Black Rednecks And White Liberals (Anglais) Broché – 2 juin 2006
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While I cannot recreate all the information and structure of each essay, and summarizing them in some way does them a bit of an injustice, I do want you to know why I am so enthusiastic about this book and want you to read it. The title essay, "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" demonstrates that so much of the urban "black" culture is really not African in origin, but comes from the now extinct culture of northern Britain. The folks who brought their culture with them from Scotland and environs tended to settle in the South, owned slaves, and became what we call Rednecks. The slaves took on the culture of their masters and this leads to the term Sowell uses in the title.
Protecting a dysfunctional way of living because it is in some way African is not only masochistic, it is a false concept. Instead, the rejection of education and literacy, casual sexual attitudes, and the failure to structure life to prepare for the future are actually artifacts of the slave master culture (that portion of slave holders who were Rednecks, that is). Sowell contrast this reality with what is done by White Liberals to protect Urban Blacks to the detriment of those supposedly being helped.
The second essay, "Are Jews Generic" brings up the reasons why not only Jews, but other minorities around the world (Chinese emigrants, for example) have become "middlemen" and why this has led repeatedly to resentment and persecution. Hence the idea of what we too often think of as "the Jew" can be generic and applied to different minority cultures and practices. Quite an interesting article.
"The Real History of Slavery" is my favorite essay in the book. Without mitigating the horrors, sins, guilt, or suffering caused by American enslavement of Africans, Sowell puts it in a broader context. His point is to show that the notion of slavery was actually part of human culture everywhere in the world. It wasn't considered racist. That is, it wasn't until the notion of human equality was enshrined in our Declaration of Independence and the idea of human equality and freedom took hold in the West. It was then the West that used their Imperial power to destroy the slave trade to a large degree (it still exists in some Muslim countries) all over the globe. This is a very fascinating and informative essay.
"Germans and History" asks the question of whether the rise of Hitler was something built into the German culture that flowered or whether it was a freak event. Sowell demonstrates the rise of the German culture and how Germans had suffered at the hands of others over the centuries. The author concludes that Hitler was not peculiarly German, but was using global trends including the arguments put forward by the American Eugenics crowd (you know them now as Planned Parenthood) and the kind of genocide pioneered by the Ottoman Turks on the Armenians in order to gain a political plurality, seize control, and then execute his murderous plan. As Sowell notes, what is frightening is that this implies that it could arise again in another culture if the right circumstances met with another leader of Hitler's violent extremism and racial hatred.
"Black Education: Achievements, Myths, and Tragedies" is an excellent history of education priorities in various cultures, in the Slave culture, and what was done to educate the Freed Slaves (and prevent their education), and what has been done to miseducate entire generations of children in the name of desirable social ends. Sowell compares what was accomplished in Black schools like Dunbar High before Brown v. Education and what has not been accomplished since then. This is a superb essay.
The concluding essay sums up material from the previous five essays and compares what is taken from us when history is not presented honestly and is corrupted by "visions" of the past. No matter how well meaning, it damages us all because history is our cultural memory. Sowell notes: "We do not have a choice whether or not to discuss history. History has always been invoked in contemporary controversies. The only choice is between discussing what actually happened in the past and discussing notions projected into the past for present purposes." This essay is full of great material and powerful insights.
While I do recommend more books than most folks have time to read, there are a few that I urge you to read and this is one of them. Get a copy and read it closely. You will benefit from it, be challenged by aspects of it, and learn from all of it. Excellent!
The northern region itself used discrimination methods not just against black rednecks, but to white rednecks. He notes that racism in the north started when ghetto blacks moved up north, being that the whites and blacks both were uncomfortable with the redneck culture within their community. Racism hardly existed in the north until the migration of blacks from the South after the emancipation of the slaves. He also notes that there weren't just white slaveholders. There were many black slave holders as well, notably in the southern regions of Louisiana.
In his thesis regarding the history of slavery, he notes that it was the Western civilization itself that took a stand against slavery around the world, and spent a huge amount of time and effort in order to push this ideology to free slaves from South America into Africa and throughout the world. He specifically notes that Britian was the primary force behind this movement. The Arab region and Africa both ignored emancipation of their slaves and continued to drive the slavery racket, even under pressure from Western nations. He also brings to light the fact that America was the only country that uses the black/white-slavery issue as a political based on race, even though slavery wasn't constrained to one race in other countries as well. Arabs enslaved Europeans, Asians enslaved other Asians. This happened throughout the world, and still does in some parts of Africa.
In the chapter 'Are Jews Generic' he makes the case clear that it's not just Jews that are consistently lashed out at, but there are other ethnic groups just like jews that are condemned not because of who they are, but because of how successful they are when immigrating into new societies to flourish and expand their family buisnesses. Being that some parts of the primary society at hand lag behind in economic terms, they tend to take their anger out on the small segments of society that move in and become middlemen by buying and selling goods in order to become successful from nothing. Envy drives the force of hatred among different types of ethnic groups, whether it be the Armenians, Jews, tribes from Indonesia, Asians, etc.
I have yet to get into the Black Education thesis, but had to post in regards to the rant above about how Sowell skirts the main facts of history, when the whole book is based on empirical evidence about the history of slavery and the Southern culture. Not only that, the reader that has beef with Sowell states that Sowell lashes out at the culture that participates in gang related movements, ie gangsta rap culture, etc because this behavior is not new. This type of behavior existed 200 years ago, and is just the expression of the ghetto culture that hasn't been brought out of poverty, mainly because our politicians praise this behavior as 'black culture', when in fact it originated through the redneck culture.
How can you argue against empirical evidence? Especially when you see a trend, evidence that comes from several sources?
I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. Vintage Sowell at his best. He compiles three decades of research into this one book.
