Terry Paulson

When two people initially come together who are obviously different, the differences are likely to dominate whether they acknowledge it or not. Once they come to know each other, those same differences become the background and the similarities take the foreground. There are some people of a different race or ethnicity that you no longer even notice the differences because you know them. As Mark Cuban acknowledged, familiarity helps us get beyond our differences.

But there are some in every race who hurt others. The news and movies frequently reinforce negative stereotypes for ratings--if it bleeds, it leads! So if a group of blacks in an unfamiliar neighborhood are approaching me at night, I'd join Mark Cuban. It's a safety issue; better safe than sorry. But if a group of young blacks approached singing "Amazing Grace," I might cross the street to join in. Discrimination can create distance or attraction.

If I hear a shot ringing out down the hall and someone yelling Allahu Akbar, I'm thinking Islamic extremist. If a woman wearing an open-faced Al-Almira scarf helped me at a retail store, I'd gladly thank her for her service. As the holocaust survivor Victor Frankl once observed, “There are two races of men in this world but only these two: the race of the decent man and the race of the indecent man."

The point Mark Cuban attempted to make during his videotaped interview was the importance of helping people get beyond their prejudices and bigotries:

"I'll try to give them a chance to improve themselves, because I think that helping people improve their lives, helping people engage with people they may fear or may not understand, and helping people realize that while we all may have our prejudices and bigotries we have to learn that it's an issue that we have to control, that it's part of my responsibility as an entrepreneur to try to solve it, not just to kick the problem down the road. Because it does my company no good, it does my customers no good, it does society no good."

That's not just Mark Cuban's job. That's all our jobs. Discrimination can save or enslave. Let's keep working to get beyond first impressions and establish more mutual respect.

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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