When you’re an outspoken black conservative like I am, you grow accustomed to vile names, hate mail, disdainful attitudes, snide comments, and the like. For reasons unknown, Caucasians espousing conservative values are not sellouts to their fellow white folk, but blacks and Hispanics are. So people like me, Star Parker, Allen West, Kevin Jackson, Niger Innis, and others develop our own methods of coping with our bullseye cardigans. Whether just laughing it off, addressing it head-on, or ignoring it, we either develop a thick skin or don’t do what we do publicly.
Pretty much all of these personal attacks come from self-described open-minded, inclusive, minority-loving liberal types who cannot see the blatant hypocrisy of their own positions. Such is the case with an email I received on one of my social media pages not too long ago.
Little in life is more amusing than people who believe they are issuing an insult when in fact they’re doing the exact opposite. Examples of such ignorant lunacy populate our inboxes on a regular basis, but weeks ago, I received an email from a gentleman calling himself Kent that is a classic example of a comment intended as an insult but was in reality a compliment – in fact, very high praise. Kent’s email provides a unique teachable moment for those on the ideological left and right.
At the end of a hate-filled rant about “self-loathing,” “selling out my people,” “acting against my own self-interests” (how he has any idea what’s in my interest, I’ve no idea) and other such themes, Kent proceeded to – in very snide fashion – call me “Carlton,” a reference to the fictional cousin of Will Smith’s character, played brilliantly by Alfonso Ribeiro, on the 1990s situation comedy The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Along with many other Americans, Kent views Carlton as somehow “not black” because he does not “act black.”
Kent views calling me “Carlton” as an insult. It’s not. There are many things the Kents of the world do not realize.
It is patently racist to have expectations of behavior from people based solely upon skin color, as Kent does. I am black, Carlton Banks is black, thugs in prison are black, Denzel Washington is black. There are black homosexuals, Harley gang members, Army Rangers, chefs, flight attendants, drug sellers (both pharmacists and street pushers), realtors, priests, and poets. Kent believes that a person who is black is supposed to act a certain way – or more precisely, not act a certain way. That pre-judging itself makes Kent prejudiced (that’s why it’s called that, Kent).
Carlton, Condoleezza Rice, Ben Carson, James Golden and I do not have to behave in a certain way, speak with a certain dialect, live in a specific neighborhood, or do any of the things racists like Kent believe we ought to in order to “prove” our blackness. As Carlton’s character once told a “real brutha” in an episode, “black isn’t something I have to try to be. It’s what I am.”
I wish to heaven that far more young black men more closely resembled Carlton Banks. He was a role model we all should seek to mold our young black males after – much more so than Kanye, Snoop Dogg, or 50 Cent, or any of the other vulgarity-spewing media cretins whom many like Kent seem to assume we should act like.
Carlton Banks was a straight-A student at a very challenging (though fictitious, of course) private school (Bel-Air Academy). He was involved in student government, various clubs, and activities, and he ultimately was accepted to study law at Princeton University. The son of a two-parent family, he was the product of a loving household in which the parents married before having children and stayed together at least until his adulthood. This fact alone placed him light-years ahead of millions of other young black men in this nation.
Carlton’s parents were able to afford to send him, his siblings, and Will to an exclusive private school, (not unlike Sidwell Friends School, the exclusive private school the Obamas send their girls to and to which many poor black families in the D.C. area were able to send their children – right up until President Obama ended the program granting them that ability). They then were able to send Carlton on to Princeton because they were both educated, articulate, hard-working, successful professionals. Carlton’s father, Phillip, was a lawyer and partner in a thriving law firm, when he ran for office and won a judgeship – positions that not only provided his family a healthy income, but elevated his social status to one of the most respected members of his community.
Carlton’s mother was likewise an educated professional, having been a professor who earned her Ph.D. The family lived in a million-dollar home in a million-dollar neighborhood, were able to take family vacations the world over, dine in fine restaurants, and drive luxury European automobiles. Apparently they’d done a good job of managing money, preparing for their futures, and raising a family of five children into whom they placed principles, values, and moral compasses, and whom they instructed with love and necessary discipline.
To Kent (and many others), this is not “acting black.” Well, that’s the problem, Kent. It should be!
To the best of our knowledge Carlton did not do drugs, shoplift, consume alcohol, whore around, smoke cigarettes, or run with a crowd that did. Outside a few instances poor teenage judgment, as we all had, Carlton was an upstanding member of his school and community. The chances of Carlton having to check in with his parole officer while in and out of prison on a regular basis, impregnating multiple women then not sticking around to raise his children, wiling away in menial minimum-wage jobs well into his middle-age years, are virtually nonexistent.
So while Carlton may not have roamed the streets at all hours of the night with his hood rat buddies, dropped out of school, sold weed, and run afoul of the law the way Kent seems to think a “real” black kid ought to, that doesn’t make him “less black.”
The problem here isn’t Carlton or me; the problem is Kent and his thinking. Without realizing it, the Kents of the world are placing shackles on blacks. Characters on Fresh Prince were black Americans who obtained educations, sat on boards of directors, achieved financial freedom, traveled, and lived lives they chose to. Calling them nasty names is saying to aspiring blacks, “Don’t become like that.”
Excuse me? Don’t become like Phillip and Carlton Banks? Wrong. Become like them, as fast as you can. If you ask me, we need about five million more Carltons in the black community.