Crabs in a Barrel
Probably your first thought was that the author of that rant must have been a bigoted, cranky white guy. But I'm familiar with the guy, and in fact he is not white, and he has a history of being a very outspoken advocate of civil rights. So I was disappointed to see that attitude from him. Disappointed, but not surprised. That sort of thinking has been so common in the African-American community over the years that it has a name: Crabs in a barrel. That name comes from a fable that goes something like this:
A bunch of crabs were sitting in a barrel at a seafood restaurant, waiting to be cooked. One of them said to the others, "Hey, you know what, if we all climb to the top and push on the lid, it'll come off and then we can escape."
The other crabs all laughed. They knew it was impossible to escape. What could this foolish dreamer be thinking? It was nonsense. Couldn't be done. Not even worth trying.
After a few minutes, when it was clear he wouldn't be getting any help, the one hopeful crab climbed up and started pushing on the lid alone. The other crabs just laughed harder, until they heard a faint creaking noise and realized that the lid was starting to shift a little. Then they all got angry. How dare one crab try to escape by himself? He was just another crab, and he needed to be shown that he was no better than the rest of them.
So they grabbed the crab who had been trying to escape and dragged him back down to the bottom of the barrel. They all got cooked and eaten soon afterward, but at least they had the satisfaction of knowing that no other crab was able to achieve more than they had.
Of course, I don't mean to suggest that this kind of self-destructive envy is in any way unique to the politics of the African-American community. It's not. Just about every disadvantaged minority group has some version of it. I see it in the autistic community, too, with all the carping about "shiny aspies." Some people seem to think that if a talented, well-educated autistic professional accomplishes something worthwhile, it shouldn't even be mentioned because it might give the wrong impression. Just who does this shiny aspie think he is, anyway? He's just another crab.
Granted, there are a few high achievers in the autistic community (just as in any disadvantaged minority group) who try to distance themselves from the group by claiming to be much more intelligent and capable. That false claim does need to be challenged, in the strongest terms; but when some in our community mock high achievers generally, for no other reason than the fact of their accomplishments, that's wrong. It's just ugly, corrosive envy, and it is harmful to the community as a whole.