew up encapsulated and wary, not smart enough to know we were actually prejudiced. Mark isn’t afraid to face the fact that he has, and has always had, his own prejudices. His eyes were opened long before ours. We came to realize only much later that our cocooning community had been an incubator of subtle, rather than overt, prejudice. To this day, some of us have not yet had the guts to admit it.
So I say, hats off to Mark Cuban for his honesty.
And that opinion has also been expressed by James Ragland, black columnist at the Dallas Morning News, who addressed Cuban in print: “I’m here to defend what you said, and your courage to tell the truth as you know it.” And to the rest of us: “Say what you will about Cuban and his unsettling candor. But he’s telling the truth…”
And who was it who said that the truth will set us free?