The Age of the Sellout

Last Sunday I was blessed with the opportunity to hear and see one of the top public intellectuals of our time, Dr. Cornel West. Dr. West came to Washington, D.C. to preach at the Sunday morning service at Howard University's historic Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel. The sermon was a critique of society's propensity to exchange virtue for currency. Dr. West summoned the writings of W.E.B. DuBois, who posed a series of questions, in one of his lesser known bodies of work The Black Flame Trilogy, which reflect the values he believed should have been deduced from the Black Freedom Movement. Those values are integrity, honesty, decency, and virtue. Dr. West believed that of those four values, integrity was the most severely lacking in our current culture.

By definition selling out is the compromising of integrity, morality, or principles in exchange for personal gain. Whether it be the music industry, local/national government, the news/media, or the sports world, we see sell outs everywhere. What hurts the most is that for the last 10 months I have felt like a sell out. This feeling has come from compromising my integrity in exchange for readership and followers.

The word integrity comes from the same Latin root as integer and implies a wholeness of person. Just as we would talk about a whole number, so also we can talk about a whole person who is undivided. A person of integrity is living rightly, not divided, nor being a different person in different circumstances. A person of integrity is the same person in private that he or she is in public.[1]

Since the beginning stages of creating The Ghetto Monk I have strategized and theorized about how to get views and traffic to the blog. I find nothing inherently bad about that, but it was the way that I went about it that was a cause for concern. My early content was very safe and anyone who has followed me on twitter at any point in the last five years knows that that is not what I am about. I like to push buttons. I like to antagonize (in a good way). I like to confront the reality of the world we live in. I like to highlight injustice anywhere I see it and hopefully offer some kind of solution.

I was caught up in trying not to offend anyone. I wanted to appeal to both my conservative and progressive readers; my old and young readers; and my Black and non-Black readers. I was playing both sides of every fence. I had compromised my integrity as an aspiring revolutionary and as a radical follower of Christ to appease others and to gain followers who would serve only to boost my ego. I was divided.

I began to feel incomplete and unsatisfied with my writing. I started to question if I was even supposed to be writing at all despite the great feedback I had received over time. I then had a string of four events which were completely dissociated and random that reassured me of my purpose and calling. The first was a tweet from the chapel minister at my alma mater in which he informed me that he was able to keep pushing forward in environments that could possibly become hostile toward him because of his beliefs by reminding himself that his voice has value. Just a couple days later I received a text message from a former classmate of mine that reminded me that my voice was important to him at the very least and that the work I am doing is needed. That following Sunday I was invited to the church home of one of my coworkers and the pastor preached a sermon on discipleship. I thought that sermon was the culmination of that week's affirmations until I went to my parent's house after service and before I could even tell my dad about everything that was going on he asked me to grab a Bible off of his book shelf and read Psalm 73 to him. 

I usually don't need it to be that clear for me to say, "Ok, God I get it." 

Philippians 4:8-9 has been helpful on my path to regaining my integrity. The scripture states, "Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you." 

The irony in all of this is that from the almost 50 posts that have gone up over the past 10 months, the ones that are most true to the type of content I wish to broadcast are the ones that have received some of the highest page views.

The sad reality is that today the norm is to compromise the four values mentioned above to gain wealth, notoriety, or power. Often, this "by any means necessary" attitude leads to a competitiveness and a self-ambition that sharply contrast the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5.  In the end, I want to be known as someone who was virtuous, full of integrity, honest, and decent.

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