Alabama Senator Teaches Charles Barkley How Bad Slavery Was In Epic Open Letter
by Gloria Dulan-Wilson
I don’t know if I’ve told you this, but I’m a great fan of the New York Knicks – they’re my team, do or die – and I’m a fan, though by no means an expert, of basketball in general – have been for years. I have always thought that, out of all the sports, basketball players are probably the most highly educated because of their college education and background. And over the years have continued to maintain that opinion – so, even when they clowned around, or said things in jest, I knew that they were just kidding, or were pulling your leg.
I even had that high minded opinion about former Philadelphia 76er Charles Barkley – that is, until he made disparaging remarks about the people in Ferguson. I was both appalled and embarrassed for him. I remember Minister Louis Farrakhan speaking of how easy it was for a Black person, whose livelihood relied on fame and the white meanstream acceptance of them, to be “whited out” – i.e. to lose contact with the reality of the plight of their own Black people. They are surrounded by whites, their money comes through whites. At the level they are living, where they are so rich they only have to see their own people on rare occasions, or interact with them under very bizarre circumstances – because the rank and file Black person can’t even afford to frequent the venues they consider their regular habitats; reality of the Black community becomes a blur to them. There is little to no relationship with, or cognizance of, what the average Black person is going through on a daily basis.
Add to that the fact that Barkley loves to shock people with his opinions anyway, and loves the idea of having them try to dissuade him, and you have a situation where most people just expect him to open his mouth and come out with something off the wall anyway.
But there is a point when even he should have drawn the line. When the Black people in Ferguson rebelled after the disgraceful, racist acquittal of the white officer who shot an unarmed teen, Michael Brown, in cold blood, Barkley harshly criticized and condemned them. Rather than understand the angst of the people who had, for far too long, been denied justice, from this stand point of being “whited out,” Charles Barkley made his ignorant, insipid, insensitive and hurtful remarks. No doubt he had heard something similar to this from the “benign” whites with whom he interacts, and it seemed “reasonable to him to agree with them. Or, maybe he was just being “controversial.” However, this is neither the time, nor the place for that level of ignorance.
His obtuse statements prompted an open letter from his TNT co-anchor, Kenny Smith, who was Black enough and man enough to try and wake the brother up. But, apparently that didn’t have the desired effect, because later Barkley made an even more seriously insipid remark, one that clearly shows that he has absolutely no clue about who he is, who his people are, his history as a Black man, or the history of Black people in general. When he stated that Black people were always bringing up slavery when things got tough, and that slavery wasn’t as bad as they say it was, I personally thought, “with all that money this brother is making, you’d think he’d at least buy a clue.” When the United Negro College Fund came out with the slogan: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” I don’t think even they knew the depths to which this statement is true.
What added insult to injury is that Barkley is originally from Alabama – which, next to “Mississippi Goddamn,” was one of the most blatantly racist, dangerous for Black people, former slave bastions, lynch capital centers of the US. To have even formed his lips to make that statement shows a complete lack of consciousness about how what he says has an impact across the board – racist whites loved what he said; he is their new “tom;” Black civil rights and community leaders were pissed, appalled and disappointed.
In the final analysis, whether he likes it or not, he is still a role model – but at this point, not a very good one.
Frankly, Barkley needs to apologize to his own people for minimizing all the horrors we have come through as a people – not to mention his own Alabaman ancestors, who no doubt went through hell long before he made it big in basketball.
Then, he needs to either enroll in a Black history class or two; hire a Black Black History teacher to come and teach him Black history; read some of the books on Black history by Black historians – i.e., go back to school and finish that last year of education he didn’t get prior to becoming an NBA draft pick. Read Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary’s book, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome; or Michelle Alexanders’ The New Jim Crow; or Up From Slavery – Booker T. Washington; Lerone Bennett, who was the official historian for Ebony Magazine, has several books out; or Black Historian John Hope Franklin’s great body or works; or Frederick Douglass’ “My Bondage and My Freedom.”
