An infamous one-liner from 1970s-era sitcoms goes like this: “Some of my best friends are Black.”
It’s also a classic comeback for White racists when the racist is caught being, well, racist.
When that happens, racists mysteriously pull out a Black buddy (such as the Clayton Bigsby character from the old “Dave Chappelle Show”) to secure a hood pass for the misdeed. White actors and politicians are especially adept at this magic trick.
Who are these Bigsby characters right-wingers are apparently inviting to their summer cookouts? Are they what some Blacks call sellouts?
For hundreds of years, Blacks have deemed some brothers and sisters sellouts because they are willing to betray their community for the favors of whites.
In his 2008 book titled “Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal,” Dr. Randall Kennedy, a Harvard Law School professor, describes “sellout” as a word Blacks use to stigmatize and marginalize other Blacks considered disloyal to the race.
When confronted about America’s history of systemic racism, many white conservatives are quick to remind us that Africans sold other Africans into slavery. They conveniently leave out the part about manipulation by European interests.
“From the beginning, Europe assumed the power to make decisions within the international trading system. An excellent illustration of that is the fact that the so-called international law which governed the conduct of nations on the high seas was nothing else but European law. Africans did not participate in its making, and in many instances, African people were simply the victims, for the law recognized them only as transportable merchandise. If the African slave was thrown overboard at sea, the only legal problem that arose was whether or not the slave ship could claim compensation from the insurers! Above all, European decision-making power was exercised in selecting what Africa should export – in accordance with European needs.”
The fact that African Americans have had traitors in our family baobab tree, like every other race, is no anomaly. Nor is it a family secret that a handful of Black people were slave owners and that some Black folks snitched on enslaved brothers and sisters to gain meritorious manumission.
One of the earliest examples of white supremacy in black face comes courtesy of William Hannibal Thomas who in 1901 published “The American Negro.”
According to UNC-Charlotte historian John David Smith, author of “Black Judas: William Hannibal Thomas and The American Negro,” Thomas’ book, “under the guise of a black self-help manual,” helped to justify Black inferiority in the minds of White Americans. Thomas’ book has served as a blueprint for Black conservative thought.
The playbook for modern Black right-wing politics can be traced to the 1980 Black Alternatives Conference held at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. The conference was organized by the Institute for Contemporary Studies, a California-based public policy institution, to counter the Black leftist movement. According to James B. Lowe’s book, “The American Directory of Certified Uncle Toms,” the “Reagan-inspired Institute of Contemporary Studies, attracted about 125 black lawyers, physicians, dentists, Ivy League professors and commentators.”
This formula to rally Black conservatives has been duplicated over the decades. Right-wing think tanks heavily support Black conservatives who agree to do their bidding.
In North Carolina, the Black conservative movement is led by Lt. Governor Mark Robinson, who seems well-suited in his role as the GOP’s Great Black Hope. His crusade to prevent progressive, Democratic do-gooders from “indoctrinating” innocent white children with historical facts has put him on the road to conservative superstardom.
While much of their attention has been on the indoctrination of fifth graders, one wonders if Black conservatives are the ones who have been brainwashed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the John Locke Foundation and other right-wing organizations and lobbyists.
I’m confused by what motivates Black neo-conservatives. Perhaps they are fully aware that they are part of a vast right-wing conspiracy dead set on separating African Americans from their inalienable rights. Or maybe, they are victims of what Dr. Carter G. Woodson coined the “miseducation of the Negro.”
It’s possible they are just conflicted by the fact that many Black folk are politically liberal but socially conservative. But Blacks who object to using strippers to win Black votes don’t have to sign up to be the president of the Sean Hannity Fan Club.
The larger question is what are African Americans to do with those who betray the best interests of our people? The Black community has always been divided on the issue.
Pan-Africanist Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) went to his grave with the idea that even the most radical Black Republican could be reformed to help create a Black Utopia where all people of African descent could unite to secure a brighter future for our children.
Some Blacks believe, however, that all Black Republicans should be exiled to a penal colony somewhere in Texas, then pelted with Ted Nugent albums for the rest of their miserable lives. Personally, I’m on the fence but leaning toward the latter.
At the end of the day, history is recording our actions. Black conservatives must decide if they want to be honored as great leaders or be eternally disgraced as betrayers of the race at the most critical hour.
The choice is theirs.