Check out TNR’s lead article today, an interview with Charles Barkley. I’ve had my qualms with Barkley — mainly, I think he’s a little too chummy with the audience. A little too informal. Since I can’t get past his wink-wink bromides, his slap-assing with Kenny Smith and whoever else is on the TNT broadcast program, I never watch him long enough to hear what he actually thinks.
It took this interview, by Isaac Chotiner, a reporter-researcher at TNR, to open my eyes. It’s clear that — if anyone who should read this interview actually does (unlikely, since I don’t think there’s much overlap between the millions who watch TNT and the 60,000 who read TNR) — they’ll put Barkley in the same house they built for Bill Cosby, the dog house. Comments like this:
black people are fucked up. One of the reasons that black people are not going to be successful is because of other black people. We tell black kids that if they make good grades, they are acting white. If they speak well, we tell them that they are acting white. We have a lot of demons in our own closet–in our own family–that we have to address. But first of all, we want black men to be intelligent and articulate and things like that. That’s not acting white. That’s the way it should be. … We become our own worst enemy with random black-on-black crime, teen pregnancy, single-parent homes. You know we cannot blaming white America for our ills. Does racism exist? Of course it does. But, at some point, I have to make sure I am educated. I don’t have ten kids and no job. I am not killing other black people. At some point, you have to grow up.
They don’t make you many friends. But if you read the interview carefully, you’ll see Barkley’s doing exactly what anyone who cares about their community is doing. He’s offering constructive criticism. Sure, Barkley can be blunt. But don’t let the delivery obstruct the message.
There’s a lot more to be said about the poorer parts of the black community in America — namely, it’s hardly all their fault, speaking both historically and presently — but I don’t think it’s going to be the white world that brings them up. It has to come from within. And, given Barkley’s prominence, he’s a good person to start with. Sorry, Bark, you may just become the role model you wish you never were.