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In this explosive book, Berkeley linguistics professor John McWhorter reports from the trenches of today's college classroom to offer a daring assessment of what's plaguing the children of yesterday's affirmative-action babies. The Civil Rights revolution was the pinnacle of American history, freeing African Americans from centuries of disenfranchisement. Yet, as McWhorter shows, it has had a tragic side effect. As racism recedes as a serious obstacle to black advancement, most black American leaders and thinkers have been misled into a self-destructive ideological detour. Victimhood is exaggerated and enshrined more than constructively addressed. Following from this, young black people are shepherded into a separatist conception of "blackness" defined largely as that which is not "white." This in turn conditions a sense, embedded in black American culture as a whole, that academic achievement is a "white" realm that the "authentic" black person dwells in only for financial gain or to chronicle black victimhood and victories.
McWhorter addresses these problems head-on, drawing on history, statistics, and his own life experiences. He shows that affirmative action in university admissions, indispensable 30 years ago, is today an obsolete policy that encourages the counterproductive ideologies of what he calls Separatism, Victimology, and Anti-intellectualism. Most perniciously, it prevents black students from demonstrating the abilities our Civil Rights leaders gave them the opportunity to nurture, and it deprives them of the incentive to strive for the very top.
Racism is not dead--but as McWhorter so persuasively argues, dealing it a death blow will require a reinvestment in the strength that allowed black Americans to triumph and survive this far. His pathbreaking book is certain to shock, inspire, and ignite debate among all those who care about race and education today.
The fact of slavery refuses to fade, along with the deeply embedded personal attitudes and public policy assumptions that supported it for so long. Indeed, the racism that made slavery feasible is far from dead in the last decade of twentieth-century America; and the civil rights gains, so hard won, are being steadily eroded.
— Derrick Bell, Faces at the Bottom of the Well, 1992
Tyson is in the pen now. Strange fruit hanging from a different tree. Yet the strangest of all walk among us — as long as they're free, white, male, and twenty-one. The greatest of these qualities is the freedom. I wonder how it feels? I am trapped and can only say "Nooo" and hope my scream is loud enough to discourage the monsters and keep them back until I am strong enough, powerful enough to fight my way free. Powerful enough to slip the noose from my neck and put out the fire on my flesh.
— Ralph Wiley, What Black People Should Do Now, 1993
What more do they want? Why in God's name won't they accept me as a full human being? Why am I pigeonholed in a black job? Why am I constantly treated as if I were a drug addict, a thief, or a thug? Why am I still not allowed to aspire to the same things every white person in America takes as a birthright? Why, when I most want to be seen, am I suddenly rendered invisible?
— Ellis Cose, The Rage of a Privileged Class, 1993
These quotes are from books written in the 1990s by successful black men. The conception of blackAmerican life they represent is considered accurate, or at least a respectable point of view, by a great many people black and white of all levels of class, education, and income, one indication of which is that all three books were published by major mainstream houses, all were soon released in paperback, and none was even the author's first book.
Yet most of us would be hard pressed to match these portraits with the lives of most of the black people we know. Are we really afraid that, as "civil rights gains, so hard won, are steadily eroded," Macy's is on the verge of refusing black patronage? Do all the black people we see at the movies, on planes, copping sports trophies, graduating from college, and eating in restaurants appear, even metaphorically, to have fire on their skin? Do we ruefully consider a home, a car, or a college degree — "things every white person in America takes as a birthright" — all but out of reach for the middle-class black people we know, who are the subject of Cose's book? How "invisible" is an author who manages to have books of his opinions regularly published by top presses? How many of us can truly agree with these authors that the Civil Rights revolution has had no notable effect upon black Americans' lives?
Without falling for the line that racism is completely dead, we can admit that these quotes reveal a certain cognitive dissonance with reality. Yet they are anything but rare, and are one of myriad demonstrations that there is, lying at the heart of modern black American thought, a transformation of victimhood from a problem to be solved into an identity in itself. Because black Americans have obviously made so very much progress since the Civil Rights Act, to adopt victimhood as an identity, a black person, unlike, for example, a Hutu refugee in Central Africa, MUSE exaggerate the extent of his victimhood. The result is a Cult of Victimology, under which remnants of discrimination hold an obsessive, indignant fascination that allows only passing acknowledgment of any signs of progress.
