Jewish World Review June 10, 2005 / 3 Sivan,
A must read
Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that there are some
intelligent people out there who have never read anything by Thomas Sowell.
(I know, I know, the chances are remote, but work with me here.) They've
never enjoyed his fascinating excursion into group traits in "Ethnic
America," nor his penetrating analysis of what has gone wrong with the
schools in "Inside American Education," nor his brilliant dissection of the
inevitable pitfalls of regulation in "Knowledge and Decisions." There is
hope. His new volume, "Black Rednecks and White Liberals," offers a taste of
some of his earlier work as well as a cornucopia of new insights. Indeed,
the new book is so clarifying and so wise that even experienced Sowell
readers will find much that is new.
The title refers to the first essay, which argues that many of
the traits commonly considered "authentically black" are actually the
inheritance of the white redneck culture amid which many blacks lived for
centuries. These include hair-trigger touchiness on the part of men,
anti-intellectualism, pride, sexual license, backwardness and laziness.
Speech patterns that persist among ghetto blacks today "ax" for ask,
"bile" for boil, "do'" for door, and "dis" for this are traceable to the
regions of Great Britain from which white Southerners came. Black
and white children from the South lagged academically behind
their peers in the rest of the nation throughout the 20th century. This is
well-known. What is less well-known is that "black soldiers from some
Northern states scored higher on mental tests than whites from some Southern
states during the First World War."
Further, schools established for blacks by 19th-century New Englanders in the South imported a very different set of values and expectations, and black youngsters, like W.E.B. Du Bois, rose to the challenge. "In 1871, the Georgia legislature created a board of visitors to attend public examinations at Atlanta University. The chairman . . . reportedly said that he expected the examinations to confirm the Negro's inferiority. But the recitations of former slaves in Latin, Greek, and geometry forced from him the confession that 'we were impressed with the fallacy of the popular idea . . . that the members of the African race are not capable of a high grade of intellectual culture.'"
Sowell's majestic intelligence and humane sympathy shine through
on every page. The chapter on "Black Education: Achievements, Myths and
Tragedies" is especially powerful. Here is an elegy to Dunbar High School, a
public school in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1870, Dunbar produced academic
excellence among its black students at a rate that today seems out of reach.
"Black Rednecks and White Liberals" ranges widely from a
learned essay on slavery worldwide to an examination of the German national
character. This book affirms Thomas Sowell's status as one of America's most
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.