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Mark Cuban, Bomani Jones and understanding the realities of racism

After Cuban made comments about racism and biases, he and Bomani Jones went back and forth on Twitter about the issue. You can read them here.

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(manager's note: I'd like to co-sign what Andrew says in the second paragraph. We are careful taking stances on controversial topics, but we feel that this is, a) important, and b) something that isn't going away. If this isn't the Mavericks coverage you are looking for, then you're under no obligation to read this and we'll be back to our "normal" Mavs coverage tomorrow.)

Earlier today, my brother g-chatted me basically to say he was trying to decide whether he didn't have a problem with what Mark Cuban said because he likes him and it's his team, or because he just doesn't have a problem regardless of affiliation. I was thinking basically the same thing, and I'm sure we're not alone.

We, the MMB staff, thought a long time about whether or not to say anything about this, largely because we have self-consciously modeled ourselves as a site which doesn't purposefully stoke strong emotions for the sake of clicks. We try to give you interesting takes, and sometimes those piss people off. But we don't piss people off just to do it. And, you'll be shocked to know, racism is a hot button issue.

But finally, after seeing both Mark Cuban's and Bomani Jones' faces on my television over lunch, I decided that I did, after all, want to say just one thing: I don't think Jones and Cuban actually disagree with each other.

In all walks of life, there is a difference between how we feel and what we do, and this is why laws govern one but not the other. Because we're not computers who have been programmed but human beings with unique experiences, we don't always feel the things we should. This is more or less literally what Mark Cuban said: "I do not always feel the things I should".

If Bomani was upset about anything that Cuban said, it seems to be that Cuban's comments implied that seeing a black man in a hoodie is basically the same as seeing another type of person whose appearance indicates street toughness in some way, which is unfair, as Bomani pointed out, to black people who like being warm.  He also suggested that there's a level to which we shouldn't applaud people JUST for being honest about their prejudices.

And all of these things are true, while at the same time, I have a hard time feeling that Cuban did a single thing wrong. Bomani's right on the first count that it really sucks that for a lot of people in society seeing a guy in comfortable clothing seems like a threat, and I don't think Cuban would disagree with that. Bomani's also right that just owning up to something -- "sure, I kick puppies" -- doesn't by itself make you virtuous. And I don't think Cuban would disagree with that.

I am not going to try to put words in Cuban's mouth, or tell him or you what he meant by his interview.  But I think even just saying "he didn't mean anything wrong" is pretty unfair to Mark Cuban. It seems to me -- sorry, Mark, if I'm wrong about this -- that what he was explicitly saying is "we all have some feelings that we might wish we didn't have," which is as true as the day is long, and as life is short.

In that sense, both men are talking about the exact same thing.  Racism exists, and it's not just the cartoonish version embodied by Donald Sterling. It exists in soft ways, in where and how people are encouraged to live, in how education is doled out, in public perception and treatment.  And what both would want, I think, is an awareness of that fact, and I think what both explicitly want, at least as a start, is exactly the same thing: we cannot always control how we feel, but we can control how we behave. A heated conversation about an issue isn't always an argument, and I didn't think this was--just two people saying we've got to do our best, sometimes despite ourselves.