Definently go out and buy this book!!! It's perfect to have by your side in order to counter the rhetoric used in todays political atmosphere.
Now in his mid-70s, Sowell's latest book of essays, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, doesn't break much new ground. But it forcefully summarizes many of his recurrent themes in a half dozen extended meditations on historical issues of great relevance to the contemporary world.
For example, in "Are Jews Generic?" Sowell outlines the tendency of the masses to persecute "middle-man minorities" such as Jews, Armenians, and the Overseas Chinese, precisely because of the value of their contributions to the economy.
In "Germans and History," he defends that much maligned nationality against insinuations, such as in Daniel Goldhagen's bestseller Hitler's Willing Executioners, that German history should be viewed as inevitably leading up to the Nazis. Sowell concludes, with his characteristic concern for the universal fallibilities of mankind:
"The racial fanaticism of Hitler and the Nazi movement ... were not historically distinct characteristics of Germans as a people. On the contrary, the rise of such a man as the leader of such a people should serve as a permanent warning to all people everywhere who are charmed by charisma or aroused by rhetoric."
Unfortunately, the title essay, "Black Rednecks and White Liberals," is the most questionable in the book.
Yet it features many acute observations. For example:
"By cheering on counterproductive attitudes, making excuses for self-defeating behavior, and promoting the belief that 'racism' accounts for most of blacks' problems, white intellectuals serve their own psychic, ideological, and political interests. They are the kinds of friends who can do more harm than enemies."
The central conceit of the essay is that blacks' troubles today in large part stem from their having absorbed the self-defeating culture of poor Southern whites.
As Sowell wrote in the Wall Street Journal (April 26 2005):
"The redneck culture proved to be a major handicap for both whites and blacks who absorbed it. Today, the last remnants of that culture can still be found in the worst of the black ghettos, whether in the North or the South, for the ghettos of the North were settled by blacks from the South. The counterproductive and self-destructive culture of black rednecks in today's ghettos is regarded by many as the only `authentic' black culture -- and, for that reason, something not to be tampered with. Their talk, their attitudes, and their behavior are regarded as sacrosanct."
But when examined closely, Sowell's theory exhibits major problems. Indeed, I suspect Sowell is really trying to get blacks to reject ghetto gangsta culture as not authentically black, but a borrowing from poor white trash. When I explained to my wife what I thought Sowell might be doing, she replied: "Hey, if it works, I'm all for it."
There's no question that for scores of years after the Civil War, the South was the poorest, worst educated, and least enterprising part of the country. The fairly rapid improvement in the wealth and health of the South after the spread of air conditioning following WWII, though, suggests that some of what Sowell sees as long-term cultural weaknesses were simply the initiative-sapping effects of too much heat and humidity.
Still, as historian David Hackett Fischer's landmark 1989 book Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America documented in overwhelming detail, the cultural patterns laid down by different groups of British settlers before 1776 still explain much about today's America.
Following Grady McWhiney's book Cracker Culture, Sowell attributes much of "redneck culture" to the Scotch-Irish, those bellicose Protestants from the violent Scottish-English border region and their descendents who had settled Ulster. During the 17th and 18th Centuries, the Scots-Irish migrated to America, especially to the Appalachian backcountry.
Sowell in turns attributes many aspects of current black culture to the Scotch-Irish, such as a tendency to react tumultuously to being "dissed." For example, President Andy Jackson, the exemplar of Scotch-Irish manhood, was admired by his followers for having fought several duels.
Certainly, the Scotch-Irish were more prone to brawl than the two dominant cultures of the 17th Century North, the intellectual Puritans of New England and the pacifist Quakers of Pennsylvania. But those two elite, self-selected religious groups were exceptional. The typical human culture has no doubt been closer to the Scotch-Irish than to the Puritans or Quakers. So correlations between the old Appalachians and the current ghetto-dwellers aren't proof of causation.
Even more damaging to Sowell's hypothesis, the Scotch-Irish tended to stay away from the blacks. They went to the highlands, both because disease was less of a problem for Europeans in the cooler uplands than in the lowland South, and because they disliked having to compete with slave labor.
Today, the state with the least educated whites is the prototypical Scotch-Irish state of West Virginia, which had so few slave-owners that it seceded from Confederate Virginia and joined the Union during the Civil War. Other heavily Scotch-Irish states like Tennessee and Kentucky have limited black populations, too.
Slaves tended to be owned mostly by big slave-owners on the tobacco and cotton plantations of the Southern lowlands. The planters were often descended from the second sons of minor aristocrats in southern England -- just as poor whites in the lowland South often originated among the servant and farm worker classes of southern England.
African-Americans may have assimilated more of the lowland Southern quasi-aristocratic prejudices, such as for grandiloquent multi-syllabic words (e.g., Jesse Jackson's style of speaking) and against manufacturing and shop keeping, than they inherited Scotch-Irish populism.
Consider Liberia. Freed slaves who were sent to Liberia reproduced the white Southern lowland social structure -- with themselves as the slave-owning aristocrats and the native blacks as the slaves.
As a black child growing up, I was consistently criticized by other blacks for not behaving in what they felt was true black culture. Now I have further confirmation that those kids were truly misguided and such situations demonstrate the danger of people not being cognizant of history. It would be one thing if Thomas Sowell were just writing information without any empirical evidence, however, he lists all of his sources and there are many.
I believe leaders such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Maxine Waters, and Charles Rangel need to read and acknowledge the truth that has been outlined in "History of Vision". Sowell explains perfectly how people are so addicted to their vision that they are willing to ignore hard facts or twist them to make their vision valid. This is a man more blacks should be listening too and not the demagogues aforementioned.
His essays are long and people who aren't into history may have a hard time getting through the chapters. However, it's still worth the read, and I plan to read Sowell's other books he's written.
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