Overused Terms (2): Sellout

black-woman-white-man-swedenNote: This is part 2 of a series on overused terms

Racial sellout is a term applied to a person who is disloyal to their racial background and history in order to gain economically or socially. The racial sellout can be a person whose political or personal beliefs, or way of acting and thinking differ from the majority of their race, or one who denies their racial heritage. The racial sellout can also be a person who dates or marries outside of their ascribed racial group.

In the case of the interracially involved person, the term is often applied to a non-white woman dating or married to a white man. Presumptions are made about the person’s motive for dating a person of another background. These assumptions include the person dating or marrying for social or economic advancement, the person discounting their racial background, and the person desiring a partner who is not of their race. When examined closely, these notions don’t hold up to scrutiny:

1. Interracial marriage equals economic and social gain


It is assumed that interracial marriage, particularly that of a white person to a non-white person, brings financial gain to the non-white partner. This is not so, according to studies on the subject. Interracial marriages, especially interracial marriages involving a non-white woman, most commonly take place between people of similar income levels. Research has shown that as a person’s socioeconomic level increases, their likelihood of dating or marrying interracially also increases. This suggests that greater income should be seen as a result, at best, of interracial marriage, and not a cause of it.


Interracial marriage and dating does not change a person’s racial or ethnic status, or any social factors that may come along with it. If a marriage includes a non-white person and a white partner, any children they have will not have the racial status of the white parent, but more likely be perceived as closer to the non-white parent.

indian-woman-white-manAs a result of their perceived racial status remaining unchanged, the interracially married person will also likely incur social stigma for marrying outside of their race. Stigma such as being presumed a racial sellout.

2. The interracially involved person discounts their racial background

The term sellout implies that a person is trading in their racial heritage for gain. But being interracially married does not mean that a person has to disregard their own background. In fact, an interracially married person may be closely involved with their cultural background and people of their ascribed race and have a strong sense of ethnic pride. They may bring this awareness to their marriage and any children they may have. Historically, several leaders against racial discrimination have been interracially married. Their marriages did not diminish their attention to pressing racial matters.

3. The interracially involved person desired a partner who was not of their race

As always, before assumptions are made, the reality that a person may sincerely love a person of another race; without ulterior motives or racial self-loathing must be acknowledged. Despite the racial inequalities throughout many societies in the past and present, some people don’t view race as a factor or see beyond it when choosing potential partners.

See also:

14 thoughts on “Overused Terms (2): Sellout

  1. Great post! I’ve been called a sellout before, and it’s baffling because I still don’t see what I’m selling. All of a sudden, negative people want to be your psychologist and tell you what’s wrong with your mentality when you date interracially *rolls eyes*.

  2. Eliss,

    “I’ve been called a sellout before, and it’s baffling because I still don’t see what I’m selling.

    LMAO. Indeed.

    “negative people want to be your psychologist and tell you what’s wrong with your mentality”

    Didn’t you know? You can tell so much about a person by their decision to date someone not of their race. It speaks volumes about their background, beliefs, self-worth, etc.


  3. Are whites who date outside the race called sellout?

    The problem with the whole concept of “selling out” by dating outside the race is the assumption that the person forgets about true values, “who she really are”, for social or economic gain. It’s like sleeping with the enemy. So people completely forget about the fact many (most?) IR relationships, at least the ones long term relationships/marriages are usually NOT about your partner being of a different race. I mean, maybe it can work for fetishes, but that’s all. Didn’t these people heard there are those who marry a person who happens to be of a different race… Without any conscious plan to date “X race”.

  4. Mira,

    “Are whites who date outside the race called sellout?”

    Generally, no. Because it’s not seen that they have anything to gain by dating out. But I’ve heard some racist/xenophobic whites use the term for whites who date or marry interracially.

    “It’s like sleeping with the enemy.”

    If you’re a black woman dating or married to a white man, you literally are, according to some.

    You’re absolutely right that many interracial relationships are not about race. Race is one aspect of the partner, but it doesn’t have to be the most overwhelming, by any means. For those that have been with their partner for a long time, it’s even easy to forget your partner is a different race (unless you are reminded by others…).

  5. Eish. Sellout? We don’t call girls who marry outside their race sellouts. The only ones that I can put that label on was the informers that was everywhere in the townships spying on us for money and favors.

    Not that it’s not frown upon marrying outside for the most part. But it’s like this, A Xhosa girl is suppose to marry a Xhosa boy. Marrying another tribe is like marrying someone of another colour, heck in some parts you get totally frozen out especially in my culture (very male dominated and to be totally honest some of us got a bit of a superiority complex being Zulus) .

    Khawuleth’umshini wami 😉

  6. Nkosazana,

    “We don’t call girls who marry outside their race sellouts.”

    Is there a term equivalent to sellout in SA/Zulu culture? I used to know a South African woman online who lived in Europe and she said some of the SA men there don’t like for SA women to marry “out”.

    I know it’s just as important in many African cultures to marry a person of the same ethnic group as it is to marry a person of the same perceived race. Some black Americans dating or married to Africans are surprised that African families aren’t any happier to see one of “theirs” marry a black American, even though they are also black.

    “Khawuleth’umshini wami ;)”

    I need a good online translator for Zulu…

  7. Talking about me ? 😉

    Well. The men ain’t fond if it at all, but I don’t think you get branded as a sellout of our race, a Zulu man won’t care about what a Xhosa girl does so there’s not that kind of “race loyalty”. Well I guess you can say “sellout” of our culture. So I’m guessing you do get branded as a sellout lol just not a “race” sellout. It just hurts a bit more I think in their eyes if its with a non black person, especially white because of our history. So you get a bit extra abuse about that :P.

    Ah It’s hard to explain and I’m probably contradicting what I have said before since I’m trying to go down in more detail of how we think 🙂

    I’m racking my brain here.. I guess what I can come up with right now is “top deck” . The men are very fond of hurling words like prostitute and white mans dog though.

    Oh yes I know that some ain’t happy to marry you girls/boys at all. Nigerians got very nasty words for you black people in the states for example (Ironic since every other African nations says the same thing about Nigerians that the Nigerians says about you).

    Ah and that last sentence was just to make up for the bad things I said about my culture though lol. Black power!

  8. Nkosazana,

    “Talking about me ?”

    Lol. No, actually. This one doesn’t live in Sweden.

    “Well I guess you can say “sellout” of our culture. So I’m guessing you do get branded as a sellout lol just not a “race” sellout.

    Yes, I’d heard it’s less of a race issue and more of an ethnic/culture issue.

    What is “top deck”? I’ve heard “white man’s dog”, except the last word is exchanged for its less appropriate synonym…

    “Black power!”

    But of course. 😉

    ETA: Never mind, I think I know what “top deck” means…

  9. You google it? 🙂

    It’s a reference to a local chocolate bar that is black with white on top of it.

    Oh I got a tons of slurs for men like hubby as well. Most of them is Afrikaner in origins though.

  10. Nkosazana,

    “It’s a reference to a local chocolate bar that is black with white on top of it.”

    Oh, I thought it meant something else. Still, that is a bit… blatant. But to be expected.

  11. The term “sellout” should only be reserved for musicians who start off being all about the music, and then start using their celebrity to start endorsing crap products for cash.

    The term “sellout” implies you betrayed your principles for material gain. Nothing to do with who people choose to love.

  12. AJ,

    Hey, some musicians might actually like the products they endorse.

    And I agree that the term should not be applied to love and marriage, or at least not as often as it is.

  13. Greger,

    Funny, neither do I. 🙂

    I understand why some would think it strange, but to me it never was anything too different.

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