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What it Means to be Called a Sellout

What it Means to be Called a Sellout

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What do Barack Obama, Condoleezza Rice, Bill Cosby, Oprah, Michael Jackson, and Michael Jordan have in common? At some point, they've all been labeled a sellout — to their race. Another person who knows what it's like to be called a sellout is Randall Kennedy, and he takes up the topic in his latest book, Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal:

A "sellout" is a person who betrays something to which she is said to owe allegiance. When used in a racial context among African Americans, "sellout" is a disparaging term that refers to blacks who knowingly or with gross negligence act against the interest of blacks as a whole.

Perhaps surprisingly, Kennedy defends the existence of the "sellout" label, though with such a narrow definition that few — if any — people meet the criteria. Have you ever been accused of being a sellout? Is it something you worry about?