And also, take some time to go into some of the Black communities, sit down and talk with some of the Black men and women who are still suffering and live this tragedy every day of their lives.
I wish that we were much farther along as a people in this country so that these horrors that were routinely visited upon us as a people would be a thing of the past – but that’s not what’s happening now. And we need all of us to be cognizant of what’s going on. I’m not saying that he has to be a demonstrator, or a marcher, but he at least has to know and understand that there is no place on this planet at this point where Black people are doing well; and that if Black people don’t stand together, the egregious acts of violence will continue to be the rule, not the exception.
And, if Mr. Barkley doesn’t want to get involved – because that is his right – then the best role model he can be is to keep his mouth shut. But knowing that he has a penchant for controversy, and that in the end we still love him like a brother, somebody please at least give him a copy of Carter G. Woodson’s “THE MIS-EDUCATION OF THE NEGRO” it just might make a difference – one can only hope – GDW
Below is the reprint in its entirety of the letter to “Sir Charles” from Senator Hank Sanders – after you read it, share it with your children, friends and others who may likewise be laboring under the illusion that “slavery wasn’t so bad.”
Alabama Senator Teaches Charles Barkley How Bad Slavery Was In Epic Open Letter
ALABAMA SENATOR HANK SANDERS
Posted by Stephen D Foster Jr.-
“Earlier this month, Charles Barkley referred to Ferguson protesters as “scumbags” who “aren’t real black people.” After being called out for his offensive remarks by TNT colleague Kenny Smith in an open letter, the pair confronted each other during an episode of “NBA on TNT.” That’s when Barkley made an asinine statement about slavery.
“I don’t think anytime anything bad that happens in the black community we have to talk about slavery,” Barkley said. “Listen, slavery is, uh, well, I shouldn’t say one of the worst things ever, because I don’t know anything about it other than what I read or what my grandmother told me.”
According to Barkley, slavery wasn’t so bad. It’s a statement that many white supremacists are probably pinning to bulletin boards in glee. But Alabama Senator Hank Sanders was deeply hurt by what Barkley said, and composed an epic open letter to teach Sir Charles just how bad slavery was and how it still affects us today.”
Here’s is the full letter as published by AL.com:
“Dear Mr. Barkley:
I write you out of love. I write you out of profound pain. I write you out of deep concern. I hope you accept this letter in the spirit that I write.
Mr. Barkley, I understand that you said, in so many words, that slavery was not so bad and that you were tired of people bringing up slavery. I was shocked by both statements. Then I was mad. Then I was terribly disappointed. Finally, I was just in deep hurt and great pain. Now, I am trying to help you and all those who may think like you.
Mr. Barkley, allow me to tell you why slavery was “not so bad,” but very, very bad. First, African people were snatched from their families, their villages, their communities, their tribes, their continent, their freedom. African people were made to walk hundreds of miles in chains. They were often beaten, poorly fed and abused in many ways. Women and girls were routinely raped. The whole continent was ravaged and still suffers to this day. Mr. Barkley, this is very, very bad.
Second, African people were placed in “slave dungeons” for weeks and sometimes months until the slave ships came. They were often underfed, terribly beaten, raped and stuffed together so tightly they could hardly move. African people were packed in the holds of ships with little space to even move. They performed bodily functions where they lay and then lived in it. They were oftentimes beaten, raped and abused mentally, physically and emotionally. Many died from disease and broken spirits. Some were so terribly impacted that they jumped overboard and drowned when brought to the deck of the ships. Millions died during the Middle Passage from Africa to the Americas. Mr. Barkley, this is very, very bad.
Third, African people were broken like wild animals. They were stripped of every element of their identity. Their names were taken. Their languages were taken. Their religions were taken. Their histories were taken. They were forbidden to have family. They had no rights to own anything. They were considered property. Their personalities were permanently altered. Their freedom was taken. They became chattel sold from “slave blocks.” This crushing of identity impacts us to this day. I call it the psychology of the oppressed. Mr. Barkley, this is very, very bad.