The charge that blacks engage in "peddling victimhood" is not new, but many might wonder how one could possibly criticize a group for calling attention to its victimhood. In this light, we must make a careful distinction. Approaching victimhood constructively will naturally include calling attention to it, and is healthy. However, much more often in modern black American life, victimhood is simply called attention to where it barely exists if at all. Most importantly, all too often this is done not with a view toward forging solutions, but to foster and nurture an unfocused brand of resentment and sense of alienation from the mainstream. This is Victimology.
Two contrasting examples will demonstrate. Marva Collins saw that inner city black students in Chicago were posting the worst grades in the city year after year. She founded a school combining high standards with rich feedback, celebration of progress, and a focus on self-esteem and upward mobility. Its successful techniques have been adopted by schools elsewhere in the nation. This is addressing victimhood as a problem.
On the other hand, Susan Ferecchio, a reporter for the Washington Times, visited the Afrocentric Marcus Garvey School to report on its progress in 1996. Asked to show her notes before she left, she refused according to journalistic protocol. For this, the principal Mary Anigbo told her to "get your white ass out of this school" and led a group of students in taking her notebook and then pushing, smacking, and kicking her from the premises. Anigbo first accused Ferecchio of pulling a knife on a student, then denied the episode ever happened, and then claimed that Ferecchio had deserved it. This was Victimology. What Anigbo did was meant not to allay victimhood but simply to express unfocused hostility: The physical violence Anigbo incited will do nothing to enhance the upward mobility of her students.In leading black American thought today, Victimology, adopting victimhood as an identity and necessarily exaggerating it, dominates treating victimhood as a problem to be solved. Most black public statements are filtered through it, almost all race-related policy is founded upon it, almost all evaluations by blacks of one another are...
|1||The Cult of Victimology||1|
|2||The Cult of Separatism||50|
|3||The Cult of Anti-intellectualism||82|
|4||The Roots of the Cult of Anti-intellectualism||137|
|5||African-American Self-Sabotage in Action: The Affirmative-Action Debate||164|
|6||African-American Self-Sabotage in Action: The Ebonics Controversy||184|
|7||How Can We Save the African-American Race?||212|
Preface In January 1999, David Howard, the white ombudsman to the newly elected mayor of Washington, D.C., Anthony Williams, casually said in a budget meeting with two coworkers "I will have to be niggardly with this fund because it's not going to be a lot of money."
Niggardly is a rather esoteric word meaning "stingy." Its resemblance to the racial slur nigger is accidental. It has been used in English since the Middle Ages, when black people of any kind were unknown in England, and had been imported to the country by Scandinavian Viking invaders in the 800s, in whose tongue nig meant "miser."
Howard's coworkers were a white person and a black person. The black coworker immediately stormed out of the room and would not listen to Howard's attempt to explain. Shortly thereafter, Mayor Williams curtly accepted Howard's resignation, his official position being that in a predominantly black city with a history of racial tension, Howard's choice of words was grounds for dismissal, akin to being "caught smoking in a refinery that resulted in an explosion." Black talk radio was abuzz with indignation, almost unanimously in support of Williams's decision. A former president of the National Bar Association, a mostly black group, was uncompelled by the fact that the word is not a racial slur, fuming, "Do we really know where the Norwegians got the word?" Meanwhile, David Howard was contrite, considering his dismissal deserved. "You have to be able to see things from the other person's shoes," he explained, "and I did not do that."
Niggardly is, to be sure, an awkward little word. Its chance resemblance to nigger issuch that many of us might quite justifiably choose to avoid it in favor of stingy, parsimonious, or penurious. There are words like that -- the original meaning of horny was "rough or calloused," and one formerly had this word at one's disposal in describing, among other things, voice quality. In the twentieth century the word happens to have acquired the slang meaning of "sexually aroused," though, and as such it is now gracious to avoid using it in its original meaning.
Yet it was difficult not to ask whether a man deserved to be cast into unemployment because of this innocent and passing faux pas, especially a man who had dedicated his career to a troubled, predominantly black administration, and who had never shown any sign of racist bias. For many black observers, however, this was beside the point. "How would another ethnic group react if you came close to the line with a phrase inappropriate to that group?" asked the former National Bar Association president.
