I wrote about the concept of “selling out” before on this blog. That post is at the link below:
I won’t rehash what I said in that post here, but given the events sparked by the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, I am witnessing a resurgence of the term “sellout” on both social media and traditional media.
The Bill Watterson quote that opens this post is, from my perspective, not up for debate. A person is easily and quickly labeled a sellout when that person does not conform or refuses to conform to what a larger collective, or even society itself, prescribes as the right and proper way to think or behave.
One of my favorite scenes from the television show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, illustrates this paradigm most succinctly:
Just because Carlton Banks (portrayed brilliantly by actor and dancer Alphonso Riberio) did not fit someone else’s image of what a black person should be or how a black person should think or how a black person should comport themselves, he was refused entry into his college’s fraternity. Carlton was judged for being born in affluence while black, as if that were a crime.
This happens despite the fact that they admit his cousin Will (even more brilliantly portrayed by entertainer Will Smith), who lives in the same affluent abode (albeit, Will didn’t grow up rich, but that’s beside the point).
Carlton’s response presents a lesson a lot of people can stand to learn and highlights a point one my readers proffered in the comments of a previous blog post…
“Being black isn’t who I’m trying to be, it’s who I am”.
The feedback I received from the reader (in response to my Mark Cuban post) is that (copied almost verbatim) “white people” is a group who’s members had no choice in joining, same as “black people” or “men” or “women” or “natural born American” or anything that is a circumstance of birth. Thus, people in the collective they had no choice in belonging to owe nothing to anyone on behalf of that group. No one needs to change because of their accident of birth that made them white, and no black person needs to do so either.
To summarize that point, no one should conform to the expectations of the collective, so long as in not conforming, that person does not infringe upon the natural rights and natural freedoms of others. Additionally, no one should compromise their deeply held beliefs and genuine personality just because it doesn’t align with a collective behavior model based on tribalism.
Keep these salient points in mind the next time you hear someone call another a “sellout”.
-The Rational Ram