MAXWELL:  The man is no sellout

12/21/1997 – Printed in the PERSPECTIVE section of the St Petersburg Times Newspaper

 

I have never met 38-year-old Lonnie Carpenter. I have only read about him in the St. Petersburg Times and heard a few black people here castigate him as a “sellout” and an “Uncle Tom” because he is a black Republican, a law-abiding citizen, a business owner and a supporter of the local Weed and Seed program, a two-pronged federal effort that uses the police to clear out drug dealers while investing in business and social programs.

I am writing about Carpenter because he, along with many other African-Americans nationwide, faces the wrath of his own people for daring to challenge conventional black thinking.

Is Carpenter a sellout, a black person who has adopted the ways of whites and works against the best interests of his own people?

No, he is not.

Carpenter and others like him are civic leaders, conciliators, decent people. Again, his crime is that he dares to be his own man. “You can’t buy me, and you can’t boss,” he told a group of his black critics in a recent public meeting on Weed and Seed.

So, who are the real sellouts, the real enemies of African-Americans?

In general, they are those who mock the great legacy of dignity, decency, self-reliance and community sharing that gave our forebears their ability to survive more than two centuries of enslavement, human degradation and violence.

Specifically:

+ They are the drug dealers who sell crack and pot to our children; who stand on our corners and destroy the tranquility of our neighborhoods; who block traffic and disrupt businesses; who fire weapons and force law-abiding citizens to scramble for cover in their homes; who have frightened ordinary blacks into silence and apathy.

+ They are the self-loathing males who think nothing of gunning down one another on the street; who shoot and rob hard-working residents for a few dollars or electronic equipment.

+ They are the older men who vamp on our girls and impregnate them; who refer to our women as “bitches” and “ho’s.”

+ They are women and men who have children but refuse to properly care for them.

+ They are parents who devalue the power of and need for education; who refuse to read to their children; who refuse to send their children to school; who refuse to teach their children discipline.

+ Sellouts are those who refuse to work; who would rather make their way through criminal activities.

+ They are those who take no pride in their personal appearance, while inculcating the same negative values in their children.

+ They are those who refuse to watch their health, while teaching their children the same poor habits.

+ Sellouts are those who do not support the positive efforts of other blacks; who pull down others.

+ Sellouts are those who view themselves and other blacks as perpetual victims; who routinely blame whites and others for their problems.

+ They are those who persuade our boys that they should physically challenge police officers.

+ Sellouts are those who permit our children to believe that being smart is “acting white,” that academic success is to be shunned.

Carpenter is none of the above.

When most other blacks in St. Petersburg would not step forward, he volunteered to co-chair the Weed and Seed Steering Committee. And he is not a St. Petersburg native, but his sense of civic duty drives him to get involved in the affairs of his adopted hometown.

We as blacks will never become part of mainstream America so long as we dismiss the values that universally underpin success. At some point, we must understand that people such as Carpenter are our salvation _ not our damnation.

He is a man we should want our sons and daughters to emulate. Instead, he is denigrated and shouted down in public meetings. If a good man such as Carpenter is considered a sellout, we as black people are in big trouble.