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The Definition of Sellout

In his latest book, Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal, Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy continues to tackle the sensitive racial issues that fueled his previous works, Interracial Intimacies; Race, Crime, and the Law; and Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word. Released in early January, Sellout finds Kennedy calling for a far more rigorous examination and definition of the oft-bandied-about term. The author focuses on the notion of racial betrayal, himself having been accused of “selling out” by some members of the African-American community for contesting more liberal orthodoxies on race.

Along the way, Kennedy provides remarkable insight into what it means to be considered black, by challenging Barack Obama’s assertion that being black wasn’t so much a conscious choice but an inevitability, and by spending an entire chapter explaining that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s questionable challenges to affirmative action (while previously benefiting from it) don’t make the high court’s first black justice a “sellout.” Kennedy discusses this timely and sensitive topic at Books & Books at 8 p.m.
Thu., Jan. 31, 2008


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