Allowing for a wide range of opinions within the community, Kennedy seems to suggest, may be more instrumental in advancing the collective cause than requiring a consensus view. Alas, what is more likely is what has happened to Clarence Thomas, Bill Cosby, Oprah, and even Kennedy himself; those with viewpoints that run counter to the conventional wisdom of a given moment are accused of selling out.
While incredibly readable and engaging, Sellout does, at times, seem like a book written by a black public intellectual for other black public intellectuals. Kennedy’s failure to directly consider situations that do not involve names we regularly see in the news may alienate the average reader who wants to know how this book and its arguments may directly apply to his or her life.
It would have been interesting to hear more non-academic voices speak about their conceptions of selling out, perhaps by some discussion on the “Stop Snitching” phenomenon and the complex definition of selling out for young urban black men in their relationships with their communities and the legal system.
Sellout may not be as hefty as Race Crime and the Law or as controversial as Nigger but it still demands a good deal of thought. Whether or not one agrees with Kennedy’s conclusions, the questions his book raises are certain to cause a stir.
Uzodinma Iweala is a writer based out of New York City.