The miseducation of Black conservatives

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson speaks at a recent event alongside Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger

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.

Here’s what the late Walter Rodney had to say about Europeans’ role in the slave trade in his seminal work, “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,” which was published in 1972:

“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.” Read more