Charles Barkley is about as qualified to speak on race as LeBron James is to be Sophia Vergara’s stunt double; as ready as singer K. Michelle is to be U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan; as Ben Carson is ready to be president. Unfortunately, none of that matters to U.S. media. All that matters is Charles Barkley is 1) famous, and 2), a Black man willing to articulate the sentiment of your average white male conservative who may or may not sound more like a typical white supremacist. So when asked to opine on the latest musings of the former NBA player turned sports analyst and race scholar, I instantly had a greater appreciation for day drinkers.
In response to a radio interview in which he claimed that those who torched buildings in anger in Ferguson are “scumbags,” Sir Charles did yet another interview with CNN’s Brooke Baldwin. There, Barkley argued yet another falsehood: That white cops are not out to shoot Black people because of racism.
First, Barkley explained, “We never discuss race in this country until something bad happens.” He is a Black man and son of the south. When has their ever been a time when America was not bad in terms of its treatment of Black people?
In any event, Barkley added, “Everybody wants to protect their own tribe, whether they are right or wrong.” I imagine this is the part where I’m supposed to feel sad and cue “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” in my head. Pass.
Then Barkley proceeds to prove he is Bill Cosby’s understudy by condemning his own people for the amusement of others:
“We as Black people, we have a lot of crooks. We can’t just wait until something like (the Brown shooting) happens. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror. There is a reason that they racially profile us in the way they do. Sometimes it is wrong, and sometimes it is right.”
Well, there are crooks in every community, only some are prosecuted at higher rates than others. See: white collar criminals, those who brought this country to its knees on Wall Street, and any other crook you can think of that’s white.
Also, there is a reason why Black people are racially profiled: It’s called racism. It’s never right and it’s usually misguided.
If one is serious about solving crime – particularly in poorer communities – treating people as subhuman is not the solution; rather, it is another symptom of what seems to be an incurable disease in America.
Investing in communities is the answer. Having police who actually care about the communities they are policing is another. What Charles Barkley is saying is a bunch of nonsense that only makes sense to him and others who are out of touch –antiquated view-holding somebodies who ought to be quiet and let more informed people speak instead.
As for those who reacted violently in Ferguson, Barkley went on to say:
“Anybody who walks out peacefully, who protests peacefully, that’s what this country was built on. But to be burning people’s property, burning police cars, looting people’s stores, that is 100% ridiculous.”
Like his play cousin in the promotion of white patriarchal views, Don Lemon, Barkley is employing revisionist history in order to lend credence to his opinions, which are mostly fueled by anecdotes as opposed to actual facts and statistics.
However, here is what Jesse Jackson said to Don Lemon when tried to make this same argument:
“You do know that when Dr. King was alive we had the Watts riots and the Newark riots and the Detroit riots and Chicago.”
He went to note that police action “triggered those riots.” As they did in Ferguson. As they will do in other places if something is not done about the culture of police brutality and racial profiling that has only been emboldened by the militarization of law enforcement.
On Thursday night’s Inside the NBA, Barkley said to his colleague Kenny Smith, “Listen, slavery is, uh, well, I shouldn’t say one of the worst things ever, because I don’t know anything about it other than what I read or what my grandmother told me.”
What exactly have you read, Chuck? A slave narrative alone is pretty damn clear about horrifying the practice was. Are you in need of visuals? Do you need my Netflix password? Shall I order 12 Years A Slave on Blu-Ray for you? Note: That would just be a start; there are other films we can turn to.
Charles Barkley is many things – funny, plainspoken, and somewhat self-deprecating. Those qualities make him perfect for television, but only in the realm to which he has any real understanding. Barkley: stick to jokes and sports coverage. You are out of your realm.
Funny enough, Barkley said in that CNN interview, “One of the problems with this entire situation is there’s so much noise going on, you never get to the crux of the issue that you need to be discussing.”
Indeed, but it’s because of people like Charles Barkley who may command attention because of their celebrity, but don’t really have anything substantive to contribute. They do it to the delight of those who would much rather we keep musings on race teetering on the superficial.