Terry Paulson

The sense's ability to discriminate differences serves us daily; it saves lives. When approaching an intersection, the color of the traffic light lets you know whether to stop or continue. Whether you admit it or not, your ability to discriminate differences between people you encounter can also serve you well. In its extreme, discrimination of difference has also resulted in bigotry and the holocaust that killed millions.

That's why Mark Cuban's candid comments on racial discrimination in an Inc magazine interview are both courageous and important in this time of division and rampant political correctness. In measured tones, he observed: "In this day and age, this country has really come a long way putting any type of bigotry behind us, regardless of who it's toward. We've come a long way, and with that progress comes a price. We're a lot more vigilant, and we're a lot less tolerant of different views... 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."

Even Jesse Jackson said a few years ago, “There is nothing more painful to me … than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

Red light or green light? Go toward or move away? With strangers in unfamiliar areas, what they wear and how they act contributes to a first impression and our initial reaction. That's why we tell youths to dress appropriately and put on their best behavior when they want to impress. That's why we tell teens that you're known by the people you're with. First impressions matter, but not all can accept that when race is involved.

When the black, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith took a stand in support of Mark Cuban's comments, many attacked him. People wrote: "Stephen A. Smith ain't black" and "You ain't one of us." Smith fired back, "I do understand that to some degree there is a little of racism we all have to overcome. I get all of that. But it doesn't mean that every single issue is race related. Sometimes it is about how you represent yourself."

Terry Paulson

Terry Paulson, PhD is a psychologist, award-winning professional speaker, author of The Optimism Advantage: 50 Simple Truths to Transform Your Attitudes and Actions into Results, and long-time columnist for the Ventura County Star.

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