Mark Cuban’s willful cluelessness about DEI

By Jack Cashill

In his X war with Elon Musk on the subject of DEI, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban reached into the grab bag of rationales that made no sense even when they were fresh 60 years ago.

“There are people of various races, ethnicities, orientation, etc that are regularly excluded from hiring consideration,” tweeted Cuban, “By extending our hiring search to include them, we can find people that are more qualified.”

A little history lesson is in order. In researching my newest book, “Untenable: The True Story of White Ethnic Flight from America’s Cities,” I can affirm that Cuban, if he means what he says, has no idea what he is talking about.

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My up-close observation of the DEI phenomenon starts with Amiri Baraka, born Leroy Jones, New Jersey’s angriest black radical back in the day and the father of current Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

As it happens, Baraka graduated from my neighborhood high school, Barringer, in 1951. He was one of four African Americans in his senior homeroom of 29.

At Barringer, Jones/Baraka was a member of the science club and the Latin Honor Society. Upon graduation, he was offered a four-year scholarship to Seton Hall University and lesser scholarships to Holy Cross and Rutgers Newark.

This was unusual. On my largely white working-class Newark block at that time, no one went to college, let alone on a full scholarship. The age of racial preferences had already begun.

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson gave the practice its official name with executive order 11246. The order entrusted the secretary of labor with the power “to take affirmative action to ensure equal opportunity based on race, color, religion, and national origin.”

In urban America, affirmative action – a misnomer from the beginning – would cause unending friction, especially in police and fire departments. This zero-sum game openly pitted working-class blacks against working-class whites. Worse, no one was supposed to notice.

I first noticed in that same year, 1965, the year I graduated from high school. Sometime that spring I ran into an old friend from grade school named Albert.

Albert and I got to talking about college. I told him about my guidance counselor’s response to my college of choice. “Princeton?” he laughed. “How are you going to afford that?”

I couldn’t. I had to go where the money was, and that was someplace with considerably less ivy than Princeton. When I asked Albert about his plans, he said sheepishly, “Columbia.”

I was amazed. “Columbia?” I said. “How did you pull that off?” He was almost too embarrassed to answer. “Oh, it’s a Negro thing,” he said apologetically. Albert, we both knew, was a good student but not Ivy League good.

Fast-forward 10 years. I am finishing up my Ph.D. in American studies at Purdue University. My wife is finishing up her Ph.D. in English.

We come to New York for a hiring convention. We stay with my widowed mother at her apartment in a Newark public housing project. I sleep on a canvas cot. I remember because I put my knee through it.

I escort my wife to the hotel where the convention is taking place and leave her at the designated room. This is one of several interviews she has lined up. I take the elevator back to the lobby.

On the elevator, are a young black man and a young white woman, talking about their job interviews. She has eight. He has 14.

Collectively, the white males in Purdue’s English department, where I teach, have zero. I have none as well. By the time the elevator hits the lobby I have quit academia.

An innocent at the time, I had no idea why powerful white people tolerated racial practices that flew in the face of the Civil Rights Act.

When I started meeting powerful white people I began to understand why. They had juice enough to get their kids into the school of their choice.

Mark Cuban’s daughter goes to Vanderbilt. It must be nice.

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