barkley

One thing is clear: No one can ever say Charles Barkley doesn’t speak his mind. Yesterday his candidness made headlines when he sounded off on a radio show about claims that Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s teammates were of the opinion that he wasn’t “black enough.” An “Uncle Tom,” if you will.

“There are a lot of black people who are unintelligent, who don’t have success,” Barkley said. “It’s best to knock a successful black person down ’cause they’re intelligent, they speak well, they do well in school, and they’re successful. It’s crabs in a barrel. … We’re the only ethnic group that says, ‘hey, if you go to jail, it gives you street cred.’

“Unfortunately, as I tell my white friends, we as Black people are never going to be successful, not because of you White people, but because of other Black people. When you are Black, you have to deal with so much crap in your life from other Black people,” Barkley was quoted saying. “For some reason we are brainwashed to think, if you’re not a thug or an idiot, you’re not Black enough. If you go to school, make good grades, speak intelligent and don’t break the law, you’re not a good Black person. It’s a dirty, dark secret in the black community.”

…Well damn.

Some people applauded his honesty. Some people thought he was joining the ranks of Blacks hating Blacks. Regardless, Barkley’s opinion is yet another one that sheds light on the racial tensions that seem to be gaining momentum with every passing day.

And I’ve gotta say, Mr. Barkley raises some valid points.

As the child of immigrants, I had parents who spoke proper English and who then taught me to speak proper English. “Finna,” “ain’t” and any other number of slang words and phrases were sneered upon in my house — almost as much as my lack of slang was sneered upon outside of my house.

Being thrown into a magnet elementary school in one of my hometown’s roughest areas, after attending an elite private school for the first years of life, had my word usage and tone being considered “acting and talking white”— and it didn’t help that I was a book lover, which had my vocabulary… on “fleek,” shall we say?

No matter my skin tone, I was never “down” enough to befriend the Black girls at first, so I started listening to hip-hop, rather than the old-school R&B and reggae music I was used to hearing at home, and picking up on different terminologies that would help me fit in. I had to adapt in order to be accepted.

That’s a lot of pressure for a 10-year-old. Hell, that’s a lot of pressure for anyone. And it took a look of time for me to laugh in the face of such ignorant thought and take pride in my –ings and proper sentence structure (I still love hip-hop, though. Couldn’t fight that one.). And yeah, even as an adult, I’ve faced ignorance like this. An associate of mine a few years ago — a Ph.D candidate, if you can believe that — took time out of her busy life to remind me on the regular that I wasn’t Black enough with my permed hair and middle-class upbringing. She once berated me for not wanting to live in a low-income area. “What, you’re too good to live around your own kind? Stop thinking you’re better than other Black people!” Oh. And here it was that I was thinking that it was the men (of all colors, mind you) leering at me outside the building that gave me pause. Silly me.

And it’s sad, really, that people can say and do things to alienate others — especially others who look just like them. It’s truly like what Barkley said: “It’s best to knock a successful Black person down because they’re intelligent, they speak well, they do well in school and they’re successful. It’s just typical BS that goes on when you’re Black, man.”

Barkley described it well: BS. BS that people can make you ashamed and embarrassed of being who you are. BS that in this day and age, we prefer to be divided within our own race than be united in the many faces of diversity. It’s definitely BS. And the ones shaming others are the very ones who should be ashamed — ashamed of their own ignorant actions. But I guess if they knew it was ignorance then it might not exist, huh?

So kudos, Mr. Charles Barkley, for giving lending words and outrage to an issue that so many African Americans have to deal with — from the young to the old, the professional journalist to the professional athlete. Will that “crabs-in-a-barrel” mentality ever be a non-factor in our society?

What did you think of Charles Barkley’s words? Do you agree?

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  • Phillygurl

    I was raised in the city of Philadelphia, neither poor or rich. I have never heard any of my classmates tell another they were acting white because of academic achievement or speaking proper English. I’be seen enough of them try to cheat off their papers. Also, I sincerely hope Charles Barkley doesn’t consider himself among the intelligent and we’ll spoken blacks because that is not saying much.