UPDATE: (Friday, Dec. 5, 11am ET): Sir Charles Barkley responded to his friend and colleague Kenny Smith first on a radio program and then on TNT’s “Inside the NBA,” according to USA Today.
Unsurprisingly, Barkley said that he disagreed with Smith and took special umbrage to “The Jet” touching on slavery in his open letter. Barkley made his comments on 97.5 The Fanatic:
“…every time something bad happens in the black community, we can’t bring up slavery. I totally disagree with that… That is ridiculous to bring up slavery, there’s not a slave alive who knows anything about Michael Brown or Ferguson, Mo. I think that was disingenuous.”
On Thursday night’s “Inside the NBA” show, the crew discussed not only the open letter (Smith: the media shouldn’t have given Barkley such a platform on Ferguson when he is an athlete; Barkley saying that he again disagreed with the slavery part), but Ferguson and Eric Garner as well. They agreed to disagree, and guest Shaquille O’Neal also took part.
Kenny Smith (pictured left), who co-hosts TNT’s “Inside the NBA” sports show with friend Charles Barkley (pictured right) wrote a letter to his colleague for USA Today’s sports column, “For the Win.” Smith reportedly felt compelled to address Barkley’s unfiltered rants around the protests surrounding the Ferguson, Missouri youth Michael Brown’s fatal shooting by police officer Darren Wilson, who was not indicted for the killing. Barkley referred to the protestors and looters as “scumbags” and Smith offered to enlighten him on why his opinions might be skewed.
Smith opens his letter by complimenting Barkley’s vivacious personality, top-notch playing skills as a former NBA baller and his acumen as an insightful sports analyst. Smith then offers some background on how blacks have been treated in this country and then delves right into how certain laws have historically been and continue to be biased against them as well.
“The question must be asked: Why is there so much distrust in the police and the legal system from the African-American community? Without manifesting what the effects of slavery still have today, Dec 1st still marks only 59 years since Rosa Parks sat on that memorable bus. Many of our parents and grandparents have lived through those times and have passed those stories on to all of us. Those civil rights changes were at one time the law! They were not illegal.”
“So did the protection of the law by the courts and police make it right? Obviously not, so as African-Americans we still know and feel that there are laws and jurisdictions that severely penalize the poor and, most importantly, African-Americans greater than any other group. Some laws were initially made without us as equals in mind; that’s just the facts. So the thought process that it’s not for us or by us will unfortunately lead to distrust.”
Smith points out that even though he and Barkley were raised in underprivileged situations and their struggles are now only a distant memory, perhaps they are just too far removed from what many of the Ferguson protestors are personally feeling— anguish and despair at continuously existing in a “have-not” situation.
“When someone is in “the struggle,” which many of our black communities are in, they are living with a lack of educational facilities, high unemployment and poor recreational facilities. The masses involved in “the struggle” will react in several ways. They can overcome it, challenge it, live in it, or fall victim to it … For those of us who are decades removed from “the struggle” because of our life through sports or business, we now have to acknowledge that every option listed exists. If not, then we are the ignorant ones.”
“That leads me to the looters and civilians burning buildings which you referred to as “scumbags.” Here’s an analogy: If you put 100 people on an island with no food, no water, no hope of a ship coming, then some will overcome it and be resourceful, some will live in it, others will panic and others will show horrific character, which is wrong. But not to understand that all alternatives are possible is wrong as well. I was also disheartened to see the reaction of burning buildings and looters by some. However, when you are in “The Struggle” to not expect that that potential reaction is foolish on our part.”
Finally Smith brings it home by checking Sir Charles’ usual diarrhea-of-the-mouth anger in a constructive way.
“The real issue is learning to positively manage your anger so you can be heard. It’s not that they are “scumbags”, their emotions won’t allow them to rationally think through their anger. I applaud that you have done a great job in your anger management in recent times … but not always.”
“Mike Brown wasn’t about race relations, nor Trayvon Martin or even Hurricane Katrina for that matter. It’s about trust. Do I trust you to help me off the island? If so, do you have my best interests at heart? Do I trust that you will you send a ship or allow me access to build my own ship?”
“And you were right Chuck, let’s not discredit that there are great police officers in all neighborhoods, but let’s not credit that we shouldn’t have doubt.”
Kenny, we could not have said it better ourselves!