Charles Barkley isn’t backing down from a recent radio interview in which he called looters in Ferguson “scumbags” and spoke of the idea of being “not black enough.”
Barkley, the former NBA player and now a basketball commentator for Turner Sports, reiterated in a CNN interview that he agreed with the decision by a grand jury not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown an unarmed black teenager. Barkley, who called the idea that white cops might be out to shoot black people “ridiculous,” favors a reasoned, rational dialogue on race in America — not one that crops up from time to time after a racially-charged incident.
“We never discuss race in this country until something bad happens,” he said. And then “everybody wants to protect their own tribe, whether they are right or wrong.”
Barkley’s comments sparked criticism, particularly when he said looters “aren’t real black people, those are scumbags” in the interview with Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fan in Philadelphia (listen to the interview here). He was supportive of police as well, saying that “we have to be really careful with the cops, because if it wasn’t for the cops we would be living in the wild, wild West in our neighborhoods. We can’t pick out certain incidentals that don’t go our way and act like the cops are all bad…. Do you know how bad some of these neighborhoods would be if it wasn’t for the cops?”
On CNN, he elaborated.
“We as black people, we have a lot of crooks. We can’t just wait until something like [the Ferguson shooting] happens. We [in the black community] have to look at ourselves in the mirror. There is a reason that they racially profile us in the way they do. Sometimes it is wrong, and sometimes it is right.”
Both the CNN and radio interviews have their origins in Barkley’s comments in October about Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and whether he is “black enough.” Barkley expressed his frustration on the radio with blacks being accused of “acting white” when they study in school and with how blacks are portrayed by the media. “We can be doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, fire- and policemen,” he told Misanelli.
Barkley supported the peaceful protest by St. Louis Rams players with their “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture Sunday. St. Louis police demanded punishment for the Rams, but the NFL declined, citing freedom of expression. Nor does and says he believe Brown’s stepfather should be charged with inciting a riot for yelling, “burn this [place] down” after the decision. “Anybody who walks out peacefully, who protests peacefully, that’s what this country was built on,” Barkley said. “But to be burning peoples’ property, burning police cars, looting peoples’ stores, that is 100 percent ridiculous.”
Somehow, the conversation has to change, he believes.
“One of the problems with this entire situation is there’s so much noise going on you never get to the crux of the issue that you need to be discussing.”