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This book presents the kind of eye-opening insights into the history and culture of race for which Sowell has become famous. As late as the 1940s and 1950s, he argues, poor Southern rednecks were regarded by Northern employers and law enforcement officials as lazy, lawless, and sexually immoral. This pattern was repeated by blacks with whom they shared a subculture in the This book presents the kind of eye-opening insights into the history and culture of race for which Sowell has become famous. As late as the 1940s and 1950s, he argues, poor Southern rednecks were regarded by Northern employers and law enforcement officials as lazy, lawless, and sexually immoral. This pattern was repeated by blacks with whom they shared a subculture in the South. Over the last half century poor whites and most blacks have moved up in class and affluence, but the ghetto remains filled with black rednecks. Their attempt to escape, Sowell shows, is hampered by their white liberal friends who turn dysfunctional black redneck culture into a sacrosanct symbol of racial identity. In addition to Black Rednecks and White Liberals, the book takes on subjects ranging from Are Jews Generic? to The Real History of Slavery.


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This book presents the kind of eye-opening insights into the history and culture of race for which Sowell has become famous. As late as the 1940s and 1950s, he argues, poor Southern rednecks were regarded by Northern employers and law enforcement officials as lazy, lawless, and sexually immoral. This pattern was repeated by blacks with whom they shared a subculture in the This book presents the kind of eye-opening insights into the history and culture of race for which Sowell has become famous. As late as the 1940s and 1950s, he argues, poor Southern rednecks were regarded by Northern employers and law enforcement officials as lazy, lawless, and sexually immoral. This pattern was repeated by blacks with whom they shared a subculture in the South. Over the last half century poor whites and most blacks have moved up in class and affluence, but the ghetto remains filled with black rednecks. Their attempt to escape, Sowell shows, is hampered by their white liberal friends who turn dysfunctional black redneck culture into a sacrosanct symbol of racial identity. In addition to Black Rednecks and White Liberals, the book takes on subjects ranging from Are Jews Generic? to The Real History of Slavery.

30 review for Black Rednecks and White Liberals

  1. 5 out of 5

    Vannessa Anderson

    It’s not often that a reader opens a work of non-fiction and the words written on the first page has such an impact that it smacks the reader so hard the reader has to rub his/her cheek to soothe the blow.This is the impact I felt with Black Rednecks and White Liberals. The first page drew me in and made it a challenge not to call work and say I wouldn’t be in because I didn’t want to put the book down.What I liked about Black Rednecks and White Liberals is that it reinforced what I already knew It’s not often that a reader opens a work of non-fiction and the words written on the first page has such an impact that it smacks the reader so hard the reader has to rub his/her cheek to soothe the blow.This is the impact I felt with Black Rednecks and White Liberals. The first page drew me in and made it a challenge not to call work and say I wouldn’t be in because I didn’t want to put the book down.What I liked about Black Rednecks and White Liberals is that it reinforced what I already knew and set me straight on things I thought I knew. For those who are not bogged down in denial or racism, they will have to accept the information, digest, it, adopt it and bring themselves out of ignorance.The words written therein quash the stereotype. Readers will learn where his/her prejudices and bias originated. The author backs up his research by listing credible references. The material contained therein is invaluable.Black Rednecks and White Liberals should be required reading at the high school level then again at the college level.If you read non-fiction to learn, then you will not want to pass up reading Black Rednecks and White Liberals. Individuals who see the glass half-empty, or who sees the world through rose-tinted lens might want to pass up Black Rednecks and White Liberals because they will, most likely miss the point the author conveyed.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Seth

