Book Review: Black Rednecks and White Liberals
As some Blacks take part in the current “authentically Black” discussions, have you heard the words “ax” for “ask” or “acrost” for “across”? I remember being told that an “ax” will cut you and “ask” will not, and “boy, where did you hear that, out in the streets?”
In his new book, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Thomas Sowell has explained where Blacks first heard the words “ax” and “acrost,” and many other expressions, which some leaders and teachers continue to describe as Black English.
Sowell’s book is based on 30 years of research and documented facts that forcefully challenge current assumptions about Blacks and the issues of race, racism, culture, and Black identity. He points out that much of what passes for Black identity today is a modern version of the self-defeating culture slaves inherited from poor redneck whites who came from the poor sections of Britain and settled in southern states.
Sowell found that in World War I, white soldiers from Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Mississippi scored lower on mental tests than Black soldiers from Ohio, Illinois, New York, and Pennsylvania.
White liberals come into this story because, since the 1960s, they have been aiding and abetting a counterproductive ghetto lifestyle that is essentially a remnant of the redneck culture that handicapped Southern whites and Blacks alike, according to Sowell.
Sowell’s research shows that a segment of Blacks are being cheered on towards self-destruction by white liberals who consider themselves friends of Blacks. He challenges today’s hip-hop intellectuals as well as historic interpreters of American life, such as Alexis de Tocqueville.
Sowell’s greatest contribution with this book is debunking the assumption that “Blacks can’t do college-level work or score as high as whites on tests.” Supporting Sowell’s research is a study published last year that found most of the Black alumni of Harvard University were from either the West Indies or Africa, or were the children of West Indian or African immigrants.
Writes Sowell, “These people are the same race as American Blacks, which greatly outnumber either or both. If this disparity is not due to race, it is equally hard to explain by racism. To a racist, one Black is pretty much the same as another. But, even if a racist somehow let his racism stop at the water’s edge, how could he tell which student was the son or daughter of someone born in the West Indies or in Africa, especially since their American-born off-spring probably do not even have a foreign accent?
“What then could explain such large disparities in demographic ‘representation’ among these three groups?” asks Sowell. Perhaps they have different patterns of behavior and different cultures and values behind their behavior.
“Slavery also cannot explain the difference between American Blacks and West Indian Blacks living in the United States, because the ancestors of both were enslaved,” writes Sowell. “When race, racism and slavery all fail the empirical test, what is left?”
Sowell’s answer is culture.
Sowell is an economist and conservative scholar from Harvard (magna cum laude), Columbia University, and the University of Chicago, by way of Charlotte, NC. William Julius Wilson, formerly of the University of Chicago and now at Harvard, offering advance praise on one of Sowell’s books, wrote: “Sowell is a man who does not sacrifice his principles, one of the most provocative and influential public intellectuals in the last half century.” Let me remind you that Wilson does not consider himself a conservative or a libertarian.
Black Rednecks and White Liberals should be required reading at every educational institution discussing Black Studies.
Lee H. Walker (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a columnist and member of the Chicago Defender’s editorial board. He is president of The New Coalition for Economic and Social Change and is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute.