Former NBA star and current TV analyst Charles Barkley attended a town hall meeting in Baltimore last Tuesday where he created tension by showing support for law enforcement officers and their families.
He brought up recent events in which four police officers were shot within a 24-hour time period, asking the crowd, “Did anybody say, ‘Man, I feel bad for their family?’”
That was when things began to deteriorate to the point the meeting had to be shortened.
The crowd suddenly grew openly hostile toward Barkley.
Diane Butler, who was attending the town hall, was brief and to the point about her thoughts on Barkley, saying, “I don’t know you, I don’t like you.”
Butler is the mother of Tyrone West, a 44-year-old man who reportedly died from cardiac arrest after being restrained by law enforcement officers in 2013.
Barkley responded to Butler’s comments by offering his condolences.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Barkley said. “As far as you not liking me, it really doesn’t bother me. I’m used to it. I’m like the homecoming queen. All the ugly girls hate you. That’s part of my life. I never take anything personally.”
Barkley admitted that racism always has and always will exist. However, he told them the major area of discrimination is economic rather than racial.
“America discriminates against poor people, whether you’re white, black, Hispanic, whatever. Poor people are dealt a crappy hand,” Barkley said.
Also attending the town hall was Marion Gray-Hopkins, whose 19-year-old son was fatally wounded in 1999 when he was shot by a Prince George’s County police officer.
Gray-Hopkins told Black Christian News Network One she was disappointed in what she heard during the town hall meeting.
“I was hoping I would hear, see, feel something different,” she said. “I did not.”
She was also disappointed in what she heard from Barkley.
“I don’t think he really came here to listen to the people,” she said. “He [Barkley] is in his own world. What I came here to do tonight was to validate what I thought about him. And all he did was validate me.”
Barkley was in Baltimore to begin shooting a reality documentary series called The Race Card. His role in the series is to meet with people throughout various communities and discuss topics related to race and other controversial topics.
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