That rhetorical question cut through the whole issue in its way, because in fact, there is no other ethnic group in the United States today whose sensibilities would lead to someone's summary dismissal for a mere unintended allusion to a racial epithet applying to them. If Howard had made the equivalent slip-up in a Jewish, Asian, Latino, or even gay association, he would have been dutifully taken aside and informed that such a word was not the most felicitous choice and that he would be best advised not to use it in the future. He would then have been allowed to continue in his efforts to do good work.
Whatever our opinions on what happened to David Howard, only in an African-American context is the image of a man cleaning out his desk for such an evanescent little flub even processible. In other words, the firing of David Howard was "a black thing."
Like Howard's gaffe, the niggardly episode in itself was a minor flap, which will surely be all but forgotten by the time this book is in your hands. Yet it was symbolic of larger things, whose significance comes through in a thought exercise.
In the 1970s, an anecdote used to circulate in which a man is killed in a car accident but his son lives and is taken to a hospital where the surgeon says, "I can't operate on him -- he's my son." Most people were more likely to puzzle over how the boy's father could be both the doctor and dead than to even consider that the surgeon was in fact the boy's mother, and thus a woman.
Now, keeping that in mind, imagine if a Martian came to our planet and asked to interview a representative member of several leading nations, and the representative of the United States was chosen by lottery, and that the person who came up was an African American.
The fact is that for most of us, this would require the same polite adjustment needed to spontaneously imagine a female surgeon. We know that, theoretically, black Americans are "Americans." However, it's a rather intellectual point for both blacks and whites. When writers like Shelby Steele and Stanley Crouch wax eloquent about black people being Americans and perhaps even the most American of Americans, they are pushing the envelope, stretching the boundaries, attempting a transformation of thought, not simply stating a truism. The reasons such statements are more transformative than observational is because in all of our hearts, black Americans are perceived as a "case apart" in a way that almost no other native-born ethnic group in the United States is today.
Our archetypal sense of the representative "American" would be a WASP male, for example. However, a female WASP would be perceived as no less "American," nor would a white Catholic male or female. Except for an increasingly small fringe of fixated anti-Semites, no one would perceive Jewishness as refracting the American essence to any substantial degree. Although the Irish would have strained most Americans' sense of "American" a hundred years ago, today, even Irishness worn on the sleeve would arouse no comment, nor would being Italian, a Pole in Cleveland, an isolated rancher from Wyoming, or even a poor Appalachian. Whatever their individual heritages, all such people are processed as being a fundamental "part of the fabric."
The native-born people who strain our sense of who representative Americans are include Latinos, who often speak Spanish natively and have strong ties to other countries; Asians, for whom the same factors apply; and American Indians, who also often speak another language natively, are descended from indigenes torn from this land, and are now often relegated to the margins of society, and as such often have only a hesitant sense of being "American."
In this light, it is significant that black Americans are as difficult to process as representative "Americans" as many Latinos, Asians, and Indians. This is perhaps unremarkable in the case of inner-city youth. Crucially, however, our sense of dissonance would persist even if the black American chosen was an upper-middle-class corporate manager living in a manicured suburb. Somehow, all of us, black and white, can imagine this person representing the American soul as a whole only after an awkward little pause. And yet, unlike many Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans, this person speaks nothing but English natively, as have all of his ancestors and relatives alive while he was. He has no ties to another country: His distant ancestors came from not one but a number of distinct African nations, and which nations these were is probably lost to history; meanwhile, he is unlikely to have even traveled to Africa. This man is an American: there is certainly nothing else that he could logically be. And yet to all of us, what this man is first and foremost, regardless of his tailored suit, Volvo, and walk-in closets, is "black." Certainly this is how most whites see him -- but crucially, this is also how most blacks see him. As the niggardly episode demonstrated, almost forty years after the Civil Rights Act, "black" is profoundly and incontrovertibly "different," drowning out all considerations of class, income, or accomplishment.
