“If you put crabs in a barrel to ensure your survival you gonna end up pulling down niggas that look just like you” -Jay Z
Crabs in a barrel. The idea that has been plastered onto the black community for a very, very long time. Putting crabs inside of a barrel to struggle for survival and make it out of the dark crevasses that confides them climbing to the top for the light. In the process they pull each other down, each individually seeking their own salvation. Rather than work together, rather than climb together in a working, complex system to get everyone out they pull each other in desperation to reach the unknowns of the outside. This is one of the many analogies used when observing the black community, especially inAmerica. The consistent hating on each other. The “Black on Black crime” ,the lack of support for black owned businesses excluding barber and beauty shops. The constant berating and degrading of each other. Crabs in a bucket/barrel. That is what they say we are. That is what they believe and that’s what they made us to believe about ourselves. The idea that we over and over and over again pull each other down. This is a dated saying in my opinion. It is a divisive statement and fairly ignorant in my eyes. Here’s one question I will bring up. Who put us in the bucket? Back to what I was addressing. Each race pulls their own down. Each race has an opinion upon their own race and each race kills, robs, and commits crimes upon their own race at higher rates than to other races. If you think otherwise look at the federal bureau of investigation website and search for the crime rates. Why is it that we are the only monkeys/crabs in the barrel? Could it be that American society wasn’t designed for black people to prosper? I leave that for you as the reader to answer on your own. When I look at the black community all I see is unity. I see people looking out for each other, taking care of each others children. Giving out sugar, ketchup, other supplies. Creating connections and pathways, supporting each other and their dreams and goals. I see people giving food and clothing to those in need. I see cookouts, block parties, community programs and events. I see black people fight for each other. The notion that the black community is divided is a myth most of the time. Yes there are experiences when we have seemed to be divided. However when we needed to rise up, when it was time for action we jump without hesitation. So my question is, where did we get crabs in a bucket/barrel? Why do we believe that we are to be so divided? Because we come from poor places were there’s violence and drug abuse?
Understand this, for this is my argument. Before we continue to discuss crabs pulling down each other in barrels/buckets lets understand the reasons as to why we’re in barrels/buckets. For one, who put us in the barrel? For context, barrels/buckets are our communities, the projects for many, poor public housing is another word. Low income, poor schooling. now lets look at the lining of the barrel/bucket. Drug trafficking, crack, cocaine, etc… then there’s illegal gun trade. Gang violence? We”ll leave that alone for now. Lets look at how The US government red lined certain communities to place African Americans in. Look up red lining, this is an actual concept. We were given terrible jobs for low wages, then they placed drugs in our communities for us to sell to each other. Then they created systems to place people in jail for selling such merchandise. They being the US government. For further information watch the 13th documentary on NETFLIX or read THE NEW JIM CROW by Michelle Alexander. These give detailed synopses of how the US prison system is corrupt and how the school to prison pipeline is set up. It provides powerful insight into the concepts I just brought up. An artificial bucket was created for us to climb out of. Now, i’m not blaming any systems or anything of the sorts. However I’m saying there is a bucket that we were placed in. So before we continue to finger point and claim that we pull each other down we must look at the outer realms of the argument and expand upon it. Are we really crabs in a bucket? Who put us there? These are the questions we must ask. However we must dig deeper into the concept to fully understand it.
Crabs stuck in a barrel or bucket, which ever you prefer tend to pull each other down in a panic to reach the top and get out of the barrel/bucket. For this article, we’ll stick to barrel. The goal is to get out of the uncomfortable living conditions and into the freedom and the light we see above. Nothing more, nothing less. In the process, they pull each other down, in an every man for himself kind of field. Rather than working together, they are reduced to frantic beings being incapable of effective cooperation and communication. As if we’re just unable to work together at all. But when you place something in an environment that makes it hard to even breathe, or move, or think straight, the expectation is that irrational thinking occurs. When you have an enormous amount of weight lingering on your body, be it figuratively or physically, natural instinct tends to take place. Our backs are not against the wall, the wall is crushing our backs. Survival is by any means necessary. With all that being said these are figures of speech, we are not crabs in a barrel. Not in my eyes. Even if this is opinionated, I can see both sides to the argument. I lean towards the side that doesn’t condemn my people and claim that they dont or can’t work in harmony. We have proven it time and time again. during slave times how we sang negro spirituals to code the underground railroad. Black wall street, look it up. The Black Panthers, The civil rights movement, Black Lives Matter and so many more moments in history that present Black unity. The problem is that the narrative about us has been written by others, rather than ourselves. So, in that we have been perceived as crabs in a bucket, or monkeys in a barrel. When in reality we are an ethnic group in America attempting to live out the American dream that wasn’t designed for us in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong, there are areas within the black community we must fix internally. Just because there are external factors that affect our progression immensely does not mean we dont have our own problems caused by us. But that alone doesn’t make us crabs in any barrel. We do need to keep our youth away from dangerous lifestyles such as drug selling and properly educate them.Gun violence is a problem, however that is an american problem that can be addressed in another piece. We do need to invest more money into our own and work on building communities that are Black owned. There are a myriad of obstacles in play to accomplish those as well. However that’s no excuse. It still doesn’t justify the Crabs in a barrel argument. even with the internal conflicts we face, we are not crabs in any barrels in my opinion, and we need to stop addressing each other as such in our quest for black excellence and unity.
In closing, I do understand the concept of crabs in a barrel/ bucket, or monkeys, which ever you prefer. However, I ask for people to look deeper into the analogy and further understand its origins, concepts and purpose before they throw the word out. This analogy is deeper than the interface previews, and must always be analyzed for its true depth and purpose for the Black people.