Thursday, August 6, 2015

Crabs in a barrel and black lives matter

By George Farrell 

“Black Lives Matter” founded by Alicia Garnza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tormet, has a wonderful mission. According to its website:
#BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society .Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes.

It goes beyond the narrow nationalism that can be prevalent within Black communities, which merely call on Black people to love Black, live Black and buy Black, keeping straight cis Black men in the front of the movement while our sisters, queer and trans and disabled folk take up roles in the background or not at all.  Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.  It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements.  It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.

When we say Black Lives Matter, we are broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state.
However, the movement fails to address the “crabs in a barrel” mentality that is driving the black-on-black murder rate in Baltimore, Chicago, New Orleans and other urban areas.

Baltimore is currently suffering its highest murder rate in 43 years, with 45 murders in July alone. In Chicago, 271 people were shot and wounded, and 67 people died.

Many of these deaths reflect the situation of the metaphor of crabs in a barrel. An individual crab in a pot can easily escape. When you put a bunch of crabs in a pot, instead of working to escape or improve their situation, they focus on the other crabs, engaging in a useless “king of the hill” competition. This prevents any crabs from escaping and ensures the demise of the group.

The “crabs in a barrel” mentality permeates the black community. It is found in the Ph.D. professor and the uneducated laborer. It exists in the elected politician who fails to deliver basic services to black communities and the street thug who takes a life over drugs or a “diss.” It exists among rappers, in the music that took the lives of 2PAC and Biggie Smalls, and in rap battles with Drake and Meek Mill.

The mentality is directly related to life and conditions in urban communities. It results in black-on-black crime and violence, and is perpetuated in the animosity between members of the black community.
Unless black lives truly begin to matter to blacks, unless black communities band together and members respect one another, black lives certainly will not matter to white police officers.

To prosper, black America needs to stop attacking itself. Stepping on the backs of other blacks or belittling their accomplishments only weakens all of black America. Black leaders need to fight for educational resources for black communities, and join together to insist on better services. Blacks must work together to lift each other up, and not tear each other down.

Small-brained crabs lack the ability to reason and escape the pot. They sacrifice each other and demonstrate that they and their community are expendable. Until black America stops the “crabs in a barrel” mentality, and shows that black lives do matter, we will continue to sacrifice each other for that final Pyrrhic victory, guaranteeing the downfall of ourselves and our community.

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