When someone asks "Why does everything always have to be about race?" the usual subtext is that whites keep this torch burning while black Americans are increasingly frustrated in their attempts to be accepted simply as "people." But this book is written in the belief that the idea that white racism is the main obstacle to black success and achievement is now all but obsolete. Today, ironic accidents of history have created a situation in which black Americans themselves are forced into the dominant role in making it so that most of us have to think twice to remember that even a black corporate lawyer living in the suburbs is an "American."
This is due neither to opportunism nor deliberate obstinance, despite frequent claims to the contrary. It is instead an externally imposed cultural disorder that has taken on a life of its own. As such, it no more justifies an indictment of the black community than a flu epidemic would justify censuring the administration of a city. However, we can only eradicate an epidemic and heal a community by identifying it -- trace it, face it, and erase it, as one hears in twelve-step programs. Along those lines, I will show that black America is currently caught in certain ideological holding patterns that are today much, much more serious barriers to black well-being than is white racism, and constitute nothing less than a continuous, self-sustaining act of self-sabotage.
Importantly, my conception of black American well-being incorporates anything any black American might subsume under that heading. For some, the main index of black American well-being would be integration. In that light, I believe that the black community today is the main obstacle to achieving the full integration our Civil Rights leaders sought.
Yet I am aware that integration is now a tired, distant, and fraught notion for many if not most African Americans. This is encapsulated as I write in a sitcom called The Hughleys, in which a black man moves his family to the suburbs and finds himself uneasy at the prospect that they will lose their cultural blackness in the course of daily contact with whites. Whatever the wisdom or folly of this anti-integrationist trend, for such people, black well-being would be less a matter of integration than basics like financial success and psychological well-being. Crucially, however, the main thing today keeping even these goals elusive for so many black Americans is the very mindset with which history has burdened the black community.
The ideological sea of troubles plaguing black America and keeping black Americans eternally America's case apart regardless of class expresses itself in three manifestations.
The first is the Cult of Victimology, under which it has become a keystone of cultural blackness to treat victimhood not as a problem to be solved but as an identity to be nurtured. Only naiveté could lead anyone to suppose that racism does not still exist, or that there are not still problems to be solved. However, the grip of the Cult of Victimology encourages the black American from birth to fixate upon remnants of racism and resolutely downplay all signs of its demise. Black Americans too often teach one another to conceive of racism not as a scourge on the wane but as an eternal pathology changing only in form and visibility, and always on the verge of getting not better but worse. Victimology determined the niggardly episode: The basic sentiment that racism still lurks in every corner led naturally to a sense that the use of a word that even sounds like nigger was a grievous insult, in alluding to a raw, relentless oppression and persecution still beleaguering the black community from all sides. The black coworker's bolting from the room deaf to appeal illustrated this, with the implication that the mere utterance of a particular sequence of sounds was an injury beyond all possible discussion, regardless of its actual meaning. More than a few black Washingtonians even surmised that Howard was using the word as a way of slipping the epithet in the back door, under the impression that racism this naked is still typical of most whites in private. Only in a community concerned less with solving victimhood than nurturing it would a mayor compare Howard's harmless little blooper to "being caught smoking in a refinery" and deny a man his job, instead of informing him of his mistake and allowing him to move on with the business of running the city.
The second manifestation is Separatism, a natural outgrowth of Victimology, which encourages black Americans to conceive of black people as an unofficial sovereign entity, within which the rules other Americans are expected to follow are suspended out of a belief that our victimhood renders us morally exempt from them. Because of this, the sad thing was that Anthony Williams was in a sense engaging in the business of "running the city" in accepting Howard's resignation. At the outset of his administration when the niggardly episode happened, the low-key, Ivy League-educated Williams was widely suspected of being "not black enough" in comparison to former mayor Marion Barry. He had first been chief financial officer on the control board that had taken over the city from Barry by order of Congress. He had gone on to be elected by whites and successful blacks, and had then brought a great many whites onto his staff. As such, Williams felt compelled to let Howard go in order to show his allegiance to the predominantly black constituency he had come to serve. Importantly, showing that allegiance meant firing a man for an innocent mistake. This irony was due to the fact that the Cult of Victimology has a stranglehold upon most of the black Washington community, and conditions various local rules considered appropriate for blacks in the name of victimhood, i.e., a Separatist conception of morality. One manifestation of this sovereign morality had reelected Marion Barry after he had run the city into the ground despite billions of dollars in Federal aid and been sent to prison for drug use. The idea that a white official uttering a word that sounds like nigger must be fired regardless of his intent w as simply one more manifestation. In other words, for Williams, part of running Washington, D.C., was showing that he was rooted in Separatism.
