If Charles Barkley’s an Uncle Tom, then America is not ready for a real discussion on race

If Charles Barkley’s an Uncle Tom, then America is not ready for a real discussion on race

America is not ready for a real conversation on race.

We have had several opportunities over the last ten years to have the conversation.  At every opportunity, we end up picking up the rug, looking at hundreds of years of crap that’s under, and sweep the latest Eric Garner under that rug, with all the other filth that’s been swept under the fabric of American history.

That the conversation will not be easy is the understatement of the year.  But that conversation is necessary.  I’m hopeful that maybe in the not too distant future, we’ll be able to have an honest and open conversation.

But that is not going to happen today.  America is not ready.  We’ve seen plenty of evidence of our lack of preparedness with the conversation that has occurred over the last month or so, after the deaths of two unarmed Black men at the hands of white police officers sworn to protect them (that doesn’t include the other Black men (and children) who have died at the hands of other police officers in America in just the last 30 days).

We’re not ready because most people go to their sides– the Black side and the white side– and won’t listen or accept that there may be some gray.  If we’re going to have this conversation, both sides– Black and white– are going to have to accept criticism.  Especially when that criticism comes from its own side.

Charles Barkley has been vocal about everything.  Give him a microphone and a topic and he’ll go off.  That happened recently when he was asked his opinion about Ferguson, Missouri, after the grand jury failed to indict the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown.

In short, Charles said he agreed with the grand jury decision because there were witnesses that supported Officer Darren Wilson’s version of events.  He was critical of looters calling them “scumbags;” in reference to Eric Garner’s death he said that when you resist arrest, bad things can happen.

Regarding Barkley, one of my Facebook friends had this to say:

After much contemplation, I’m taking the highly unusual, but quietly sanctioned step of unilaterally yanking Sir Charles Barkley’s black card. Here you go world. His membership is officially up for grabs!

Another Facebook friend posted and praised Etan Thomas’ “An Open Letter to Charles Barkley” a piece where he basically called Barkley an Uncle Tom after putting the word respectfully in front of it.  Reading it, I thought of someone starting out a sentence with “I’m not a racist, but….”  Of Barkley, Etan Thomas said:

The fact that they were praising you should have made you take a long look in the mirror. I’m not going to disrespect you by calling you an Uncle Tom or putting up a big picture of Samuel L Jackson from Django Unchained  nor am I writing this to “slam” you, although I am sure many writers will attempt to frame it this way. I respectfully disagree with a position that you have every right to take.

The reason why your latest comments were so surprising for many in the black     community is because they appeared to echo Bill O Reilly, Sean Hannity and the rest of Fox News. That’s not what we expect from Sir Charles.

If we can’t handle a Black man calling looters “scumbags” or that maybe in some cases, we could better handle ourselves with police officers, then how are we going to take it when a white guy says it?  Name calling doesn’t begin a conversation, it ends one.  So if you want to rebut Charles Barkley or discuss the points he makes, please do so.  But revocation of his black card because he says something disagreeable to you and an argument is just proof you’re just making an argument, rather than ready having a real conversation.

A Black person should be able to have and express a thought or opinion without risking banishment if that thought is contrary to the pervasive argument.  Do we want and value honesty?  Are we looking for cheerleaders or solutions?  Because the former gets you the status quo.

If you want to have a real discussion on race, some difficult questions have to be answered.  And the answers have to be more thoughtful than name calling.  So if you can’t take hearing Charles Barkley’s opinions, what are you going to do when Sean Hannity weighs in?

That’s why Eric Garner, like thousands before him, will be the latest best hope for change that gets swept under the carpet.


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  • It's been a long time since Chuck has been able to relate to the working man and poor.

    The man just got on Derrick Rose for not playing while reminding us all that he lives in a "big ol mansion."

    Try asking the tough questions, like why didn't the police protect those stores and why did DA McCulloch act as Darren Wilsons defense attorney and not a prosecutor?

    You definately go to trial when you have conflicting witness statements. Learn the law and stop trying to please your master

  • Unfortunately Any Black person who's not a lemming is an Uncle Tom

  • I mentioned when the Ferguson decision came out that you weren't going to convince a certain segment of the population that the decision was legally correct, and (in line with Heavy's point) that unlike the Chicago riots of 1968, they were burning Black owned businesses.

    Basically, all the people you quoted prove is that racism exists in the Black community, too.

    This account is similar to one I read about Bill Cosby, not only that he was an accused serial rapist, but that he was mean because he told people to get a job and use proper English. On the latter, I thought that was his job as a Doctor of Education.

    BTW, you've been spammed.

