Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thomas Sowell: Black Rednecks and White Liberals

Thomas Sowell's Black Rednecks and White Liberals reads like a collection of essays. Once you get through the whole thing, it becomes evident that Sowell is marshalling many arguments toward a common point. Since he never says what the point is though, we may not all agree on the point, or even that there is one.

I think the point he's trying to make is that socialization has led America's Blacks into a backwater that stifles individual and group progress, and they need to abandon the culture individually in order to change things. There are chapters intended to show that individual progress is individually rewarding; that slavery isn't to blame for Blacks' current plight; that blacks have fared well in parts of the US in the past; and that culture can push members of a group in a common direction, but it doesn't determine outcomes.

Sowell addresses issues calmly in this book that nearly inevitably generate more heat than light. His publisher and many readers seem to give him more leeway to talk about the causes and effects of black culture than any white academic would be likely to receive. He uses the opportunity well to show how a culture that raises up sloth and an aversion to education will destroy any chance at progress, even of able members of the group. He spends a long time (and the title of the book) trying to show that the culture defended by Blacks isn't their own--Sowell traces its roots to poor white Crackers in Britain. It's not obvious that Sowell's derivation is correct, but if the argument starts the ball rolling on Blacks' coming to disown this disfunctional culture, he'll have done a major favor for all of us.

Two other sections stand out as having value for some audiences. (The history he presents wasn't news to me, but I suspect Sowell is right that Political Correctness is keeping the facts hidden from many people.) "The Real History of Slavery" points out that many other people and ethnic groups have been subject to slavery over the ages (and their descendants did fine a few generations later) in order to argue that it's unreasonable for Blacks to hold onto slavery as an explanation for their current troubles.

"Black Education" describes several high schools and colleges that have been able to routinely turn out educated and successful Blacks. Sowell shows that they did this while enrolling Blacks from all social strata, and didn't limit attendance to students who had already demonstrated academic competence. Sowell shows that in each case, the main difference between these successful schools and others at the time or other current schools was their expectations of the students and their approach to education. Schools with low expectations and lax methods don't produce superior results. Schools that accept inferior teachers (in the name of equal representation on the faculty) or that don't expel students who don't make an effort perform poorly. Sowell, quite explicitly, lays the blame for today's failing schools on "liberals" who insist that it is important to respect students' cultures even when the culture is opposed to achievement.


Cris said...

Bravo! Excellent review

Cris said...
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