Success With A Name Tag: Why Do Overachieving Black People Have To Be “Sell Outs?”






So if you strive to reach your goals and become a knowledgeable human being, you are a “sell out?”

By: Taren Vaughan

“Sell out”…two words that some brothers and sisters hear all the time. You know, the ones who date outside of their race or the ones who choose to go to school instead of hanging out on street corners all day and night. Being called a sell out is not foreign to these people, especially not to the ones who have sought higher education and run successful businesses. The question is though, …Why? Why is it that these African Americans are coined as the ones who sold out?

Maybe it is because they do not carry themselves like the typical Black person.

They took on too many characteristics of White people I assume?

Honestly, this whole “acting black” thing puzzles me because when you open the dictionary, there is no clear cut definition for “acting black” or “acting white”. These are sayings that society generated to make us believe that they exist, thus we continue to frequently use them.

Well then, could it be because the sell outs do not want to live up to the “lovely” stereotypes that are placed on us?

Well, let’s look at some of them:

“All Black people are more concerned about what’s on their bodies rather than what’s in their heads.”

Hats off to some of our big spendin’ brothers and sisters who would rather drop massive amounts of dollars on what they are wearing than buy a $10 book to read; they bring much validity to this statement.

“All Black people are loud and obnoxious.”

I am not even going to go there.

“All Black people are lazy and uneducated.”

This just brings me back to the original point that these are not stereotypes we would want to uphold.

So why be mad that the educated and successful chose to go the other route? Is it more so because they don’t live up to the standards of Blackness that some arrogant group of negroes put together themselves?

Oh yeah, I forgot we all have to measure up to a creditable level of Blackness even though our skin color is blatantly obvious to the world.

So what is the real reason for the name calling?

Quite frankly, I think it is a mixture of all of these things.

As much as some of us say that we despise the stereotypes that are associated with our race, we sure as hell try our hardest to live up to them.

And that is when the successful and educated are bashed repeatedly.

They are trying to let go of those views and shine some much needed light on the positive things that African Americans are doing within their career fields, community, entertainment, politics, and athletics. We have come a long way as a people, thanks to those successful “sell outs”. But yet and still, they are criticized for doing good things and not feeding into the ignorance.

Ask yourself this: Was Martin Luther King Jr. a “sell out”? Was Rosa Parks a “sell out”?

Their hard fought efforts in the Civil Rights Movement broke down barriers for our generation. They had to educate themselves on certain things and rub elbows with the “White Man”, as some of us like to put it, in order to do so.

I think some of us get “selling out” and “excelling” confused.

Going above and beyond, exceeding the low expectations that are set for us is not by any means selling out. It simply proves that we can be more than what society tells us we can be. We have no limitations when it comes to what we are capable of doing, as individuals and as a race as a whole.

“Sell Outs” start movements. “Sell Outs” make significant changes. “Sell Outs” do the unexpected, the unthinkable and aren’t afraid to step outside of the box.

So would you rather be a “sell out” or buy into the stereotypes?

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