    Fantastic approach to race and discrimination. I enjoyed his research about the roots of "redneck culture" originating in Scotland and other fringe areas of the Brittish Empire. I thought the views on "middle-men minorities" and "segregated schools" were especially insightful. He approaches every topic with a balanced yet incisive perspective. For example, he forgives Washington's slave ownership. He reminds us that men of fortune during the colonial period viewed their family fortunes as someth Fantastic approach to race and discrimination. I enjoyed his research about the roots of "redneck culture" originating in Scotland and other fringe areas of the Brittish Empire. I thought the views on "middle-men minorities" and "segregated schools" were especially insightful. He approaches every topic with a balanced yet incisive perspective. For example, he forgives Washington's slave ownership. He reminds us that men of fortune during the colonial period viewed their family fortunes as something to preserve and to be passed down to others. Washington viewed his role as a steward and not as an owner of his property (implying that he wasn't at liberty to free his slaves because they were not his to free but his entire family's). Washington freed his slaves in his will because there were no heirs to his estate, thus, releasing Washington from the responsibility of preserving it. Washington thoroughly explained in the will how his slaves would be supported by the estate. Some of his slaves were supported for decades after Washington's death. He makes a similar defense for Jefferson. He dismisses any historical perspective that pretends the "west" is the originator of evils such as slavery, violence, and conquest. He compares the "west's" treatment of slaves to the "east's" and finds middle eastern and Asian countries less civil and more barbaric in regards to slavery, racism, and conquests. He persuasively argues that had it not been for the West's views of freedom and moral objections to slavery then the rest of the world would never have seen a problem with it. The uniqueness of the West is in the fact that they globally abolished it even when the rest of the world resisted. Sowell is smart, hard hitting, honest, and freshly independent. His approach to black school's and western slavery will fascinate you. His essays on German culture are especially rewarding. The fact that he is black gives him a certain level of freedom in his criticism of black culture and liberal correctness that makes this book one of a kind.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    Dense. Thorough. Balanced. Eye-opening. Magnificent.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Update, 2018: I used to give blahblah like this the benefit of the doubt as a “conversation starter” but given the obvious and real current dangers of BS, I’m lowering the rating to 1*. Please see comment stream for additional details. This can be a good conversation starter, but it has flaws. One of the main excuses Sowell brings up over and over for why whites in the South wouldn't end slavery is that they were afraid of a race war because of the rebellion on Santo Domingo (Haiti). What he neve Update, 2018: I used to give blahblah like this the benefit of the doubt as a “conversation starter” but given the obvious and real current dangers of BS, I’m lowering the rating to 1*. Please see comment stream for additional details. This can be a good conversation starter, but it has flaws. One of the main excuses Sowell brings up over and over for why whites in the South wouldn't end slavery is that they were afraid of a race war because of the rebellion on Santo Domingo (Haiti). What he never clarifies is that those slaves had been liberated previously by the republic founded in the French Revolution and were then re-enslaved by Napoleon a few years later. That's a rather important detail . (A captivating recent book about this is The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo). The relevant part of the story for the white Americans' fear of race war is what happened after the initial emancipation. Did the newly freed blacks kill the whites? No. So the story of Santo Domingo is actually not a legitimate excuse for fear of race war, and could be used more accurately to make the opposite point! The biggest disappointment is a lack of evidence-based recommendations for what will work here and now. Sowell makes a really big deal about evidence, so that is a fair expectation. He praises KIPP schools, but KIPP so far has failed in the long-term. He doesn't talk at all about the experience of the schools in Raleigh, North Carolina, which as far as I know is the one example of an entire American metropolitan area with children succeeding: see Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh . I would have liked much more about that and other programs that actually work to move from a culture of failure to a culture of success. One of the main points of the book is that black people in America mainly jumped in prosperity before the Civil Rights Act, not after, and the implication of that is that government programs don't help. But there were many factors involved. In the years from 1945 to 1965, middle-class prosperity overall in America jumped a lot, much of that on the strength of government policies designed to increase middle class prosperity. Did the prosperity of black people jump less, the same, or more than that of other people during this time? That, for starters, would be very important to know for the argument. The book goes off on a tangent about German anti-semitism. Sowell quotes Hitler as saying that if Jews didn't exist, he would have had to invent them. I can't find a source verifying where Hitler said this. It seems hard to believe. I think the actual quote is from Sartre's "Reflections on the Jewish Question" where he writes that If the Jew did not exist, the anti-semite would invent him. This is a political opinion book, not serious history, but then it is annoying how much Sowell trumpets his own supposed thoroughness and objectivity. For better books about why there might be differences in wealth-building in America by race.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Don Fox

