I’m on a mission. I want to create a library in my house, reminiscent of the Beast’s library in the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. I want the ladders and everything. I figure to complete this mission I should start early so whenever I am on a break from law school I pick up a few books from Barnes and Noble hoping to finish them before school starts again. A few months ago I picked up a book entitled Sellout by Randall Kennedy. I was not familiar with the author but I figured this was a Michael Eric Dyson esque book which would solidify my belief that sellouts in the African American community are horrible and we should HATE them with a passion, a strong passion. Yeah that didn’t happen.
The author combines strong historical background with legal analysis. It’s like this book was written just for me! Then he opens up by mentioning the BIGGEST sellout of them all. Clarence Thomas. My disdain for him is strong. I have wholeheartedly argued that he is a sellout to the black community with my conservative colleagues. I even assisted one of my law school classmates in removing Clarence Thomas’ picture from a Black History Month display in the law school library. Although I do have a newfound understanding of Clarence Thomas, I must say including him in that display was offensive and I do not regret it!
Kennedy argues that we cannot slap the “sellout” label on just anyone. We should have strong evidentiary support for our arguments. Evidence that shows that their actions are knowingly and intentionally. My initial response to that was yeah so??? Kennedy then provides Cory Booker as an example. Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark was quickly labeled an Ivy League educated sellout after he received praise from white politicians. Mayor Booker recently spent his time shoveling people out of the recent snowstorm. He even answered calls for help on twitter! That does not fit my definition of a sellout. It’s also troubling that his education made him an easy target. The quick labeling of Booker opened my eyes to the flaws of this “sellout” label.
I began to question how this term was being used in African American society today. Then I had to ask what exactly are we selling out from? Who decided that African Americans are supposed to believe this or that? I have a strong feeling that somewhere Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are making decisions on what we should and should not believe in as African Americans and that just disturbs me! For one I never voted for them to be the leaders of the black community, and their intellect is suspect. I am also really suspicious of any “professional” in a church suit. Furthermore the African American community is not a political party that takes a stance on an issue. Although we share the same color and history we are not all the same. From social economic background, religion, and education the differences among African American people are worth noting. Even more importantly, these differences illustrate that we as a people cannot possibly all share the same views and opinions on hot button topics such as welfare or even abortion. So why are we expected to?
In the past we were fighting for one goal, equality. That one goal united us. I always think back to Jackie Robinson who realized that in everything he represented African American people. He could not fight any and everyone who called him a “nigger” when he took the field because this opportunity was not just about him. Then I fast forward to Michael Jordan, and realize that things have changed, dramatically. I am not saying that Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color barrier so that Michael Jordan could become a mega star and sell $150 sneakers to kids in the hood. The distinction between Robinson and Jordan shows that we are now at the table and free to be who we are and not carry the burden that every action must be for the benefit of our race. I cannot say that I will take this “freedom” as far as Michael Jordan because I do have a passion for the plight of African Americans in America today. I feel as though so many people fought and died for us to be able to fulfill and live our dreams just as other Americans have always done. If my dream is to become a partner in a huge firm rather than public interest work in inner city communities I should be able to do this without being called a sellout.
If we are free to be the people that God created then we should not attack people like Clarence Thomas for their views simply because they do not fall inline with what we believe the majority of African American’s think. Lets raise real questions about his stances from a legal standpoint not from a racial standpoint. So now I will just say that Clarence Thomas is an idiot whose arguments against affirmative action are weak and ridiculous. I will not attack him for not following the “party line” i.e. African American community. I will not attack him for using the great Thurgood Marshall’s seat on the Supreme Court to attack policies that Marshall worked so hard to establish. I will not even hit below the belt and discuss his choice in mates. This may be difficult.