Are we just crabs in a barrel?

I was watching an old episode of the Dave Chapelle Show and he did a hilarious skit on “WacArnolds” (a spoof on McDonalds).   The skit was a parody of the old McDonalds commercial where Jimmy got a job at McDonalds and the community was proud of him, Jimmy was happy because he had a decent job and was earning money, and in general Jimmy was “moving up in the world”.  In the Dave Chapelle skit, Jimmy got his paycheck stolen by the neighborhood corner boys, girls were teasing Jimmy because he smelled like french fries, the neighbor lady who gave him props died because she ate too many WacFries, Jimmy’s girlfriend was ragging on him because she was tired of the burgers and, and worst of all Jimmy’s girl was cheating on him because she said he was gone all the time.

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Funniest thing I’ve seen in a while, but unfortunately there is always truth in humor.  Too many times when a young black man tries to do something positive there are people there to smack him down and block his success.  It is bad enough that our youth have to deal with the standard obstacles of institutional racism, poor schools, inadequate public facilities and the like, but too often we have to deal with people in our own community throwing up roadblocks that stop them in their tracks.

How often do you hear stories about the smart kid in the inner city school being teased mercilessly, being called a “nerd” or much worse just because he would rather study than hang out? 

How often do you see kids being bombarded with peer pressure to join the neighborhood set, and if they don’t get beaten up or even killed because of their choice?

How often do we see young girls and women ignore the boy who is studying or practicing music or art and instead date the gangster who is flashing green and buying her trinkets or giving her stolen jewelry?

If we are to come up as a people we should teach our young people to support those who are striving for excellence.  Instead, in many cases, our young people do the opposite.  Too often we act like crabs in a barrel – as soon as one crab tries to get out of the barrel the other crabs pull him back in.

We need to change this mentality, for it benefits no one if our talented young people are never allowed to flourish and blossom in our own communities.  If the parents of every talented young person feel that they have to leave the community in order for their kids to get a good education, be safe on the streets and be around positive people, we are perpetuating another generation of inner city youth who have no peer role models that they can say “I could take Jimmy’s path.  He started off as the fry guy but look at him now.”  Maybe Jimmy could start his own restaurant in the neighborhood, become a local businessman, or save his money and go to the local JC or university and become whatever he wants.  If our young people don’t see this, they won’t be this.

This crab in a barrel mentality is not inherent in our being as humans.  In some cases this mentality is taught within our community by parents, but by far the most common teacher of this mentality is apathy and despair.  “Why try, you will just fail”.   “You can never make as much money as John the drug dealer or RayRay the thief so just give it up.”  No one will take care of you like our gang will, so just hang out with us.”

We need new voices in the black community to speak to the youth and the loudest voice has to be of parents.  Young people in the community must support each other’s dreams and respect each other’s desire to elevate themselves. The silent and/or absent black father must make his voice heard.  He must be loud and direct – “Jimmy you can be whatever you want to be.  I will help you and support you.”  Laughing at the Dave Chapelle skit was fun but it made me a little sad.  The truth in comedy can make you laugh and break your heart at the same time.