Separatism spawns the third manifestation, a strong tendency toward Anti-intellectualism at all levels of the black community. Founded in the roots of the culture in poverty and disenfranchisement, this tendency has now become a culture-internal infection nurtured by a distrust of the former oppressor. As I will demonstrate in this book, it is this, and not unequal distribution of educational resources, that is the root cause of the notorious lag in black students' grades and test scores regardless of class or income level, and this thought pattern, like Victimology and Separatism, rears its head in every race-related issue in the United States. "Do we really know where the Norwegians got the word?" I recall the former president of the National Bar Association asking in reference to niggardly. Yet the Scandinavians are not exactly well known for their role in the slave trade -- the Danes and the Swedes tried their hand briefly but never made much of a mark. This man might object that racism spreads nevertheless, but even here, a question arises: Blacks have been unjustly stereotyped as being many things, but "stingy" is not one of them. As such, how likely is it that niggardly would ever have referred to black people? How plausible is it that people picked up the slur nigger in a region where few people had ever even seen a black person until a few decades ago? Even if we somehow allow this, why exactly would they then proceed to apply the word to people who are tight with their cash? ("Come on, Sven, don't be such a nigger -- buy me a beer.") But this past president of the National Bar Association obviously did not pause to even briefly consider any of this, even before making statements to the press. A minor thing in itself, to be sure, but symptomatic of a general sense in much of the black community that to dwell upon such things as the origins of arcane words and, by extension, books, is "of another world," specifically the white one.
One of the most important things about these three currents is that whites in America do nothing less than encourage them. This is partly, as Shelby Steele argues, out of a sense of moral obligation that leads most whites to condone Victimology, Separatism, and Anti-intellectualism as "understandable" responses to the horrors of the past. More than a few whites have come to see the condescension inherent in this, but only the occasional few dare express their opinion openly or at any length, since such an act is as likely to attract excoriation from other whites as from blacks. Whites also unwittingly encourage all of these currents via well-intentioned social policies like open-ended welfare and permanent affirmative action, which are intended to help blacks overcome, but in practice only roil the waters under all three currents. Whites are now implicated in nurturing black self-sabotage not because of racist malevolence, but because of the same historical accidents that have encouraged blacks to embrace these thought patterns. Yet the fact remains that interracial relations in America have congealed into a coded kind of dance that unwittingly encourages black people to preserve and reinforce their status as "other," and a pitiable, weak, and unintelligent "other" at that. This, too, was evident in the niggardly episode, in which David Howard actually accepted the condemnation rained upon him by most of black Washington. Howard thought that he deserved to be fired for innocently uttering a word that even sounded like nigger, even though what he was doing while uttering it was helping to improve the lives of the city's citizens.
One misconception about these three currents is that they are merely fringe phenomena, minor overswings of the pendulum that need not concern us in the long run. However, adherents of Victimology are in no sense limited to the likes of melodramatically opportunist politicians such as Al Sharpton, academic identity politics mavens such as Derrick Bell and Lani Guinier, or sensationalist cultural demagogues such as June Jordan. On the contrary, Victimology has become, less fervently but with profound influence nevertheless, part of the very essence of modern black identity. It now permeates the consciousness of a great many black Americans in all walks of life, most of whom in a recent poll were under the impression that three out of four black Americans lived in ghettoes, as opposed to the actual figure, which is one in five. Similarly, the furious and militant separatism of people like former Nation of Islam official Khalid Muhummad is but the tip of an iceberg. The general sense that the black person operates according to different rules was eloquently demonstrated, for example, by the muted concern with the open sexism of the Million Man March -- what group in America could any of us even begin to imagine convening an all-male march in 1995 other than African Americans? The Anti-intellectual current is often thought to be primarily an inner-city problem typical of underclass youth alienated from poor schools, but is in fact a tremendous impediment to black culture as a whole, as shown by the little-noted fact that even middle-class black students tend to make substandard grades even in well-funded suburban schools where teachers are making herculean, culturally sensitive efforts to reach them. In short, these three currents are neither only inner-city ills, mere cynical ploys by politicians, nor just smug fantasy churned out from the ivory tower by the brie-and-Zinfandel set. They are so endemic to black culture as a whole that they are no longer even perceived as points of view, but rather as simple logic incarnate. In other words, these defeatist thought patterns have become part of the bedrock of black identity.
