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.