In these days of abject political correctness it is worth shouting from the highest mountain when you hear a black, gay or feminist leader speak the truth from a foundation of common sense. Charles Barkley, NBA legend, author and now news commentator, has done just that.
I consider anyone in the public eye a potential "leader." Our country looks to people who have excelled in their field as role models when it comes to the issues which affect our lives, whether it be actors or athletes. Some take that podium and fall on their face — like Barbra Streisand. Others take it seriously and do more than regurgitate party rubbish; they actually add something worthwhile to the debate. Case in point: Charles Barkley has written a new book I May Be Wrong, But I Doubt It, and is now also a CNN contributor.
My first thought, considering we're dealing with CNN, was oh no, another member of an "oppressed minority" who is going to rail about victimhood. I obviously didn't know much about Charles Barkley. I couldn't have been more wrong. The first indication to me that Barkley is a man of integrity came when Arthel Neville, the host of CNN's "Talk Back Live," played a tape of singer Harry Belafonte's cruel and shocking attack on Secretary of State Colin Powell. Belafonte, a singer most famous for the song "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)", equated Powell with a slave who "lived in the house of the master" because he's a successful Republican politician in the Bush administration.
I waited with bated breath for his response. I'm paraphrasing here, but Barkley commented that what Belafonte said was sad; that he admired Colin Powell, and he condemned the tendency in the black community to attack blacks who expressed divergent points of view, or who were successful.
Barkley continued that he didn't care that Powell was a Republican, and added that black people in this country should stop attacking each other and will not do better until they address the real issues their community faces, like black on black crime, teenage pregnancy and single-parent households. He also decried public attacks like this by prominent blacks on other blacks who don't toe some party line.
Why is it so important for someone like Barkley to say these things? Because he is a role model and if nothing else now opens the door to the fact that thoughtful people can indeed come to very different conclusions about the serious issues we face. It also gives black youth another point of view to consider-he, with his honesty, whether you agree with him or not, automatically expands the idea horizon for young people everywhere. After all, it's not just black youth who look up to an athlete like Barkley, it's everyone — man, woman, adult, child — whose heroes are sports stars.
Barkley, born in Leeds, Alabama, is known for his outspokenness but he isn't just all talk, either. This is a man who, while encouraging personal responsibility, has given one million dollars to his high school, another million to his college, and another million to elementary schools in the state of Alabama. He has also recently purchased ten homes in his hometown specifically to renovate them. He did this, he told Arthel, to improve the environment in which the poor in that area live, increasing their hope for the future.
With the press focusing on athletes who have abandoned their responsibility to our culture by turning to lives of crime and violence, it is fantastic so have someone like Barkley to exemplify what's truly possible when it comes to freedom of ideas. Has Barkley had a pristine history? Nope. In 1991, he was arrested for disorderly conduct after allegedly breaking the nose of a man in a Milwaukee bar. He was ultimately acquitted. Will I always agree with what he has to say? I wouldn't think so, but it is his willingness to be honest and to think out of the box which has become invaluable in a world where silence and conformity to the Left on political issues is promoted and rewarded.
Could CNN's signing of Barkley indicate they've finally seen the light and realize Americans like to hear from people who are willing to challenge the prevailing culture orthodoxy? I hope so. One of the many benefits of the Fox News Channel's success is that it is showing others in the news business that there are smart people out there — from across the political spectrum — including gays, blacks and feminists — who aren't just mouthpieces for the prevailing politically correct Leftist tripe.
While I expect to not always agree with someone like Barkley, just like I've found that you don't always agree with me, what I appreciate is the expansion of ideas and our right to express them as we see fit. It's time to do away with the scourge of political correctness — it limits the debate, compels people into silence, and closes the minds of the young.
By becoming a regular contributor to CNN, Barkley is going to feel some heat from the usual Black Elite suspects to tone down his rhetoric, or even to change his point of view. Fortunately, his history of outspokenness bodes well for his ability to withstand any pressure for him to censor himself.
Finally, not just the black community, but all of us with an interest in a decent view on the issues, will now hear from someone other than circus clowns like Maxine Waters, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton, who rely on victimhood and hopelessness to further their own myopic agendas of entitlement. They're not going to like Barkley very much with his message about personal responsibility and empowerment — especially now that he has a regular international platform. This, if I may borrow from Martha Stewart, is a good thing.