  • CB is not an expert on race. He's not an academic. He is incapable of understanding nuance and he conflates facts to sit on his soapbox and spout his anti-black sentiment to the glee of conservatives and racists who believe that Blacks are their own worst enemies. Your Facebook friends are right. Charles is an Uncle Tom. But he's not wrong because of that. He's wrong because he, like you, misses the point. Of course, looters are scumbag. Protesters, on the other hand, exercising their constitutional right to protest against what they believe is police abuse, are not scumbags. Protesters had been peacefully protesting for weeks before the MB non-indictment was announced. Where was Charles. Charles doesn't make any distinctions. He just throws all blacks under the CB insult bus and then he laps up the attention he gets while doing so. He doesn't help the conversation on race. Black people self-flagellating doesn't help the conversation. Blacks have rights that are not being honored. This is nothing new. We do not have to prove that we are a problem-free race and therefore "worthy" of those rights. A conversation that starts with the premise that Blacks must show themselves to be perfect before they are entitled to freedom from police abuse and the right to protest is not one worth having.

  • In reply to Dzee:

    Dzee, thanks for reading and your comments. I think it's an excellent point, CB is not an expert. Do you need to be an expert on race to give an opinion? Maybe marriage or parenting are good analogies. I'm not a marriage expert, but I am married and feel like I can give an opinion. Same thing with having kids. Now does that make me an expert, absolutely not. Should I be on Fox News talking about parenting? No. And I won't be asked to be on Fox, unless I fit Fox's agenda. (which is true for CNN and MSNBC too)

    btw this: "We do not have to prove that we are a problem-free race and therefore "worthy" of those rights. A conversation that starts with the premise that Blacks must show themselves to be perfect before they are entitled to freedom"

    Is well said. Very well said. Thanks for continuing the conversation and making me think.

  • In reply to Brian C. Thomas:

    Another thing missed in the discussion about race is the embedded implication of injustice that the discussion contains. Whether you believe that what happened in Ferguson was racism or not, the debate is informed on both sides by an acknowledgement that racism is bad. In most countries, that is not the case.

    Racism, segregation, mistreatment, maltreatment, etc. are all endemic in most societies. In short, racism exists as a concept here because everyone realizes that it is wrong. America is one of the very few places where people struggle - sometimes daily - swimming upstream because they have that opportunity.

    In most other places, the opportunity to overcome people's prejudices does not exist. Instead, it becomes a constant battle of "us" vs. "them". In America, debates which break down to that level make everyone uneasy.

    Is that progress? I think it is. Is that good enough? Of course not.
    The world will eventually be a better place, however, because Americans are willing to fight this battle. Most others, are not.

  • I think a good start to the conversation would be to capitalize both colors or not capitalize both colors, it comes off as hostile and I'm sure you are aware of it. Does that show you are ready for the conversation?

  • In reply to 4zen:

    Good point. It was something I started in when writing in college and now just do almost automatically. Although I did notice it and just decided to keep. I never found it hostile, though. I'll consider it in the future. Thanks for your comment.

  • When I was a kid, there was a Three Dog Night song, "the ink is black, the paper's white, together they learn to read and write." I can agree with your assertion that there is no progress as long as people continue to take sides as either on the white or black side of the issue, but it goes beyond that. We have reached a point in society that seems to put us further back in racial equality than 50 years ago and the equal rights marches. We can no longer interact as normal human beings. Normal human beings do not agree about everything all of the time, but yet disagreement is described as racism. We are not completely honest when we assess the situation of our citizens, those living in poverty, those who are ill-educated. Instead of offering the hand up, we only seem to offer a hand out....to placate rather than correct. The way our society should be, for everyone, is that there never should be a need to itemize whether a criminal what a minority member or not, merely that they committed crimes against the society in which they live, threatening the health and safety of their neighbors, who would also not need to be itemized by their skin color or ethnic background. The race or ethnicity of law enforcement would not matter, as the officer is protecting the entire community regardless of race or ethnicity. When describing a victim or defendent, our first criteria should not be their skin colors. We need to define people across a great many more dimensions that complexion. It would be great to think of them as the plumber who coaches little league, and drives parents to and from the games instead of immediately jumping to the racial description....Besides, in 99% of cases, the racial description is pretty obvious. to the casual observer. When we don't have to make distinctions, on either side, we will truly have the beginnings of a color blind society where kids play together and think of their friend, not their "black friend"

  • Careful Charles....there will be folks coming out of the woodwork to attack you, just as they have with other black celebrities who have urged the black community to work within the system, be cautious, law abiding.....I am not sure that women claiming sexual misconduct would actually hurt Barkley, but I am sure that some slimy characters could be brought forth to attack him if the message hits too closely to home.

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