From the VG Bookshelf: Black Rednecks & White Liberals
From the VG Bookshelf: Black Rednecks & White Liberals
When deciding what to do for today’s VG Bookshelf, I found myself returning time and again to Thomas Sowell an Black Rednecks & White Liberals. Like many of his books, BRAWL is a collection of essays that are just as relevant today as they were when first written. If the name of the book isn’t enough to make you curious, the description of the book should be:
This explosive new book challenges many of the long-prevailing assumptions about blacks, about Jews, about Germans, about slavery, and about education. Plainly written, powerfully reasoned, and backed with a startling array of documented facts, Black Rednecks and White Liberals takes on not only the trendy intellectuals of our times but also such historic interpreters of American life as Alexis de Tocqueville and Frederick Law Olmsted. . . It presents eye-opening insights into the historical development of the ghetto culture that is today wrongly seen as a unique black identity–a culture cheered on toward self-destruction by white liberals who consider themselves “friends” of blacks. . . “Black Rednecks and White Liberals” is the capstone of decades of outstanding research and writing on racial and cultural issues by Thomas Sowell.
Until I became a fan of Sowell’s and started everything of his I could get my hands on, I’d never heard the term “black redneck”. I certainly couldn’t understand how in the world Sowell managed to get away with using it. Then I started reading BRAWL and once again Sowell reminded me just how brilliant he is and exactly why so many liberals have tried to cancel him over the years.
I knew I was in for an interesting read with the first sentence of the Preface. (All quotes come from the Kindle edition.):
Race and rhetoric have gone together for so long that it is easy to forget that facts also matter—and these facts often contradict many widely held beliefs.
Such a simple statement and one that, on its surface, appears self-evident. Yet, it points out the problem facing our country right now. Politicians are so afraid of being seen as racist or, at the very least, insensitive, they act without taking a moment to consider the complaint. Facts have been thrown out the window all too often (and not just in race issues but also in other hot button issues like gun control.). No one wants to deal with those pesky little facts when the feelz are so much more important. (Sarcasm high here.)
We also see it, in an even more twisted way, when so-called media personalities like Sunny Hostin from The View spouting how white women vote Republican because we want to “protect the patriarchy”. If that’s not insulting enough, she went on to say we also can’t think for ourselves. Talk about insulting women and not just white women because her message is clear. She might be identifying one type of woman here but her real target is easy to see: any woman not “uplifted” enough to vote Democrat. That woman is nothing but a doormat for her evil male overlord, at least that’s the picture she seems to paint. Where are her media co-workers and where are the politicians who should be calling her out for this and who are yet all too silent?
In the preface to BRAWL, Sowell explains his purpose “is to expose some of the more blatant misconceptions poisoning race relations in our time.” He set a huge task for himself, and he succeeds. As you read the book, you’ll see just how big of a risk he took in publishing it back in 2009. He doesn’t mince words. He doesn’t hesitate to place blame where he sees it – both within the African-American community and with white liberals. He brings forth facts that will shatter the beliefs of some people – if they would sit down and read the essays in the book. Most of all, he gives us something to think about and does so in a way that is not only readable but thought-provoking. He did so knowing these essays could have a negative impact on his professional and personal lives.
[E]ven a work seeking primarily to untangle a complex set of historic social issues can provoke the fashionable question: “But what is your solution?” Yet there is not the slightest danger that there will be a shortage of solutions. On the contrary, an abundance of uninformed solutions has been one of our biggest social problems.
Isn’t that the truth and aren’t we seeing so many examples of that today? It doesn’t matter how well-meaning a so-called solution might be, if it isn’t based in facts, it is doomed to failure. Perhaps not right away but eventually it will fail. The question then becomes how great the harm will have been.
Sowell also said in the preface that struck me and had me recalling Vladimir Lenin’s The State and Revolution (another small “book” I recommend everyone read and think critically about):
Common sense can be more readily expected when writing for the general public than when writing for the intelligentsia.
Think about that single sentence for a moment. “Common sense can be more readily expected when writing for the general public than when writing for the intelligentsia.” It’s important that we ask ourselves why that is. Then we have to ask why, if that is the case, the so-called intelligentsia have failed to recognize that truth. Is it because they don’t want us to seek common sense solutions to the problems that plague us today? Are they afraid of losing status or power? What is it? More importantly, why have we allowed ourselves to be swayed by them?
Now, substitute “media” for “intelligentsia” and ask those same questions. More importantly, ask those questions of those friends and family members who continue to believe everything the media tells them.
Sowell does state certain facts about the essays contained in this book:
[T]hese essays do not mean that (1) all Southern whites were or are rednecks, that (2) all black Americans today or in the past were or are black rednecks, that (3) Jews are exactly the same as the other groups with whom they are compared, or that (4) slavery is somehow morally acceptable because everyone was guilty of it.
He states this because, as he points out, you can’t predict “the clever misinterpretations that others might put on one’s words.” Keep those premises in mind as you read the essays that follow the preface. And do keep reading because as good as the preface is, the book just keeps getting better. Here’s an example from the next essay in BRAWL:
Moreover, such cultural traits followed blacks out of the Southern countrysides and into the urban ghettos—North and South—where many settled. The very way of talking, later to be christened “black English,” closely followed dialects brought over from those parts of Britain from which many white Southerners came, though these speech patterns died out in Britain while surviving in the American South, as such speech patterns would later die out among most Southern whites and among middle-class blacks, while surviving in the poorer black ghettos around the country. For example:
Where a northerner said, “I am,” “You are,” “She isn’t,” “It doesn’t,” and “I haven’t,” a Virginian even of high rank preferred to say “I be,” “You be,” “She ain’t,” “It don’t,” and “I hain’t.” …These Virginia speechways were not invented in America. They derived from a family or regional dialects that had been spoken throughout the south and west of England during the seventeenth century.
As you read BRAWL, I have no doubt you’ll do as Professor Sowell hopes his readers will: you’ll think about other instances where facts have been pushed aside in favor of rhetoric. What about where common sense has been tossed aside for the convoluted “solutions” of the intelligentsia?
In case it hasn’t already become obvious, I highly recommend this and anything else by Sowell. He will make you think. He may even burst some of the bubbles of belief you’ve held. But he will do so with a prose that is easy to read, with facts that are easily verifiable, and with a logic that actually works.
If I haven’t managed to convince you, listen to Sowell on the topic and judge for yourself:
Feature Photo Credit: Victory Girls Darleen Click