Charles Barkley: keepin’ it real.

Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry

( Let me start out by saying this: there are millions of highly educated (both formally and informally) black men who have been wearing their pants squarely at the hip for a long, long time. These men have loved and nurtured their families, supported their communities with both their presence and finances, opened and run successful local and multi-national corporations, fought the good fight of civic and political representation and paved the way for many others to follow afterwards.

This isn’t for them.

This article is for the people who have somehow equated the worst possible human attributes imaginable (greed, misogyny, violence, victimization) as being synonymous with being black.

It’s time for you to pull up your pants.

Recently former NBA star and current basketball analyst Charles Barkley had some pointed things to say about what it means to be successful and black in America. When asked about recent criticism of Russell Wilson, the starting quarterback for the Super Bowl champions Seattle Seahawks, for not being “black” enough, Sir Charles replied with the aplomb of a ballerina wearing work boots:

“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.”barkley-wilson-2014

Of course there were many non-blacks who defended what he said. Unfortunately in today’s hyper-polarized world having 1 non-black person agree with a not-so-kind of a remark you’ve made about your own people is the equivalent of lighting a match to your black membership card. That being the case, Barkley didn’t just light a match, he spit on his card before tossing it in the lake of fire.

At least that’s what many of the dissenting voices would have you believe.

What Charles Barkley did was very skillful; He juxtaposed being intelligent with being black and being unintelligent as being anti-black. Read his statement.

Intelligence is defined as “having the capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity, aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings.” The very people who are saying that Russell Wilson, and people like him, are not black enough must mean that they are the embodiment of the fullness of what it means to be black.

That, in and of itself, is a very unintelligent thing to say.

And just who are the majority of these people? They are black people who tend to live in economically depressed neighborhoods where the school system is rock bottom, the living conditions are bad and unemployment is high. Saying that a black person who doesn’t have the same experience as they’re having is somehow not as authentically black as they are is, dare I say, the zenith of stupidity and cultural myopia.

This is not to say that sign of “having made it” in the black community means that a person has adopted a ruling class pejorative. We are not a monolith. There should always be a healthy inter-mosaic dynamic that encompasses the entire range of well-being. In other words everyone doesn’t have to view success through the same prism, nor should they.    

But that also doesn’t mean that demeaning yourself by relying on the basest of human attributes is worthy of applause. Being the best thief, thug, swindler, hustler, prostitute or stripper gets you no golden stars next to your name either.

The biggest crime that Charles Barkley committed, to some, was that he dared to air some of the black community’s dirty laundry in public. However long ago have gone the days when black people were completely isolated from the dominant culture. Nothing is private anymore, not even within the confines of the black church, beauty salon or barber shop.

Successful black people who are creating sustainability are very visible. From Oprah Winfrey to President Barrack Obama, from Condoleezza Rice to Michael Eric Dyson, from Neil DeGrasse Tyson to Shonda Rhimes successful and influential black people are part of the everyday national landscape. The dichotomy between them and the cast of Love and Hip Hop is unimaginably wide. This is not to say that there is not a place for the cast of such a show (remember the mosaic?), but there is a problem when more emphasis is put on mimicking them rather than the people named above. These are the best of us who have taken the knowledge that is available to everyone and used it to improve the world.

Critics of Charles Barkley are ultimately saying that everything is fine the way it is. That’s the only logical conclusion that can be made of their argument. What he said was right on. There are those amongst us who do act just like he said for the very reason that he said they do. For a lot of black people who use their blackness as an excuse to live that “mud life” and think they get a pass because they’re black, those days are long gone.

In conclusion, for those of us who haven’t quite got it yet, It’s time to pull your pants up, get an education, love our women, take care of your families and stay out of prison. That’s keepin’ it real!

Staff Writer; Steven Robinson

May also visit this talented writer over at;