Mark Cuban, tech entrepreneur, star of the TV show Shark Tank, and owner of the Dallas Mavericks pro basketball team, sparked a firestorm on Twitter last week when he admitted to being a bigot.
The firestorm was based on the sound bite:
I know I’m prejudiced. I know I’m bigoted, in a lot of different ways. If I see a black kid in a hoodie on the same side of the street, I’m probably going to walk to the other side of the street.
Some of those who lambasted Cuban ignored the continuation of his statement:
If I see a white guy with a shaved head and lots of tattoos, I’m going back to the other side of the street. If I see anybody that looks threatening, chances are there’s part of me that takes into account race and gender and age. I’m prejudiced. But other than safety issues, I always try to catch my prejudices and recognize and be very self-aware that my stream of thought is never perfect and I’ve got to be careful. To me, that’s part of growing up.
Read more at:
Dallas Mavericks owner criticized for his comments on race, on Sports.yahoo.com
Personally, I think Mark Cuban expressed what many people feel, if we’re willing to be honest with ourselves.
When we encounter someone, thoughts, feelings and impressions pop into our heads in an instant. The key, as Cuban alluded, is not that we have the thoughts. It’s that we recognize them and carefully choose how we’re going to respond to them. Are we going to act on our prejudices, or act upon our values?
I do believe that racism, bigotry and prejudice are damaging, both to the people who are victimized and to the people who are acting on these views. It is certainly true that society as a whole loses when people are prohibited from contributing all that they can because of their race, national origin, gender, religion, age or whatever.
Unfortunately, our society’s emphasis on equal opportunity — expressed as “political correctness” — has conditioned us to believe that we always have to give everybody a chance, and nobody should be excluded from anything for any reason.
This can be very dangerous when the person who has caused us to have negative thoughts, feelings and impressions is a sociopath.
Danger of being nonjudgmental
I’ve heard from many people who were victimized by a sociopath who got the impression, early on, that there was something wrong with the person. But they prided themselves on being nonjudgmental, open-minded and willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt. So they continued their involvement with the sociopath, which turned into a disaster.
Here in the United States, we are taught to believe that everyone is created equal, there’s good in everyone, and everyone just wants to be loved.
We are not taught that there are exceptions to these cultural ideals. We are not taught that some people are social predators who pursue relationships, especially romantic relationships, for exploitation.
As a result, most of us don’t know that there are predators living among us. We are sitting ducks for sociopaths.
Trust our instincts
Here’s how to keep ourselves safe from sociopaths:
- Know that they exist.
- Know the warning signs of sociopathic behavior
- Trust our instincts.
Our instincts are the best protection we have for avoiding sociopaths. Our instincts were honed over millennia to warn us about predators.
So if we have a bad feeling about someone, how do we know if our internal reaction is due to prejudice, or an internal warning that the person is a predator?
There’s no easy answer to this question. What’s important is that we ask it.
Prejudice is based on having a negative view about someone because he or she belongs to a certain group or class of people.
Having a negative view about someone because of his or her own behavior, or because of our reaction to the behavior, is not prejudice. It is self-protection.