The Politics of Racial Betrayal
By Randall Kennedy
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307388421, 240pp.)
Publication Date: January 6, 2009
Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover
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In this incisive and unflinching study, Randall Kennedy, author of Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word, tackles another stigma of America's racial discourse: “selling out.” He explains the origins of the concept and shows how fear of this label has haunted prominent members of the black community—including, most recently, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Barack Obama. Sellout also contains a rigorously fair case study of America's quintessential racial “sellout”—Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In the book's final section, Kennedy recounts how he himself has dealt with accusations of being a sellout after meeting fierce criticism at Harvard upon the publication of his book, Nigger.
Randall Kennedy is the author of Interracial Intimacies, Nigger, and Race, Crime, and the Law. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton and his law degree from Yale. A Rhodes Scholar, he served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He is a professor at Harvard Law School and lives in Dedham, Massachusetts.
“Sellout is brisk and enjoyable, no small feat given the density of its ideas. . . . Worth reading for the light it shines on many subtleties of black history.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review“Thought-provoking. . . . [Kennedy offers] illuminating evidence that, despite great marks of progress, race's stranglehold on the nation's collective conscious remains as strong as ever.” —The Washington Post“Fresh. . . . Elegant and open-minded. . . . Sellout does a great deal to complicate the politics of racial betrayal.” —Salon.com“A cool, clean case against the use of a backwards epithet that discourages something black America can hardly do without-coherent and original thought.” —The New York Sun