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August 20, 2017

Charles Barkley: 'I'm not going to waste my time' with Confederate statues

Former Sixer pushes back against movement to tear down monuments

As a fierce national debate continues over the moral legacy of monuments to the former Confederacy, former Philadelphia 76er and current NBA analyst Charles Barkley offered a bold dismissal of the subject during a weekend interview.

"I'm not going to waste my time worrying about these Confederate statues," Barkley told the Independent Journal Review. "That's wasted energy."

In the wake of last weekend's deadly violence in Charlottesville, calls from around the country have targeted the removal of statues that many feel validate a tainted history of slavery, oppression and inequality. Critics of the movement argue it has no effective end point and will result in a contemporary crusade of revisionism. 

Illustrating the scope of this conflict, the Southern Poverty Law Center published a map of the country's remaining statues that honor Confederate figures and symbols in public places. More than 1,500 markers, museums, cemeteries, battlefields and other displays pay homage to the consequential era of the Civil War. 

“I’ve always ignored them,” Barkley said. “I’m 54 years old. I’ve never thought about those statues a day in my life. I think if you ask most black people to be honest, they haven’t thought a day in their life about those stupid statues.”

Outrage in the week since Charlotteville has revived debate about a range of statues that exalt individuals perceived to have advanced systemic racism and violence against minorities. In Philadelphia, the statue of former mayor Frank Rizzo, located outside the Municipal Services Building, was defaced with spray paint by a 40-year-old man who scrawled "Black Power" across its midsection.

Philadelphia City Councilwoman Helen Gym and other city officials have welcomed a conversation about the future of the Rizzo statue, while members of the local Black Lives Matter chapter are vowing to tear it down one way or another.

As dozens of other movements around the country petition for the removal of such monuments, Barkley questioned the wisdom and ultimate impact of the protests.

"I'm not going to waste my time screaming at a neo-Nazi who's going to hate me no matter what," said Barkley, who recently anchored a TNT mini-series about issues pertaining to race in the United States. "What we as black people need to do — we need to worry about getting our education, we need to stop killing each other, we need to try to find a way to have more economic opportunity and things like that." 

Many on Twitter voiced support for Barkley's reaction to the debate, while others criticized him for speaking on behalf of those who don't share his views.