Charles Barkley, Apparently Suffering From Stockholm Syndrome, Blames Black People for Lack of Success

Has Sir Charles never heard of structural racism?

Charles Barkley at the 2011 T-Mobile NBA All-Star Game, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA 02-20-11

Charles Barkley at the 2011 T-Mobile NBA All-Star Game, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA 02-20-11

Last week, Charles Barkley decided it was a good idea to say the following:

“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.

“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.

“There are a lot of black people who are unintelligent, who don’t have success. 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.”

My life must be pretty a-typical then. I have never had any experience with this “dirty, dark secret.” In fact, much to the contrary. I’ve always been supported by my community for achieving professionally and obtaining advanced levels of education. My blackness has never been put in question.

The Civil Rights Act of 1965 is just shy of its 50-year anniversary and Barkley wants to talk about impediments to black success? Somebody needs to tell Charles Barkley that the answer he’s looking for is “structural racism.”

Structural racism is the reason why black people have a harder road in this country. To suggest anything else is to suffer from some advance-level Stockholm Syndrome and personal delusions about why, perhaps, one has detractors from within one’s own community.

In other words: It’s not us, it’s you.

Citing structural racism when talking about racial achievement gaps is not about “blaming white people” as folks like to suggest. But failing to mention structural inequities would be ahistorical at best, and willful intellectual dishonesty at worse. By examining and restructuring institutions within this country that are unfairly biased against people of color — and women, for that matter — success becomes less a matter of relativism.

It is reprehensible that Barkley would use his platform to create some sort of false dichotomy between a “good black person” and someone who is not. It echoes the same language employed by racists who make similar arguments about black inferiority. Perhaps because of his success Barkley sees himself as an outlier, though given his own questionable decision-making and law breaking, I’m not sure he’s a first-round draft pick for The Talented Tenth.

But with all the stereotypes about black people that persist (stereotypes Barkley clearly buys into himself) black people are collectively blamed and shamed for the actions (or inactions) of a few.

Black people, just like any of race of people, are a diverse group, not a monolith. (How many times this needs to be said, I’m not sure.) But as with any other group, there are blacks who value education and those that don’t; this is not a matter of causation as Barkley suggests, i.e., blackness is not the reason some people devalue education.

To say that blacks will “never be successful” is to completely undermine the extraordinary circumstances of the black experience in the Americas in spite of active and continued efforts to disenfranchise and exterminate African Americans. Barkley was right about one thing, though. he is not a role model. No one should be following his thinking on this.

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