Written by: King Pynn
Competition Within The Black Community.
“Crabs in a barrel”
“Haters gonna hate”, “you ain’t nobody if you don’t have somebody hating on you”, “haters make you greater” …Many of us have heard these expressions before. They are what we say when we think people are trying to dim our light or steal our shine. They are what we say when we aren’t doing to well in a roast session with our friends. They are what we say when we are competing. Everybody competes but why is it that the “Crabs in a barrel” mentality is often associated with the African American community or the African Diaspora in general?
“A race of people is like an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself.” — Malcolm X
The “Crabs in the barrel” mentality is also known as the “If I can’t have it neither can you” mentality. It is when a group of people in similar situations hurt or hinder those in their community trying to get ahead. When Crabs are harvested together in a barrel, the crabs will pull down any crab that tries to get out of the barrel before them. This is how the term came to be. It is often used in conjunction with jealousy, hate, competition and the African American community.
Why are we in a barrel? Who built the barrel? How do we get out the barrel? These are questions that need to be asked to understand the nature of this mentality. We truly can’t address without starting at the root.
In stressful and traumatic situations you have to do what you have to in order to survive and get through it. Sometimes this means coming together with people in the same situation you are in. Sometimes this means finding ways to cope and get through the situation by yourself. Sadly this also means clawing your way out of the situation while sabotaging other people trying to do the same.
In my last article entitled “Clinical Depression In The Black Community” I talked about “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome”. The term was coined by Dr. Joy De Gruy in her book titled the same. “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” or “PTSS” is described as a set of behaviors, beliefs and actions related to multigenerational trauma experienced by African Americans that include but are not limited to undiagnosed and untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in enslaved Africans and their descendants. An argument could be made that one of the psychological side effects of PTSS is the belief that you and people like you are not worthy of success. So when you or someone like you challenges this belief, your defiance is met with resistance and resentment.
Yes, “hateration” has a rich history, you have to be knocked down a peg or two. It can be overt and offensive or subtle and facetious. Roasting, flaming, ragging, snapping, playing the dozens are names for an almost exclusive African American contest of wit. It is a game where we throw insults at each other until one of us concedes or the instigating audience chooses a victor. In most cases the dozens is just light hearted fun but it is indeed interesting how a game based around tearing each other down has been apart of our culture since the American antebellum period. Dr. John Dollard, an American psychologist known for his studies in race relations, saw the dozens as a manifestation of his frustration aggression theory. He theorized that African Americans, as victims of racial oppression, having historically been unable to snap back at their oppressors, shifted their anger and aggression towards family, friends and neighbors as strings of insults. We have been conditioned by PTSS to pull and tear each other down like crabs in a barrel.
So we’ve touched on who built the barrel, why we are in the barrel but how do we get out of the barrel? Well, there is a simple answer to that, stop hating. Don’t Playa hate; celebrate. When it’s inevitably your turn to shine, be the beacon of light you were put here to be. This means even if you feel you aren’t being appreciated. Your light is too bright and life is too short to waste time dwelling on negative sorts.