Fourth, African Americans were worked from “kin to can’t;” that is from “can see” in the morning to “can’t see” at night. There was no pay for their long, hard labor. Many were poorly fed. Most felt the lash of the whip. All felt the lash of the tongue. Many were repeatedly raped. Their children and other loved ones were sold at will. Some mothers killed their baby girls so they would not have to endure the ravages of slavery. Mr. Barkley, this is very, very bad.
Fifth, African Americans had no right to defend themselves no matter what was done and how wrong it was. By law, they could not even testify against their abusers. As U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Toney said in the 1857 Dred Scott case, “A Black man has no rights a White man is bound to respect.” This became the law of the land and its legacy bedevils us to this day. Mr. Barkley, this is very, very bad.
Sixth, African Americans were perceived and treated as sub human. The only way enslavers could square this terrible treatment with their Christian beliefs was see us as less than human. Therefore, they could proudly place such beautiful words in the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution with impunity: i.e. – “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” To them, African Americans were not human so these beautiful words did not apply. Even the U.S. Constitution designated us as 3/5 of a person. That’s why White terrorists, in and out of uniforms, can kill us without punishment. The legacy of being less human lingers with us today. Black lives are worth much less than White lives. Mr. Barkley, this is very, very bad.
Seventh, it required great violence to implement and maintain the worse form of human slavery known to humankind. It required unbridled violence by enslavers, slave catchers, local, state, federal governments and the entire society. Maintaining the institution of slavery created a very violent society that infests us to this day. That’s why the United States has far more violence than any country in the world. Mr. Barkley, this is very, very bad.
Eighth, even after slavery formerly ended, we still had Jim Crow. These same imbedded attitudes generated state-sanctioned terrorism for nearly another 100 years. The Ku Klux Klan and other terrorist groups hanged, mutilated, maimed and murdered without any punishment. It was state sanctioned terrorism because the “state” did not do anything to prevent it. That’s why even during the Civil Rights Movement murders took many years before even a modicum of justice was forged. Just look at the deaths of Medgar Evers, James Chaney, the three little girls murdered by the bombing of a Birmingham Church and so many others. That is why today Trayvon Martin could not walk the streets of his neighborhood and Jordan Davis could not play loud music in his car and Eric Garner was choked to death and Michael Brown was gunned down. Mr. Barkley this is very, very bad.
Mr. Barkley, if you knew your history, you would not say slavery is not so bad and you are tired of people bringing up slavery. The legacy of slavery is everywhere. However, you are not totally to blame because you were deliberately denied the opportunity to learn your history. That is one more legacy of slavery. I hope you will seek the full history for yourself so that you will not ever say such things again.
In deep concern,
“For some reason, the media gravitates toward Charles Barkley to seek his comments on social and political issues that he clearly knows nothing about. He’s a jock, not a historian. His only expertise is basketball and awkward golf swings. Clearly, if he had pursued academic achievement instead of spending hours putting a ball through a hoop, he would know that slavery is indeed, one of the worst travesties in world history. But like a lot of jocks, Barkley no longer has to study hard to find out how evil slavery was. All he has to do is read the open letter written to him by the smart person in the class. – STEPHEN FOSTER
Again, I strongly recommend that you share this letter with your children and grandchildren; students in your classes, neighbors’ kids, etc. Not because of any need to embarrass Charles Barkley, but because Hank Sanders explains in a nutshell the horrors Black people have historically endured for more than 400 years. It’s a brief lesson in Black History, which will give them a context for a more in depth study and understanding.
NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?
Stay Blessed &
bullet Columnist Gloria Dulan-Wilson Is a veteran New York City Journalist. Her experiences, perspective & sense of history are an invaluable combination. “check out my blog:” www.gloria-dulan-wilson.blogspot.com