The most serious misconception about these three currents, however, is that there is nothing wrong with them, and even that they are an evolutionary advance that other identity groups would benefit from adopting. On the contrary, these three currents hold black Americans back from the true freedom that so many consider whites to be denying them. Victimology is seductive because there is an ironic and addictive contentment in underdoggism. However, it also inherently gives failure, lack of effort, and even criminality a tacit stamp of approval. In addition, because focusing on the negative debases the performance of any human being, focusing on remaining aspects of victimhood rather than the rich opportunities before us is a ball and chain restraining any effort to move ahead. Separatism promises the balm of a sense of roots, and offers an escape from the vicissitudes of making our way into realms so recently closed to us. But the wary social remove that Separatism encourages blacks to maintain from whites regardless of actual experience is a much more powerful factor than white racism in making blacks less likely to be hired, or especially, promoted. Black Anti-intellectualism can often seem like a jolly and even healthy alternative to sterile nerdishness, but it is also, as I have noted, the main reason blacks underperform in school. On a broader level, a race permanently wary of close reasoning and learning for learning's sake is one not only spiritually impoverished, but permanently prevented from forging the best techniques for working toward a better future.
I have written this book under the conviction that it doesn't have to be this way, and that more to the point, it absolutely must not. Black America is currently embarked on a tragic detour. Accidents of history have condemned us to miss an unprecedented opportunity to reach Martin Luther King's mountaintop. In the first four chapters of this book, I will discuss the operations of these three currents in modern African-American thought. In the next two chapters I will show how these currents have shaped two race-related issues of wide impact, the affirmative action debate and the controversy over whether or not the in-group speech of black Americans is an African language called "Ebonics," which ought to be used in classrooms as an aid to teaching black children to read. The last chapter will outline suggestions for getting back on the track that our Civil Rights leaders set us upon. Following that track will require some profound adjustments in black identity, which today would feel nothing less than alien to most African Americans under the age of seventy. Nevertheless, these adjustments are not only possible, but most importantly are the only thing that will cut through the circularity and fraudulence infusing so much of interracial relations in America today, and bring African Americans at last to true equality in the only country that will ever be their home.
Copyright © 2000 by John McWhorter
Posted January 21, 2008
We are our own worst enemy. Having personally been around the world 4x over and observed, i think it's fair to say.....We do the least with the most than any race on the face of the earth! there are no more excuses we can use.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 9, 2004
I read this book a few years ago and found myself nodding, now I get it, as I read. The author opened my eyes to things I couldn't understand about inner city neighborhood peer pressure that too often leaves many highly intelligent blacks with a decision: Do I excel to the maximum of my intellectual/academic abilities and risk neighborhood ostracism or do I succumb to dumbing down and, thereby, dramatically limit my life's options. I recently re-read this book and where before I found myself nodding, this time I found myself shaking my head. This is a courageous work and should be required freshman reading in every high school in America.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 1, 2001
Posted June 15, 2001
I greatly thank McWhorter for writing this book. He said exactly what I have been thinking for years. I am also extremely thankful that this book was written by a black man. If this book had a white author, there isn't a doubt in my mind that it would probably never be published and that the author would be dismissed as a racist or a white supremacist. This is just one of many problems that McWhorter addresses in this book. I can't understand why so many people hate him for what he is doing.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 9, 2001
I came across this book from a time Magazine article. Being a history teacher and having great interest in black history and also deeply disappointed with today's so called civil right's leaders Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, intrigued me to purchase this book to read. I was very impressed by the frankness and scholarship of this book. It was good to see someone from the African-American community to stand up and demand improvement and suggest solutions instead of complaining or crying racism everytime an event happens that has noting to do with racism. It's a book that needs to be read and debated instead of censored. Good Job Professor McWhorterWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 6, 2000
