Recently, a group of folks gathered at a private meeting to discuss “economic investment, development and revitalization” in West Louisville. The headliners included Kentucky Gov. Matthew Bevin. For readers unfamiliar with Bevin, he is the uber-conservative politician who had the brilliant idea that violence in black communities could be cured by prayer teams marching along city blocks (no, that is not a joke). Apparently, Bevin also convinced black advisers to Donald Trump, Pastor Darrell Scott and “activist” Kareem Lanier of Ohio, who are members of the “National Diversity Coalition for Trump,” to attend. He urged them to consider using Louisville as a pilot city for the Coalition’s 13-point urban revitalization plan.
Bevin is nothing if not consistent. He continued with his attacks on black people, thinly veiled in concern and offering insultingly paternalistic solutions. He reiterated his often-stated arguments that “busing, government assistance for low-income families and other solutions aimed at helping people are not working to lift the community.” Bevin opined that he has actually seen the antithesis, and the city has failed residents of the poorest neighborhoods. “I don’t see us making forward progress. I see it going sideways or backward,” he said.
Of course, Bevin is right — like many cities across the nation, Louisville has failed black and poor people. This is not a recent phenomenon, but the result of a long history of de facto and de jure white viciousness. The problem with Bevin and people of his ilk is that their solutions are not just off the mark, but are often completely nonsensical.
Interestingly, the event eventually devolved into a shouting match after Mr. Scott answered a question about harmful policies such as redlining. Scott admonished that he believes black folk focus too much on the past… and sometimes even make things up. “I think, in a number of cases, redlining is more imagined than real because we want to have that mentality that the white man is keeping us down or holding us back,” he chided.
Despite Scott’s attempt to define them out of existence, redlining and other forms of housing discrimination are real. Just ask the myriad of serious researchers who have proven that institutionalized policies have indeed been used to keep black people from buying homes in certain neighborhoods around the country. If you don’t believe the nerdy scholars, ask JP Morgan Chase, which paid over $55 million, or Bank of America, which paid $335 million in settlements, for discriminating against minority home buyers in recent years.
By embracing the thought that he is one of “Trump’s African-Americans” and confidently lying about redlining and other things, the good Rev. Scott revealed himself to be one of the most dangerous monsters in the black community. The people knew and rightfully shouted at him with his proper name — “Sellout!”
The sellout is not new. We’ve seen them on the silver screen for years. From Eric La Salle’s Bruford Jamison, Jr. in “Drop Squad” to Samuel L. Jackson’s Stephen in “Django Unchained.” We’ve also seen them in the real world. From Raven-Symoné’s maddening disconnections to Stacey Dash’s raging conservatism to Paris Dennard’s eye-popping adulation of Donald Trump, we see the sellout. There are many others — in the public eye and beyond. Ward Connerly, Ben Carson, Clarence Thomas, Shelby Steele, Walter E. Williams, Omarosa Manigault… and that smiling dude in the cubicle down the hall from you.
Put simply, a sellout is a person willing to betray their own people for fame, money, a job, access to privileged people, a mess of pottage, admission to a Kentucky Derby party or a piece of chicken. They have no boundaries. They will lie, cheat, steal and, in extreme circumstances, kill or set people up to be killed. It is not hard to see why sellout is an extremely derisive term in black communities and not to be used lightly. Most people would respond, “Them’s fighting words” if it is wrongfully affixed to them.
Passa Scott’s denial of redlining is a lie and is loaded with seething condemnation of black people in classic sellout fashion. It is akin to arguments that slavery wasn’t based on race, the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, black people are responsible for their own suffering and should “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps” or racism itself doesn’t really exist (and if it does, it is minimal).
Beware! Modern sellouts are no longer easily identifiable, malaprop prone, skinning and grinning clowns constantly barking, “Yassa, boss!” They are now much more sophisticated, but they dance the same dangerous jig. They are not clothed in tatters, but often don power suits and designer handbags. These new Toms are professionals — doctors, lawyers, politicos, preachers, judges, professors and board members of various institutions. Like COINTELPRO agents, some even head civil rights organizations or claim to be activists or diversity experts.
Make no mistake, this is not a dismissible exercise in name-calling or disrespecting different opinions. It is a righteous warning. Sellouts are dangerous and oppressive forces that have always been used to stifle progress. They are vulgar opportunists, callous conspirators, selfish capitalists and alarming careerists. These Judases are unapologetically more committed to pleasing the descendants of their former masters than they are to democracy, decency or truth. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “At some point, silence becomes betrayal.” We can neither join or remain silent about the sellouts for they are cogs in a soul-crushing hegemonic machine. To be tolerant of them is to give aid and comfort to racists, oppressors and their lackeys. I’m sure you know a few sellouts. It’s time to get to work and expose them for you know the damage they can do! •
Dr. Ricky L. Jones is chair of UofL Pan-African Studies. He is the host of “The Ricky Jones Show with 12 Mr. FTC” on The Real 93.1 FM and iHeart Radio. He can be reached at rickyljones.com.