Ethnic America: A History / Edition 1by Thomas Sowell
Pub. Date: 03/28/1983
Publisher: Basic Books
This classic work by the distinguished economist traces the history of nine American ethnic groupsthe Irish, Germans, Jews, Italians, Chinese, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Mexicans. See more details below
This classic work by the distinguished economist traces the history of nine American ethnic groupsthe Irish, Germans, Jews, Italians, Chinese, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Mexicans.
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Thomas Sowell is well known for his insightful and thought provoking articles and books. He was never the one to shy away from a difficult subject, and that is certainly the case with as polarizing topic as race and ethnicity. In American political discourse, race and ethnicity are given either too much attention or not enough, and the motivations for the attention given are oftentimes misguided. Between the polar extremes of nativists and cultural relativists, there is a considerable room for exploration that has not been given proper attention. Behind the myth of America as a melting pot, there lays the reality of many ethnic groups arriving here and staying loyal to their ethnic and cultural identities for many generations at a time. For instance, the rate of intermarriage for the first few generations of immigrants is pretty low. Thomas Sowell is at his best when relating some peculiar historical fact about a particular ethnic group that more often than not hasn't made its way into the history books. He tries to be honest and fair to everyone, but he is not kowtowing to the PC rhetoric. The particular stories of different ethnic groups are enlightening and revealing of all sorts of different circumstances under which people have immigrated into the United States. However, it is not always clear when these stories are completely based on the historical evidence, and when they are just second or third hand accounts. Sometimes there is danger of painting the ethnic picture with too wide of a strokes. The only big problem that I have with this book is that it tries to convey the impression that the only major differences between ethnic groups in America are due to Culture. This is one of the themes that Sowell returns to a lot in his writings. The positive effect of that outlook is the notion that with a change of cultural outlook all ethnic groups are equally likely to better themselves and succeed in America. However, this neglects the growing amount of evidence that points to the fact that our biological differences do play a significant role in how we behave. Neglecting that lesson can have very undesirable consequences.
Sowell's writing should be required reading for all high schools, and college's.