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‘Black Haters’: Crabs in a barrel

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It would only take 30 seconds for a young newlywed couple to plaster their Facebook or Instagram page with photos of themselves enjoying a honeymoon vacation.

It would take even less time for someone—or a slew of people—to see these images and “throw shade” by unleashing hateful and jealous comments.

The expression to “throw shade” at someone or “throwing shade” (otherwise known as “hating”) has seeped into mainstream culture in a big way.

People say things to each other online that they never would in real life, and gossip about celebs who they don’t know without a degree of sympathy. We’ve witnessed anti-bullying campaigns largely due to the amount of bullying executed online and through texts and picture messages. Technology has the capacity to make society more empathetic, but it is primarily being used to do the opposite.

Rapper Nicki Minaj’s ongoing Twitter “beef” with her ex-boyfriend is a perfect example of what it means for someone to “hate on” another person.

Days ago she released a new song in which she takes hard swipes at her former beau – and a host of other rappers—sparking a ferocious Twitter battle between she and her ex lover.

The common term for this behavior is appropriately called “hating,”—and it occurs with stunning regularity in the African American community.

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, and these days, the damage is often inflicted on social media.

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.

In her book, “Living Well,” therapist Melody McCloud breaks down the psychology behind “hating.”

“When you do your thing, remember…you will have ‘haters’; but never let people get you off track. Sometimes even family members will become jealous and try to derail your efforts and destroy your spirit. But no matter what obstacles come against you, you can make it if you treat people right, stay focused on your goal and stay true to yourself and your God.”

McCloud offers more commentary on “hating” in an article she wrote for Psychology Today in 2011.

“Do you know some people who just can’t celebrate when someone else is doing a good thing?” she asks. “People who don’t want to see anyone else be celebrated for their good deeds, or even for just looking good?

“Some people just don’t want to see others succeed,” McCloud continued, “or they feel threatened if a little light shines on someone else, even for a minute. This has been a well-known “syndrome” in the Black community, but is said to exist in lawyers, even preachers. It may in fact, just be human nature. But it doesn’t have to be. This is America; there is plenty room at life’s table for everyone to get their slice. As people, as a race, as women…we don’t have to compete, we can complement.”

With regard to the “crabs in a barrel” phenomenon, many of us have heard variations of these common expressions:

“Haters gonna hate”, “you ain’t nobody if you don’t have somebody hating on you”, “haters make you greater” .. and so on.

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’re trading insults with our friends. They are what we say when we are competing. But jealously and competition aren’t synonymous with any specific group of people. Why is it that the “Crabs in a barrel” mentality is often associated with the African American community or the African Diaspora in general?

In her book, “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing (PTSS),” Dr. Joy De Gruy encourages African Americans to view their attitudes, assumptions, and behaviors through the lens of history and so gain a greater understanding of the impact centuries of slavery and oppression.

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 often met with resistance and resentment.

Blogger—and behavioral therapist—“King Pynn” recently offered his perspective on why and when “hating” occurs in communities of color.

“‘Hateration’ has a rich history. It can be overt and offensive or subtle and facetious,” he said. “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 part 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 and having historically been unable to snap back at their oppressors, shifted their anger and aggression towards family, friends and neighbors as strings of insults. Dollard suggests that African Americans have been conditioned by PTSS to pull and tear each other down like crabs in a barrel.

The analogy in human behavior is claimed to be that members of a group will attempt to reduce the self-confidence of any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings, to halt their progress.

Often this is applied to people in an impoverished community where one person is starting to get ahead. The collective community becomes jealous or filled with a sense of self-loathing, so they find a way to pull that person back down to the community’s level.

In a country that still withholds opportunity and resources from minorities, forcing Black and Brown people to compete for scraps, the cycle of “hate” among these groups will inevitably continue.

Instagram, for instance, might seem like an egotistical world of the selfie, but in reality it is a networking site where a person can find and interact with creative people whom you might otherwise never have the ability to access.

Facebook may appear to be like a world of cat videos and political expression, but it’s original concept was to help spread messages and forge partnerships and awareness of commonality.

Twitter appears to be a combination of everything and anything, yet it is a news site that has been instrumental to informing the world about all kinds of revolutions.

The relationships one forges on social media might begin through a positive compliment, an emoji that makes someone laugh, or a sincere observation regarding their photograph. Again, through hashtags, commonalities can be found.

In the end, social media is a productive force in society that can help us to see all perspectives with more love and less hate.