Kennedy ’77 examines ‘the politics of racial betrayal’
Even his name has become equated with disloyalty: To “pull a Clarence Thomas” is to sell out. But Randall Kennedy ’77, a Harvard law professor, Princeton trustee, and author of the new book Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal (Princeton University Press), told an audience at Princeton Thursday, March 6, that the charge is unfair. Kennedy had harsh criticism of Thomas’ judicial rulings, but he disagrees with critics who believe – largely because of Clarence’s opposition to affirmative action – that the justice has betrayed his race.
“Attacking Thomas’ view because he himself was a beneficiary [of affirmative action] is not a good argument,” Kennedy told about 40 people at a short lecture and book-signing at Chancellor Green. “Why should he be disabled from attacking it because he’s a beneficiary? What does that have to do with the merits of the policy? I criticize Clarence Thomas because he’s wrong.”
All groups have anxiety about disloyalty and betrayal, Kennedy says, though he focused on African-Americans in his book and Princeton appearance. W.E.B. DuBois was called the “black Benedict Arnold” in 1917 for suggesting that black Americans should subordinate to the war effort their protest against white supremacy; Barack Obama’s campaign has been dogged by the suspicion “in some parts of the black community that he must be a sellout – or what else explains his white support?” Golfer Tiger Woods, tennis star Arthur Ashe, superlawyer Vernon Jordan – at one point or another, Kennedy says, all have been accused of selling out.
To Kennedy, none of these people are sellouts – he reserves the term for someone who intentionally seeks to harm his or her group, or pursues a course of conduct that is inimical able to that group.
And group coercion to prevent selling out isn’t always bad, Kennedy argues – the Montgomery bus boycott succeeded in part because even when some black residents grew tired and wanted to ride the buses again, pointed persuasion made them think twice. Nonetheless, fear of the “sellout” label means that important viewpoints are never placed on the table, and policymaking suffers as a result.
Kennedy should know. He’s been called a sellout, too. By Marilyn Marks *86
Orange and black in Iraq
When television host and producer Aaron Harber ’75 traveled to Iraq in February, he was able to take part in a unique reunion of Princeton alumni, including the very familiar face at the center. From left, the alumni pictured are Harber, Lt. Greg Cullison *99, Ylber Bajraktari *06, Capt. Jeanne Hull *07, Gen. David Petraeus *87, Andrea McFeely *07, Nick Holt *06, Pei Tsai *06, and Sean Kane *05.
Cullison is a reservist with the Office of Naval Intelligence, and Hull is assigned to the Army’s Intelligence Transition Teams. McFeely, Holt, and Tsai work as foreign service officers at the U.S. embassy in Iraq, while Kane is a political affairs officer with the United Nations. Bajraktari is a presidential management fellow for the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Journal entries from Harber’s trip are available at his Web site.
Football’s Ancient Eight
For Love & Honor Productions recently announced the completion of “Eight: Ivy League Football and America,” an original feature-length documentary film that will premiere with a screening, hosted by the Ivy Football Association, at the Yale Club in New York City April 24.
“Eight,” produced by Erik Greenberg Anjou and Mark F. Bernstein ’83, senior writer for PAW, tells the history of Ivy League football from its earliest days to the present. It is narrated by two-time Tony Award-winning actor Brian Dennehy (Columbia ’60) and features interviews with Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier ’52, former Secretary of State George Shultz ’42, Academy Award-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones (Harvard ’69), Penn State coach Joe Paterno (Brown ’50), Pro Football Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik (Penn ’49), actor and Heisman Trophy runner-up Ed Marinaro (Cornell ’72), and others.
The film was directed by Anjou and edited by Karlyn Michelson. It features an original score by Grammy-nominated guitarist Gary Lucas. Additional details are available at the production’s Web site.
Names in the news
Economics professor Burton Malkiel *64 fielded questions about investing in China from readers of the Financial Times Feb. 29. … Peter Kaminsky ’69 wrote about one of his favorite fishing holes, a water hazard on a Florida golf course, in a March 3 New York Times story. … In an interview for Time magazine’s March 10 issue (also available as a podcast), author Jodi Picoult ’87 said that while she may write about dark subjects, she had “absolutely no trauma” in her childhood. “If anyone ever assumed that my books were autobiographical, they’d be sorely disappointed,” Picoult said.