Charles Barkley Doesn’t Speak For Me


I can’t decide whether it is Black leaders who feel they must speak for all of us or the media industry that is always looking for the one person to go to. As with everything, it is a little bit of both.

Recently, Charles Barkley stated in an interview to a Philadelphia radio station that successful Blacks biggest problem is unintelligent Blacks. This statement has so many problems on so many levels. First, is this only an issue for Black people? So successful White people, Latino people, Asian people, etc (fill in your favorite ethnicity) don’t have the same issue? Second, the statement assumes that successful people are intelligent and unsuccessful are not. Depending on how you define successful, there’s an argument to be made that intelligence or the lack thereof exists on both ends of the success stratum. Biggest problem? Not institutional racism, the economy, the effects of government policies, or anything else, just unintelligent Black people. In his quote, he states he tells his White friends this. Sounds to me he’s trying to be accepted by his White friends. I was alerted to his comments by my friend George Alexander who has a piece in Huffington Post about high-tech summit held at his alma mater, Morehouse College.

The problem is that no one person can speak for an entire ethnic group. Every group has a wide range of expectations, desires, beliefs, and philosophies. I’m sure Mr. Barkley represents a segment of the Black community, so too Dr. Cornell West, or Jesse Jackson, or Tavis Smiley, or Dr. Thomas Sowell. In the Latino, I’m sure there are equivalents.

As much as I would like for the media industry to provide balanced coverage to issues in matters of race, I know it won’t happen. All I can ask is that we as thoughtful citizens be mindful that what we are hearing is one person’s view and not that of an entire community. As with any politically expressed viewpoint, seek out the opposing view. That’s what Free Voter readers are all about.

Jeffrey Hastie

2 thoughts on “Charles Barkley Doesn’t Speak For Me

  1. While I agree that no one can truly speak for, or be representative of, an entire race, I do agree with Mr. Barkley to a certain degree.

    The black race as a group is one thing (and there’s a whole other debate on what that is), and black people as individuals are another. The perceptions of the black race follow the individuals, whether or not those perceptions are rooted in reality. Barkley has probably had to deal with the repercussions of those perceptions/expectations, and that is what likely drove his commentary.

    I give Barkley credit for speaking a truth that many are reluctant to acknowledge publicly.


  2. In my first year of law school, my roommate and I were both to the right of the students at UB Law, and we also shared being Deadheads (we were to the right of them too). My roommate was brilliant but certainly “walked to the beat of a different drummer.” I always remember one piece of wisdom he shared: “If you get your politics from celebrities and rock stars, you are already in big trouble.”


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