Tuesday, June 03, 2014


So, one of the fallouts of the Sterling thing was that apparently Mark Cuban came out and said he was "bigoted."

Because, among other things, he said if he saw a big bald white dude with tattoos, when he was walking down the street late at night, he'd cross the street.

Uh. Yeah.

In my mind, "bigoted" would be refusing to hire a dude just because he had tattoos, without looking more into his background. Or shouting a racial epithet at a kid of a different race from you. Or constantly making "stupid woman" jokes in the hearing of your female co-workers after they've asked you not to.

I'd call what he was talking about more "prejudicial" or "discriminatory" - not as bad as bigoted.

Heck, I judge people all the time. Mostly on behavior (because it's kind of stupid to judge someone by their skin color or stuff like that that they have no control over).

When I was coming back home on the train, I saw a guy in the station. Big huge white guy. Shaved head. Large swastika tattoo on one arm, smaller tattoo of an 88 (which I now know is symbolic in neo-Nazi circles) inside a laurel wreath. He was wearing a t-shirt with the sleeves torn out so it was fairly clear he wanted people to see the tattoos.

And my first thought: "Dang. I'm glad I have a compartment and won't have to sit near him."  And then I looked around, and thought, "I hope he doesn't cause trouble for anyone." (How uncomfortable would it be, to be someone who lost a grandparent or great-grandparent in the Holocaust, to wind up sitting next to that guy?)

I mean, I suppose it was remotely possible they were temporary tattoos, and he was a sociology grad student doing an experiment. Or something. But I kind of think that's unlikely and less possible than he was a guy who is part of a group that is unjustifiably angry at certain other groups and perhaps wants their extermination. And I'd rather not deal with someone with beliefs like that.

And yeah, that's prejudicial, maybe. But I tend to think someone who proudly displays the fact that they're a skinhead (or more than that) is not likely to be the kind of conversational partner I'd enjoy - or have much in common with.

I judge students on behavior. The former military guy who apologizes after inadvertently saying "hell" in class one day - I think more highly of him. (Even if I'm not bothered by the word, and in fact, say it myself sometimes. Just not in class). The woman who tries to stealth text under the table, I think, "She either thinks she's too smart for the class and doesn't need to pay attention, or she doesn't want to be here." The person who ALWAYS has issues, ALWAYS have problems: I wonder how they will get their stuff together enough to hold down a job.

How much of this is bad? How much of this is a problem? I think of the student one summer I agreed to take on to do research after they begged and pleaded me to (even though I knew they weren't so great at keeping up their regular schoolwork). And then they got a DUI. And then they stopped showing up. And then they requested an Incomplete, which they never fulfilled. And if I had just said, "No, your record shows you're not ready for this yet" in the first place, how much frustration I would have saved myself.

There has to be a balance between being a jerk who unfairly judges people harshly, and someone who's just a big marshmallow and winds up being taken advantage of (or worse: maybe not crossing the street to get away from where the skinhead is walking will get you attacked). I don't want to have to accept everything equally.

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