    Wow, what an achievement. Though a more accurate title might have been "Essays in Ethnology", "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" consists of six amazing essays, which collectively constitute the best book I've ever read. Every page presents startling, important, and little known facts that are apparently little known because they contradict the prevailing narrative about race and ethnicity. Did you know, for example, that: * "...labor force participation rates were higher among non-whites than a Wow, what an achievement. Though a more accurate title might have been "Essays in Ethnology", "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" consists of six amazing essays, which collectively constitute the best book I've ever read. Every page presents startling, important, and little known facts that are apparently little known because they contradict the prevailing narrative about race and ethnicity. Did you know, for example, that: * "...labor force participation rates were higher among non-whites than among whites in 1920 and 1930"? * Hatred of the Jews is but one example of almost universal hatred of "middleman minorities", other examples of which include the Ibos in Nigeria, the Chinese throughout Southeast Asia, the Armenians in Turkey, the Lebanese in Africa, the Japanese in Peru, and the Indians in Burma? * "At least a million Europeans were enslaved by North African pirates alone from 1500 to 1800, and some European slaves were still being sold on the auction block in Egypt, years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed blacks in the United States"? * Slavery has been universal in human history, such that we are all almost inescapably the descendants of slaves and slave-owners alike? * "While slavery was common to all civilizations, as well as to peoples considered uncivilized, only one civilization developed a moral revulsion against it, very late in its history — Western civilization"? * "Europeans became the destroyers of slavery around the world, over the bitter opposition of Africans, Arabs, Asians, and others"? * Slavery was destroyed as an institution only because "Western civilization had the power to prevail against all other civilizations" at that point in time? I could give literally hundreds more examples. And Dr. Sowell marshals all his facts (supported by more than 60 pages of notes) into thoroughly compelling arguments rendered in exceptionally clean prose. This book should be required reading in every high school in America. Superb.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    It's beyond my ability to relate to the review readers the hefty substance of this book. The research and the source material alone are treasures, but the encapsulation of these subject (chapter headings) all combined and with threads in the dozens that entwine each other! Beyond my ability to sufficiently describe. How different cultures have formed over centuries and movements and have keep their original cultures in stronger flavors than the original populations that stayed "put". That alone It's beyond my ability to relate to the review readers the hefty substance of this book. The research and the source material alone are treasures, but the encapsulation of these subject (chapter headings) all combined and with threads in the dozens that entwine each other! Beyond my ability to sufficiently describe. How different cultures have formed over centuries and movements and have keep their original cultures in stronger flavors than the original populations that stayed "put". That alone was some of the most intriguing proofs of empirical data I've read in twenty years. It's just exceptional in the fact data alone- but the mix of cause and effect and his observations of results long term- not only the most clear intelligence but the least bias of direction in these fields of multi-cultural mix effects and progressions. Quite beyond the prediction, into the data of "after". But as fabulous as this book was in the clear "eyes" and historical context of the fact/data history and the interpreted to "causes" history- the last chapter was the one that I consider priceless. Especially within the time frame in which it was written. Because he's a true prophet. "History Versus Visions" is the best prose length I've ever read upon history and the recording of the past itself. And how when we revise it and "take sides" it is no longer history. Not because of objectivity but primarily for the faults of omission. And the implications of fault, blame or honest differences- his explanations are correct, masterful. Please read this chapter if nothing else. How could he have had a thick enough skin to have written all of these studies and conclusions when he did? What a intellect. My summation of about 1/2 of the conclusions he has defined here! Not an explanation, but just my reaction of awe. Honesty coupled with immense strength, courage and a logic of analysis that is genius perfection. The chapters upon the "Real History of Slavery", "Are Jews Generic", and "Germans and History" were, for my reading them, entire books within themselves. And they took that long to read too. With that second, I have always noted the reactions to "middle men" (bankers, tax collectors, shop keepers, merchants) in present day cultures, myself. Because most, if not all, of my ancestors were "middle men" and also in great numbers migrant over generations by the fact. Lastly, when I read some of these reviews for this book now after I have read it? Amazing that any reader could begin to assume that Thomas Sowell has reached conclusions before assembling the factors towards it. All of his thought processes are exactly the opposite. So many common day Western world "assumptions" upon culture and society "help" are absolutely just that, assumptions. Growth in educational aptitudes and innovative completions, better living conditions over generations of health/art/literature/longevity and much else that results in "better" needs to be very much reevaluated in this century, IMHO, in that criteria light.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Philip Maher

    The book is a perfect example of confirmation bias, as the author starts with a conclusion and gives cherry-picked facts to support it. Indeed, what he calls facts are actual facts, but one should think critically of them. If I formulate a hypothesis that the sun revolves around the earth then I can state the supportive observation that the sun moves across in the sky, certainly a fact. We obviously know that my original hypothesis is wrong but I use this example because this book is littered wi The book is a perfect example of confirmation bias, as the author starts with a conclusion and gives cherry-picked facts to support it. Indeed, what he calls facts are actual facts, but one should think critically of them. If I formulate a hypothesis that the sun revolves around the earth then I can state the supportive observation that the sun moves across in the sky, certainly a fact. We obviously know that my original hypothesis is wrong but I use this example because this book is littered with similar ones. As a scientist, this flawed method of analysis is my biggest pet peeve in people. It tends to lead to two fallacies that are used in this book: using anecdotes as evidence and using facts as knowledge. The notion that a culture was transplanted from Scotland to blacks in the American south had promise but fell flat because of the above. Consequently, be careful, because the author is excellent at convincing people that he employs an unbiased approach to his inquiry. It's subtle to see his trickery masquerading as objectivity but it's there. When you read the book I recommend that one pays attention to the vector employed by the author: conclusion (although he would claim hypothesis) to facts rather than facts to conclusion. You can observe in other reviews people who fell for his masterfully subtle sleight of hand with lots of back slapping and claims that the book reinforced what they already knew.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tammy McNiel

