Crabs-In-A-Barrel: Why We Will Never Be Great

Last week, Gabby Douglas made history as only the second black female to win the Olympic gold in gymnastics. But the bigger headline, at least in the black community, was about Douglas’ edges.

Her. Edges.

It’s disturbing how we marginalized her shining moment with such a trivial matter, and single-handedly set ourselves back in doing so. But we’re used to that, aren’t we?

Fact is, we still suffer from the unfortunate crabs-in-a-barrel syndrome. Black America boasts some of the most successful figures in business, entertainment, sports, and not to mention the current (and future) President of the United States, yet and still we can’t seem to enjoy our successes without criticizing our own about silly shit.

Take Jay-Z and Beyonce, for example – two highly successful entertainers and entrepreneurs who, whether you agree or not, have inspired a generation. Yet we don’t attribute their success to hard work; instead, we pass it off to The Illuminati, a mythical organization believed to have almost-supernatural control of the world as we know it. Just last week, Harry Belafonte called out the couple for “turning their backs on social responsibility,” and immediately names Bruce Springsteen as an example of what he expects from the Carters, and other black celebrities. No disrespect, Mr. Belafonte, but what responsibility do they – or any other celebrity, for that matter – have to lifting the entire black community? They, like you, focus on what they are good at. But we’d never say such a thing about Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen, or Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow. We simply say they’re good people.

We also have a HUGE problem in getting behind the right causes. Case-in-point: the recent Chick-Fil-A controversy, where we saw black people taking sides over fried fucking chicken. I won’t say there are so many other things going on in the world that we should care about, like a presidential campaign that could change the face of America as we know it, but it’s true. There are so many different issues out there that affect us directly, yet we’re throwing more support behind a chicken joint than our president’s re-election.

We have to stop this, black people. We can’t blame “The Man” for holding us back when we do a better job of it than they do. We have to unite to build ourselves up instead of to bring each other down. This is not to say we cannot have critical opinions about our community, but our criticism has to be constructive, and we cannot simply talk the talk without walking the walk. If we let the crabs climb out of the barrel, we can give them the ability to reach back in and pull us out, too.

  • Eric R. Williams

    Hard to undo hundreds of years of psychological abuse to an entire culture of people. Even more so when the cycle repeats over and over and over and over with most not caring or even knowing how to release themselves from such destructive thinking. I like to stay optimistic, but things like this Gabby Douglas matter just make me sigh with disappointment. One day, maybe. ONE day.

    Sidebar: The Chik-Fil-A thing has never been about the chicken, like most seem to think for some reason. Their organization actively funds hate groups in & outside of America that aim to ultimately “make the gay go away” by any means necessary, so we’re talking lives & livelihoods, not chicken & lemonade, as much as I love it.

    • Jack Iesson

      Agreed. The Chick-Fil-A issue was much bigger than just chicken or the CEO’s comments. But black people have come such complacent consumers that they refuse to take responsibility for their consumption. The truth is, the money we spend doesn’t just disappear. It goes somewhere and if you’re not concerned with where then you may end up funding your own oppression, in the case of gays supporting Chick-Fil-A. The counter argument was that a lot of companies may donate to these groups. My response is that we should be responsible enough to at least take care not to fund the ones we DO know about, even if we’re not going to be proactive in researching who it is we’re supporting.

  • B. Floyd

    The Belafonte argument is a separate issue, and entirely reasonable on his part. It’s not necessarily about “lifting the entire black community,” but there is a space where we need to be talking about more than luxury and life in excess. I think the Carters do a decent job of attaching their name to various social initiatives, but they don’t engage things -Beyonce especially. I think Belafonte is asking our superstars to stop flaunting their success, and start challenging their audience.

    • Cold Fire


    • Jack Iesson

      I concur. The opposite of being crabs in a barrel isn’t “live and let live.” It’s being our brothers’ keepers. The best case scenario for black people is all of us using our success to promote the success of others.

  • (inwardly)FatBoySlim

    Bey and Jay and Oprah and the super wealthy Blacks do just enough. They can’t save the whole damn hood. Belafonte was off.

    • Jack Iesson

      I don’t think we can put Beyonce and Jay-Z in the same sentence as Oprah when it comes to wealth OR giving back.

  • Alicia Collins

    What’s more embarrassing for me was to see White America come and build her up after black people went and tore her down. After she MADE HISTORY, she should have done the rounds of talk shows and everything but little girl was EVERYWHERE. It’s like Jimmy Fallon and the Today show had to go above and beyond what they do for olympic coverage to show the world that we’re not idiots.

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  • Raymond

    It’s just black’s nature, (I’m black myself). I’ve always stuck out as a child, (an oreo) and I paid dearly for it. It seems that if you’re young and black you have to have pack mentality, and if you don’t you get crucified for it. But in today’s politically correct world if you point this out you’ll be labelled all kinds of names. It’s not good or bad it just is. I don’t have the answers.

  • Sharon37

    You are very irrational in your thinking. What Mr. Belafonte was saying was that every successful black person has a responsibility to help others come up, Starting with their families. Yet, there should be a limit to the giving. I find that envy blinds many black people to vast opportunities standing right in front of them. Often, many make the wrong choice and choose the quick, easy way out. When things fall apart they blame others that are more successful. These type of people should only be given limited assistance because they refuse to accept responsibility for their choices. As black Americans we have very limited resources to help others so we have to target those who have the capabilities to of pulling themselves up. Those who are desperate to improve themselves and aren’t easily discouraged. Giving a hundred dollars every month to your deadbeat brother won’t help the black community. Take that $100 and give it to that honor roll student in church in college. Still help the brother but less so. In the black community, we have a problem with “learned helplessness”. People give up trying because someone is always there to cushion the fall. You aren’t helping anyone by doing that. What I’m trying to say is help everyone because some people are capable of going further than others but never completely turn your back on those less fortunate. But, the main focus should be on those who have greater potential.