ESPN's Stephen A. Smith was labeled a "sellout" and an "Uncle Tom" after coming to the defense of Mark Cuban who said he would walk to the other side of the street if he saw a black guy wearing a hoodie, just as he would a white guy with his face covered in tattoos.
Smith told his viewers on Thursday, "I want to emphasize: I have absolutely, positively, no problem whatsoever with what Mark Cuban had to say. Zero." But many of his viewers were offended by his support and attacked him through Twitter and email.
On Friday's First Take, Smith spent seven minutes laying out sound arguments against those detractors. "I stand behind everything I said yesterday -- ten fold -- a hundred fold," Smith said. "And I don't care who in the black community disagrees with me," he added.
Smith said some in the black community are not looking at the bigger picture, accusing them of ignoring the second half of the statement -- the white-guy half -- and only focusing on the hooded black guy comment. "Are we going to sit here and literally act like we don't have any prejudices?" smith asked. He continues, "Am I going to sit here and tell you that if at night, I saw a couple of white dudes with tats all over their body and their head or whatever, and I'm going to feel comfortable with that, and I'm not going to raise an eyebrow? Would I be telling the truth?"
Uncovering the "big elephant in the room," Smith suggests that people are afraid to talk about the prejudices that all are guilty of because "white folks are scared they are going to be labeled racist," and "black folks are scared they are going to be labeled sell outs."
Smith affirms that he is not turning a blind-eye to the obvious racism that still exists in the country. Yet he does not think that every issue affecting the black community is race related. He said, "Sometimes it is about how you represent yourself -- it is about how you present yourself."
When I alluded to walking around with your pants hanging below your behind, that's trifling. That's just trifling and it's counter productive. When I talked about how you sitting there and the first words out of your mouth are, y'know what I'm sayin', y'know what I mean -- no the hell we don't!
When I talk about not having a command of the English language and still you want a job, and you want to have a career, but you don't want to get your education -- you don't want to go out there and pound that pavement. Everything is about the sprint; it's not about the marathon. It's not about you putting forth the necessary effort and due diligence over the long haul to get the things that you need. That's a reality in our community.
That reality, Smith says, is by acting in that way, some in the black community are "feeding" the stereotypes and thus keeping themselves from moving forward in life.
Smith ended by talking about the American dream. He said the American dream is not the rap artist or NBA star that went from nothing to hundreds of millions of dollars -- that he calls "a fantasy." But he uses his own story to tout what it really takes to achieve the American dream:
Hollis, Queens New York City -- left back in the fourth grade -- grew up poor -- the level of education I have was a public school system. I ultimately graduate from high school. I go to a historically black institution, like Winston-Salem State University. I graduate with honors. There is no journalism program. I still graduate with honors. I still beat out thousands of people to get an internship that ultimately transitioned from a career at the New York Daily News, to the Philadelphia Enquirer, to CNN and then Fox Sports, and then ultimately ESPN. And I'm on national TV everyday -- getting paid pretty well, I might add.
This is the road you've got to climb. Everybody can't be Jay Z. That's one in a billion. Everybody can't be Shaq and Kobe. That's one in a billion. But you can be Stephen A. Smith -- educate yourself, work hard, do what you have to do, pound that pavement, be about the business of going for yours and understanding what you have to do to work through the political minefields that waits for you in every step of our lives. That's what I'm talking about and people don't get that.