Dear Black People: Please Stop Spreading The Lie That "Bad" Blacks Are Holding "Good" Blacks Back

Charles Barkley (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Charles Barkley (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

1. Because it's not true. Charles Barkley — like Mike Freeman before him — was not completely wrong when saying that there are some Black people who deride other Blacks for speaking properly or achieving academically. But just because something may technically be right doesn't mean it's true. Because the truth is that the majority of Black people are just like any other people: indifferent. Yes, we care about our friends and our families and maybe Beyonce a bit too much, but most of us — even the "bad" Blacks — are too wrapped up in our own lives to really give more than half of a shit about what other people are doing with their's.


But, according to Barkley and the rest of the people who continue to repeat this falsehood, in every poor Black community exists an amorphous horde of round-the-clock haters whose only purpose is to kill every dream and use every college acceptance letter as rolling paper.

2. Because while they're talking about "Black people" who they're really talking about is poor Black people in predominately Black communities and basically blaming "poor Black culture" for each of the Black community's ills.

3. Because saying "Black haters is what's holding Black people back" is like blaming a monsoon on a sneeze. Out of all the structural, social, cultural, and historical obstacles that could reasonably be argued to be what's actually keeping Black people back, a Black kid teasing another Black kid for getting an "A" in English is it?

4. Because having a conversation about "what's holding Black people back" implies that Black people collectively are hopeless and pathetic and will be less hopeless and pathetic when they start acting like other, non-Black, people. (And yes, there's a difference between saying this in a stand-up comedy skit or a conversation with other Black people and saying this to your "White friends.")

5. Because if you actually go to a hood, you'll find that if there is a young person with actual academic or athletic potential — basically, someone who seems to have a ticket out of the hood — there will usually be waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more people rooting for and even protecting them than actively wanting them to fail. Maybe their methods of protection and support might be unorthodox and even occasionally counterproductive, but the supporters, the ones genuinely happy to see someone from their block who's "made it," tend to outnumber the haters.

6. Because saying things like "this is a dirty secret in the Black community" gives off the impression that it is unique to poor Black people. Apparently no other community contains haters. Which means there should be more jobs in the hood, because someone has to staff these hater cultivation plants that apparently exist in every hood.


7. Because this is just another way that poor Black people are "othered" by other Blacks.

8. Because, while poor Black neighborhoods definitely have their myriad issues to wrestle, inventing new ones — or making a preexisting issue sound much worse than it actually is — is dangerously irresponsible. Because inventing or exaggerating certain issues takes attention and resources away from addressing actual root causes.


9. Because anyone from Leeds, Alabama or Gary, Indiana or Youngstown, Ohio or Compton, California who made it out obviously had some help from some of these "bad" Black people. Some poor Black family in your neighborhood who allowed you to stay at their place for a month because the lights were out at yours. Some kid in your class who took the rap when you both were caught stealing chips from the cafeteria, because even he sensed your future was brighter than his and you couldn't afford to get in this type of trouble. Some assistant principal who wouldn't allow you to play football your sophomore year because you were failing social studies. Some church that organized a bookbag drive so you and the other kids in the neighborhood would be prepared for the first day of school. Some drug dealer who'd tease you about being a nerd, but told the other drug dealers not to mess with you because you were going to college.


10. Because making blanket negative statements about (relatively) powerless and voiceless people is just as bad as what you're accusing them of.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


Open sidebar question:

Do Black people have the *power* to hold other Black people back?