Working Class Traitor: The Sellout
Working Class Traitor: The Sellout. The label sellout has referents in cultural, social, political, and economic communities. In idiomatic use, sellouts are people affiliated with a person or group (who typically have subordinate social status) who are perceived to have betrayed that person or group, their interests, and/or an ideology or cause. To sell out is to betray a group and/or cause.
Sellouts are often betray their own ancestry, racial and ethnic communities to assimilate into predominantly white groups. Sellouts often attach no importance and discount the correlation white supremacy has on disenfranchised communities. As mentioned before, these groups might be family, kin, or friendship-based groups, or larger, socially constructed or imagined communities based on nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation, or class.
From Derrick Blackman’s (“Some Black Dude“) #IAmACoon video, Kevin Martin’s photo-op with Tomi Larin and Eric Trump and his “Make America Great Again” tweet to Charlamagne’s, “Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It” — not to forget Lil Wayne’s philosophy on #BlackLivesMatter, Paris Dennard’s defense of Trump’s Latest Speech and white nationalist support for Trump, and who could forget Tommy Sotomayor’s “Whores&Thots” and “Sistas Cant Keep They Mouth Or Legs Closed!” videos disparaging African-American women. A year ago, Sotomayor made a video attacking a black woman who accidently had a finder binder with his GMC truck. The video is too embarrassing to link. The actions of these men has the black community pushing out the sellouts.
What drives these men off the deep end into a world of turning their back on the black? First well look at anti-racial groups, because they often have a specific ideological orientation that requires solidarity or a cause. Sellouts are often traitors to the cause. The sellout’s attempt to benefit his/herself socially, culturally, politically, or economically has negative implications for the conscious group and a positive effect for white nationalist and supremacist. A racialist identity strategy permits access to intragroup altruism while identifying individuals for other group antagonism—that is, minorities versus white supremacy and vice versa. People working under this system have strong loyalties to their racial group and the causes of the collective membership, especially African-Americans. Thus, sellouts are individuals from the oppressed group who seem to reject the racialist identity strategy in favor of an individualist strategy, opting for alternative social norms for personal gain rather than for the norms and practices of racialist altruism. The sellout’s actions often hinder the collective racial advancement toward the group cause.
In Latina/o communities in the United States, Vendido/a (“sellout”), Tío Taco (“Uncle Taco”), and “coconut” (“brown on the outside and white on the inside”) are often used as derogatory labels for sellouts who betray their loyalties to the Latina/o group or their cause against white domination. Similarly, in Asian American communities a “banana” is a person who is said to be “yellow on the outside and white on the inside,” and in American Indian communities, an “apple” is “red on the outside and white on the inside.” Other referents to sellouts in the African-American community include “Oreo” (the cookie, “black on the outside and white on the inside”) and “Uncle Tom” (from the 1851–1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin).
Assimilation and acculturation are forms of selling out on a large scale through dissociating from the cultural, gender, class, racial, or sexual orientation norms and practices of subordinate group membership. Besides gaining access to resources denied the subordinate group, sellouts may have a more altruistic motivation, such as a desire to work within the system for change; nevertheless, they may be accused of selling out. Others may be motivated to sell out for personal security—that is, to avoid physical and or ideological persecution by the oppressing group. Sometimes sellouts are co-opted by the dominant group to promote their agenda, then “disposed of” without receiving the expected benefits. Or they may feel guilty for abandoning their original (subordinate) group and never achieve full acceptance by the dominant group.
Luis Urrieta Jr.’s work with Chicana/o activist educators (2005) highlights the complexity of the issue of selling out, illustrating that there is more of a gray area than the “either/or” dichotomy allows. The tipping point of when people are in danger of becoming sellouts is rather arbitrary, and selling out is idiomatically understood differently in various communities, thus eluding a standardized definition. Well, I've had some dark nights of the soul, of course, but giving into white supremacy for assimilation benefits would be selling out, and a sellout is a defeat.
- Darity, William A., Jr., Patrick L. Mason, and James B. Stewart. 2006. The Economics of Identity: The Origin and Persistence of Racial Identity Norms. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 60 (3): 283–305.
- Fordham, Signithia, and John Ogbu. 1986. Black Students’ School Success: Coping with the Burden of “Acting White.” Urban Review 18 (3): 176–206.
- Smitherman, Geneva. 2000. Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
- Urrieta, Luis, Jr. 2005. “Playing the Game” versus “Selling Out”: Chicanas’ and Chicanos’ Relationship to Whitestream Schools. In Performance Theories in Education: Power, Pedagogy, and the Politics of Identity, ed. Bryant K. Alexander, Gary Anderson, and Bernardo B. Gallegos, 173–196. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- Passage by Luis Urrieta Jr.