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Charles Barkley: Criticism over Russell Wilson illustrates African-American community’s ‘dirty, dark secret’

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Charles Barkley hasn’t met a sensitive topic he couldn’t dig into, and now he’s speaking on what he calls a “dirty, dark secret” in the African-American community.

During an interview with a Philadelphia radio station, Barkley expounded on claims that Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson wasn’t liked by some of his teammates in part because he wasn’t considered to be “black enough.”

Barkley said he wasn’t at all surprised.

“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.’ ”

The concept of “crabs in a barrel” isn’t new, and it’s universal. If you’ve ever seen a bucket of crabs at the market, the ones at the bottom will try to pull down the crabs that are closer to the top.

“I lived this, and if it weren’t for my parents I wouldn’t have pushed through it,” one Twitter user said in response to Barkley’s comments.

Education advocate and CNN contributor Dr. Steve Perry is another observer who agrees with Barkley.

Russell Wilson holding the Lombardy trophy (SOURCE: Russell Wilson's Facebook page)

Russell Wilson holding the Lombardy trophy (SOURCE: Russell Wilson’s Facebook page)

Others have been irked by Barkley’s delivery. When Perry tweeted that he applauded Barkley’s remarks, some responded that they bristled at Barkley’s tendency to generalize the experience of an entire group.

“Unfortunately, as I tell my white friends, we as black people, we’re never going to be successful not because of you white people but because of other black people,” Barkley said. “When you’re black, you have to deal with so much crap in your life from other black people. It’s a dirty, dark secret; I’m glad it’s coming out.”

The controversy began with an item from Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman, who said some of Wilson’s Seahawks teammates don’t care for him because “they think he’s too close to the front office,” he “doesn’t always take the blame with teammates for mistakes he makes,” and “some of the black players think Wilson isn’t black enough.”

“There is … an element of race that needs to be discussed,” Freeman said of Wilson’s relationship with his teammates. “My feeling on this — and it’s backed up by several interviews with Seahawks players — is that some of the black players think Wilson isn’t black enough. This is an issue that extends outside of football, into African-American society, though it’s gotten better recently. Well-spoken blacks are seen by some other blacks as not completely black. Some of this is at play.” (Bleacher Report shares a parent company with CNN.)

The report has been denied by Seahawks player Richard Sherman, who said the accusations were “made up,” and Wilson too has shaken off Freeman’s point of view.

“Black enough? I don’t even know what that means,” Wilson said. “I’m just an educated, well-spoken male.”

But to Barkley, Freeman’s assertions are a very real part of being successful and black.

“For some reason we’re 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,” he said. “It’s a dirty dark secret. I hate to bring white people into our crap, but as a black person, we all go through it when you’re successful.”

4 comments

  • John H.

    I think this “crabs in a bucket” happens in many cultures. There are plenty of Black people that have become educated and moved to the “higher end” of communities. They are somewhat respected for being successful, but don’t blend in too well in the Hood.

  • Lisa

    Secret? By ‘secret’ do you mean common knowledge that has been in the news before and written about by academics and commentators for the previous 10 to twenty years?

  • Opus1605

    If you take a good look at Wilson he is obviously not black enough, because he seemed mixed: he is half and half so he can go either way. But Barkley is right we black folks are full of nonsense. Black people accuse another black person of being too white, or liking white people simply because you speak well, and act like the rational human being you are suppose to be. Besides if a black person wants to be successful on a large scale, you have to have an open mind. The reason most of us African Americans aren’t successful is because of the way think, such as those who say Wilson isn’t black enough: watch they won’t go very far in life. So I agree with Barkley on this one.

    • Bruce

      this is a conversation best had within the black community,of which I don’t belong but I’ll add my opinion anyway.I also heard the same opinion of President Obama when he was elected,wasn’t”black enough” for some.What exactly does that mean?If we strive for the ideal of equality and a color blind society,how is a mentality like this helpful?It seems self-defeating to me.I know that the white man,to this day gets blamed for many of the problems that black Americans facer,but perhaps a little introspection is in order.Who is holding who back?

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