Editor, Commonwealth:

I have lived a large portion of my life under the presumption that “crabs in a barrel” was a metaphor for how the poor and disadvantaged could be notorious for not allowing each other to escape from the agony of their environment. Based upon all my early teaching, I surmised that it was envy and jealousy among the poor and disadvantaged that promoted what has been called a crab mentality.

However, growing up poor, black and disadvantaged, I couldn’t recall seeing any example of poor people in my neighborhood denying opportunities to other poor, black, disadvantaged individuals. As a matter of fact, it was totally the opposite. As I have grown and done extensive research, I have come to the conclusion that the “crab effect“ has very little to do with the envy and jealousy of the poor, disadvantaged minorities in communities across this great land.

If the “crabs in a barrel” represented the political, social, economic and educational systems, than what poor, disadvantaged person would have the ability to control any of those? I will help you out. None! Therefore, the idea that the “crabs effect” occurs when the poor, who have no control over any of our societal institutions, are preventing other young brave souls from escaping the horrors of poverty is totally asinine, preposterous and laughable. It is not the weak or poor who are preventing the brave young from eluding the pitfall of living a life of destitution; it is the failed systems that are controlled by the prominent people in our society.

Maybe the simplest way to understand this phenomenon is to recognize the ill effects of vindictiveness. In order to be vindictive, one must have a feeling of superiority over others. Those who are at the top relish the idea of wealth and power and do not plan on sharing that with anyone. They are willing to destroy it rather than share it.

Having come out of the depth of poverty, I can witness to the fact that the only way out is through all those who are lifting you up, not pulling you down.

Charles Brady

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