Crabs in a BarrelDear advanced animals humans,

Time after time, I keep being referenced in your discord. Well, enough.

I come from a long line of crustaceans. There are over 6,000 species of us, give or take. Marine water, freshwater, land, we have shown an amazing tendency to adapt.

Our origin is somewhat of a mystery, our presence is an evolutionary marvel. We’re viewed as sacred emblems in many cultures, including the zodiac Cancer (latin for crab) which is when the sun is at its peak. But we’re not always viewed so favorably.

Y’all like to consume us. Why? Who knows. It’s not enough to have plants, fruit or even four-legged land animals. We have to be a staple of your sustenance, too. Whatever. Life feeds on life, so I ain’t trippin on that.

What I do take offense at is a particular mischaracterization of our existence. Recently, a character from the movie Best Man called us out, comparing Black people to us. This is common practice, especially when minorities are concerned:

“We (Black people) have a crab mentality where we still pull each other down because of choices that we make.”

He said some other stuff about marrying an Asian woman and Black women, but all I heard was “crab mentality.”

What’s a crab mentality? As stated earlier, we’re aquatic and terrestrial creatures. Buckets? Nah. We’re placed there because of your desire to consume us, not to mention an unnatural pursuit of profit.

We don’t belong in crates. When you take an organism out of its natural habitat, strange things happen. I imagine the same is true with you, especially when forced to assimilate into a dominant culture.

The reorientation of your identity is tied to the ideals of that dominant culture, leading to a sort of cultural amnesia. Envy is a by-product of a lack of identity. If one knows who he or she is, then what is there to covet?

It may look like we’re fighting each other, but maybe our grasping and pulling is a misguided attempt of keeping close. Like all multi-cellular creatures, we view our survival collectively. It can work both ways, either we rise or we stay down…together.

Similar to you, we know how it feels to be uprooted and having to adjust to newer constrained environs. Whether it’s in a boiler or land, jealousy (yes, animals get jealous) is the offspring of a group seeking to recover lost identity.

When true knowledge of origin eludes an organism, that organism can be easily controlled by their “captors” in a zero-sum, king-of-the-hill game.

All of us don’t have the power to escape the clutches of your cleverness and hunting gadgets. You, on the other hand, have all the resources you need, yet finger-pointing, indolence and general disenfranchisement serve as barriers to collective progress. There isn’t a lid on your “barrel” either, except the ones you place on yourselves.

Situations tend to look rosier from the outside, so take that with a couple of salt shakers. However, we face the same existential crisis. So please, let’s cut the “crab in a bucket” meme and recognize the situation for what it is: We don’t know how to act in a bucket because we’re not meant for a bucket.

Get rid of it and, well, I’m not writing this letter.

Guess we’re more alike in that regard than we realize. Please avoid seafood for a while.


One Emancipated Crab

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  • I got sense!

    “Envy is a by-product of a lack of identity. If one knows who he or she is, then what is there to covet?”

    This is the fundamental issue with many African Americans whose forefathers “came” here before the Civil War. Even Chris Rock said it on that show about finding your ancestors (African American roots o something like that). He said had he known where he came from as a child he would not have chosen to be a comedian. He would have wanted to be in politics or a professor. There was a recent study that showed black kids did better in school and had higher self esteem when they had an African American history class in school (and I mean a real one that starts prior to the transatlantic slave trade but included other countries that were apart of it).

  • How is going out with a Black man (so not being in an interracial relationship) makes me a “crab in a barrel”?

  • BettiePAge

    first of all we are not an evolutionary marvel we are God’s creation and everyone with a history background knows we have this mentality because we were transplanted about 100 or so years ago. we are not united like other groups are

  • Raymond

    I grew up in a small town in the south, (mostly white). I was a natural “oreo” you can say. The small group of black kids at high school would laugh at me and jeer at me for being who I was naturally and not having their pack mentality. I could understand if I was being malicious but I wasn’t; I was just naturally being myself I would have done anything for anyone it was my nature. You touched on some very poignant truths, (and you did so with gentleness and tact!) but the operative word is “truthful”. In today’s politically correct world this post would be frowned upon but I guess it’s understandable because race is a VERY sensitive subject and virtually everyone has had a defining moment in it. However I think honest discourse like this is necessary to examining social, (and maybe further in the future genetic) issues in a respectful and sensitive way. I don’t know. I really don’t know I don’t have the answers.

    “…grasping and pulling is a misguided attempt…” beautiful analogy