Van Jones
CNN screenshot

Civil rights activist Van Jones blasted former NBA star Charles Barkley on CNN Tuesday night for comments he made regarding the Ferguson, Mo., grand jury decision, including the statement that black communities would be the “wild, Wild West” without cops.

“The true story came out from the grand jury testimony,” Barkley said. “We have to be really careful with the cops, man, because if it wasn’t for the cops, we would be living in the wild, Wild West in our neighborhoods,” he continued. “We can’t pick out certain incidentals that don’t go our way and act like the cops are all bad.”

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However, Jones, who co-founded ColorOfChange.org, was having none of that. “Barkley really went far beyond just saying that he agreed or disagreed with that actual grand jury,” Jones told Don Lemon. “He said a lot of things that I just thought were really inflammatory, and I think the worst of it was his contention that somehow African Americans who were concerned about this case are just somehow anti-cop. That is very dangerous.

“I think African Americans want better policing, not no policing. I think African Americans shouldn’t have to choose between no policing or street violence, or police violence or no policing,” he continued. “Why can’t we have a conversation about improving policing so that our community can do better? I thought him going after African Americans who were concerned about this, as if we have no standing at all, was very, very irresponsible.”

Another one of Barkley’s comments that Jones found contentious was his reference to the tired-out phrase “black-on-black crime.”

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“They don’t jump to conclusions when black people kill each other,” Barkley had said.

“The African-American community is not perfect, but frankly, no community is perfect. He says we have a lot of crooks in our community—listen, there’s a lot of crooks in the white community. Wall Street, frankly, is overrun by a lot of crooks, but we don’t talk about that as white criminality,” Jones pointed out.

He went on to say: “I’m from a law-enforcement family; my dad was a cop in the military; and what I know about police is, they’re human beings. You don’t have to deify them, you don’t have to demonize them, but we were correct to raise those questions, and for him to come out, I think it’s wrong. … Every African-American community is not distressed; every white community is not perfect. We aren’t talking about the meth epidemic in the white community; we’re not talking about the suicide epidemic among young white men. Why do we have these black scolds … who say, ‘Black people, you should do better … ?’”

Watch the exchange on CNN below: