Black Rednecks And White Liberals, by Thomas Sowell
This book discusses, among other things, aspects of race and culture that I have long noticed for myself, and it does so from the point of view of culture being far more decisive than race. For a long time , I have noticed the strong similarities between the quick resort to violence on the part of many young (and not-so-young) black men and the similarly hot-blooded culture of the Southern white male of the antebellum period and beyond. Other writers have taken that particular culture and shown that it was a part of the Celtic fringe of the British isles long before it was transmitted to the United States. It is also true that such a hot-blooded culture of honor is present to a high degree in the Middle East and Afghanistan and many other countries where poverty and ignorance reign to a high degree but where one had better not embarrass someone else or bring dishonor upon them. The author notes that the state of blacks in the contemporary United States has more to do with culture, namely a less than ideal culture that blacks have picked up from white neighbors and former masters, than it has to do with racism and discrimination. I for, one, agree with him.
This book is divided into a series of a few fairly large essays. After a preface, the first of the essays marks Sowell’s thoughtful discussion of the relationship between black rednecks, who adopted the prickly sense of honor of the white males around them, including a certain hostility to education, and the white liberals who see them as useful mascots and as ways to sublimate their own hostility to American culture but who do not necessarily wish to see improvement in the state of blacks, which often requires cultural change as well as a focus on education and self-discipline. After that the author turns to the fate of the Jews as reflecting a common fate among middlemen who are simultaneously necessary and resented by the societies around them. This leads to a discussion of the real history of slavery that does not only blame the west, and an essay about Germans and history and the way in which Germans do not deserve to be blamed for the sins of Hitler. The author turns his attention to black education and how early achievements were ruined by political behaviors starting in the 1960’s. Then the author closes this 300 or so page book with a discussion of history as opposed to visions and then the book ends with notes and an index.
There are a lot of things to appreciate about this book. Sowell writes with a firm awareness of historical context as well as considerable nuance, especially when it comes to his discussion of race and education and politics. He demonstrates that DeBois and Booker T. Washington were far more alike than they are often viewed to be, each focusing on part of a shared whole that involved academic education for black elites as well as vocational education for the illiterate black masses as the time that would help build an economic base for further education efforts. The author’s awareness of history and context allows him to paint a picture of the distortion that so much of identity politics has when it comes to practical benefit. The author shows himself very interested in serving the practical benefit of his people and reminding them (and us) that genuine success requires hard work, discipline, and a mastery of the facts that are present in given fields. There are no shortcuts to success that do not involve these critical elements, and in his devotion to hard work and factual detail as well as strong logic and firm rhetoric, he finds himself implacably opposed to mainstream leftist culture.
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