I could not put this book down. It is thought provoking. It challenges the status quo of how African Americans are viewed in this society. Black America is sabotaging itself. The reader is being challenged to not see Black people as victims. The book however turns up the volume on an incredible dialogue within both the Black and White communities. One that supports the need to propulgate this myth that Blacks are no better off today than in 1950. This is a must read for every educator who believes that he/she is a social advocate.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 4, 2000
John Mcwhorther uses great examples to show how African Americans are losing the race to equality through cultural behaviors that effect our ability to achieve in academics. Some of the chapters may bother the sensitive soul, but to face these realities will only make us stronger. I recommend this book for all high school juniors headed for college. This book is a wonderful reality check. We have run out of excuses. This is not the time to be defensive, read this book and get on with life.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 10, 2000
'Losing the Race' has really done its homework. Outside the politically correct filters that cloud discussions of ethnicity, McWhorter has taken an objective view of his own people and wants things to improve. Losing the Race is the perfect companion book book to the recently released 'The Jewish Phenomenon- The 7 Keys to the Enduring Wealth of a People.' It is the flipside of the African-American story where years of discrimination and seclusion have yielded quite a different result, ranging far beyond success measured in dollars but also in contributions in many fields and community development. With the selection of Senator Lieberman, Jews are pointing the way for African-Americans, if they choose to grasp the 7 principles outlined in the Jewish Phenomenon. Losing the Race tells it like it is and should not be dismissed, it should be studied. There is no genetic divide between the races, it is matter of positive nurturing and development.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 2, 2000
I applaud McWhorter for attacking this subject and for saying what has to be said. Although the book may not flow well at some points, it is good that he dares to say that anyone who wants to be successful should simply do the work and not get caught up in garbage about how working hard, speaking well, and achieving is somehow a betrayal of his culture. By the way, the reviewer before me says that he/she would like 'to see a book written by someone who has fought his peers, studied hard, accepted no favors or legal entitlements..and made it on his own with no guilt in his soul as to how he got there..'. If so, then read A Personal Odyssey by Thomas Sowell. He TURNED DOWN affirmative action preferences for himself and has become very successful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 11, 2000
I bought the book..which I seldom do, because of the topic involved in the writing...I have had a long expressive email battle with one Sean Gonsalves, a Black columnist for the Cape Cod Times. We always start out nice and casual when discussing Black problems, Iraq, etc. but we always end at some impassioned communication impasse. (But we are still friends) Even so, I naively thought that a major work by such very well positioned author as Mr. McWhorter would possibly supply me with some ammo for any future sparring/duels between me and Herr Gonsalves. And in truth the book started out well and reinforced all of my previous positions in that 'Blacks in school' don't try very hard, are susceptible to peer group pressure, feel 'Good grades are White' and generally use the term 'racism' like a rapier, whenever cornered. However, Mr. McWhorters' somewhat flippant Examples of spite (he received) and the lack of drive and committment by Black students in general, seemed to grow a bit thin by the middle of the book. Even though he has clearly stood up for his 'current' beliefs, vis-a-vis the flak he receives from other Blacks who consistently condemn in depth studies of grades, SATs and future productivity that produce thinking that varies from the victim/racism theme, he, (McW) appears to have his own personal Agenda directing his actions and beliefs...and that this has been rocky road for him as the Agenda wanders from year to year. By the time I finished the book and read about Mr. McWhorters casual (his/then) attitude to higher grades in lower schools (paralleling Mr. Gonzalves' attitude during roughly the same period, Mr. McW's silver road to the top paved primarily by way of AA and other priviledges accorded to him due to his race...that somehow caused him to make his final 180 degree reversed appraisal that this was 'wrong' (then or now is not always clear)...and his apparent lapse into a concerted and lengthy 'Apologia' for all of the good things that happened to him...that he (on a level playing field did not rate...and thus should not be used for today's students who happen to be Black)...rings a bit hollow. If the ending verbage had come at the beginning of the book...'Sure I did it but it cheapened me, etc etc.' I would have tossed the book as a lost cause...Why? because I want to see a book written by someone who has fought his peers, studied hard, accepted no favors or legal entitlements..and made it on his own with no guilt in his soul as to how he got there..Be he Black, White, or whateverWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.