I am on a group chat with my three closest friends, and like many people, we talk about everything: marriage, fatherhood, faith, work, sports, politics, and any topic in between. One recent exchange included a simple question that has shaped black cultural discourse for more than a generation: What is a sellout?
Even though we have similar views on most issues, I'm the one out of the group who has been labeled a "black conservative." That means I have had to deal with random internet trolls calling me a sellout who is out for the approval of white people. This is not just a matter of semantics. Any black person who is labeled conservative — including people who have never voted Republican but believe in the gender binary — will have to deal with this at some point. Deploying words like "sellout" and "coon" is how the left's cultural Border Patrol agents attempt to control the thoughts and behaviors of black people who challenge their views. They use these terms because they know that perceived racial disloyalty is tantamount to blasphemy in the black community.
One problem is the lack of specificity and clarity about what it means to be a sellout. My personal definition is simple and straightforward. A sellout is someone who knowingly promotes harmful ideas, beliefs, values, and behaviors for monetary gain. As a dad, I know the difference between feeding my children vegetables and giving them sour milk. The former are good for them even though they don't always like the taste. My children can trust me when I move the fork in their direction because I always take the first bite. The latter is bad for them even though they can't see what's in the carton. They can tell something is wrong by the face I make when I get my first whiff and the fact I won't take a single sip.
The same principles apply to politics and culture. I have no problem with black people making a living from the ideas they promote, causes they champion, or views they defend. My problem is when individuals make money from selling poisonous ideas to people whose interests they claim to represent. This is why I am so critical of rappers who promote crime, drugs, and self-destruction from the comfort of their gated communities. They tell our sons to gangbang while they send their own off to college. They degrade our wives, mothers, and daughters while demanding respect for their own. This is the epitome of selling out, but somehow black liberals have convinced society that rappers are courageous truth-tellers.
Even the use of these terms demonstrates how dull many of our leading minds have become. For instance, the term "Uncle Tom" is synonymous with the type of race traitor willing to say anything for the approval of the white conservatives — a sellout on hyperbolic steroids. The irony is that the main character in Harriet Beecher Stowe's book "Uncle Tom's Cabin" refused his master's demands to whip his fellow slaves and chose death rather than reveal the location of two runaways.
Everyone suffers when ad hominem racial attacks replace actual debate. They inflame conversations to the point where they are no longer productive. They also atrophy the intellectual muscles needed to parse worldviews, define terms, evaluate falsifiable claims, and use logical arguments to persuade skeptics.
The degree to which Justice Clarence Thomas is reviled and rappers like Snoop Dogg are revered demonstrates the power language has on the emotions and priorities of the black community. I used to think the same things most black people do when they hear the name of the longest-serving member of the Supreme Court. Then I read his dissent in the affirmative action case against the University of Michigan Law School. His opinion was linked to the following excerpt from a speech given by Frederick Douglass at the height of his career as an anti-slavery crusader:
The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us. … I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! … And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! … Your interference is doing him positive injury.
The abolitionist was clear about his views on the harm caused by misplaced pity and benevolence. That is why he argued at the time that emancipated black people, like all people, should be allowed to rise and fall based on hard work.
You don't have to agree with Justice Thomas' judicial philosophy to acknowledge that believing in the capacity, agency, and self-determination of black people is not "selling out." Unfortunately, this is what the left pushes with maximum force. They see "personal responsibility" as racist and advertise dismantling the nuclear family, on-demand abortion, gender confusion, and racial victimhood as "liberation". I hope more black people let them know we are not for sale.