Randall Kennedy has a gift for choosing topics: In four years he has covered perhaps the three most crucial issues in intelligent black discourse. First came "Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word" (2002), a bestselling exploration of the N-word; then a book on black-white romantic relationships, "Interracial Intimacies" (2003), and now here is "Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal" (Pantheon, 228 pages, $22), on the tarring of certain black thinkers and figures as Uncle Toms taking a buck to work against the interests of their own people.
Mr. Kennedy, a Harvard Law School professor, is black, and part of what has driven him to write this book is being called a sellout himself on occasion, especially by people claiming that the title of the N-word book inherently condoned the usage of the word itself. Martin Kilson, Harvard's first tenured black professor, proposed that the goal of the book was "to assist White Americans in feeling comfortable with using the epithet."....MORE