    WOW! This book was a complete eye-opener and changed how I viewed the history of slavery and blacks in America. As a white person, I'm shocked, appalled and relieved at the same time. What my intuition told me was wrong about massive social programs was vocalized and backed up by facts for me with this book. A lot of what I thought about slavery and oppression was turned on its head. I was appalled that I was never taught ANY of this in school, and I have extensive college education. What I real WOW! This book was a complete eye-opener and changed how I viewed the history of slavery and blacks in America. As a white person, I'm shocked, appalled and relieved at the same time. What my intuition told me was wrong about massive social programs was vocalized and backed up by facts for me with this book. A lot of what I thought about slavery and oppression was turned on its head. I was appalled that I was never taught ANY of this in school, and I have extensive college education. What I realized, was that in order to find out the facts, you must not rely on what you are spoon-fed by formal educators. You must go out and research and think critically. This book made me realize how much I still have to learn and when I read books like that, I'm inspired. This is a book that should be in college classrooms and it is one that will stay in my library and in my head. It will be a book I come back to for reference.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bob Anderson

    This book is a collection of a few long essays from Sowell, an economist of some fame, and of special value to conservatives because he is an African-American conservative intellectual. I’ll be discussing only the first, titular, essay in this book, because it’s the one I was most interested in. I think it’s fair to judge a book on its most advertised section, don’t you? Sowell’s thesis here is that nearly all of serious problems facing black Americans today come from a culture they shared durin This book is a collection of a few long essays from Sowell, an economist of some fame, and of special value to conservatives because he is an African-American conservative intellectual. I’ll be discussing only the first, titular, essay in this book, because it’s the one I was most interested in. I think it’s fair to judge a book on its most advertised section, don’t you? Sowell’s thesis here is that nearly all of serious problems facing black Americans today come from a culture they shared during slavery with white Southerners which those white people cast aside and those black people spread these last decades, and from the condescension of white liberals (by which he means programs such as welfare in its various forms and affirmative action). He claims that this culture, a violent “cracker” culture of machismo from England’s borderlands in pre-colonial times that was transplanted by a few immigrants to the American South, is the explainer of current economic disadvantage much more so than racism or prejudice, and that black people will have to voluntarily discard it and not receive welfare in order to prosper. However much this theory sounds like the academic equivalent of blaming rap music and sagging pants for inner-city violence, such easy mockery doesn’t actually disprove his claims. There is either significant evidence against or no real evidence for the two parts of his argument, though: there is no reason to suggest that this “cracker” culture spread from Renaissance-era Britain to modern black people, and there is evidence that such a culture isn’t the explainer of modern racial economic inequality. To support his theory that ruffians from England’s hinterlands are the primary cultural influences on modern black people, he cites a book called Cracker Culture published in the 1980s by a fringe scholar named Grady McWhiney. This book was not widely accepted, to say the least, not least because of the problems with its theory: Celtic immigrants of the type he talks about were influential in both the North and the South instead of just the latter, and genteel Englishmen were certainly not unrepresented in the Southern culture. And none of this explanation of antebellum North/South differences, if true, can serve to replace an actual cultural history of black people in America from the 1800s to today with the convenient explanation Sowell needs for his thesis. As to the second part of Sowell’s argument, that for black people in America to prosper they must receive no government help, forsake their violent culture, and copy the successful white people around them, it doesn’t hold up. Certainly violence in black communities is a problem and unwanted, but the arrow of cause and effect doesn’t match Sowell’s model: violence doesn’t create and perpetuate poverty, but poverty can create and perpetuate violence. Some simple points: the antebellum South was very prosperous despite having one of the most insanely violent systems on the planet in place (it was slavery, not “cracker culture”), whereas the correlation between long-poor populations and high rates of violence is omnipresent in the world. Populations don’t start off rich, begin tolerating violence and so become poor. Furthermore, cutting off black children from food stamps, housing assistance and public schools would in absolutely no way produce a new generation more likely to succeed because they were “hungrier”; you’d see a lot more homeless children of billionaires if this were a logic designed for use on anyone other than poor minorities. And emulation of whites is not a surefire way to the top either; the quality Sowell would most like to see is a strong work ethic, and many studies that research this exact phenomenon show that if anything, black people work harder than white people. Still not sweeping economic justice. Sowell’s arguments have many holes like these, based on insufficient evidence or wishful thinking, or even counter-factual claims about reality. Sowell is correct when he states that race is not a cause of this inequality; race is not, in fact, a determiner of skill, motivation, etc. But he is wrong to suggest that racism isn’t. There is a wealth of evidence that points at the great importance of racism in the history of America, and none that points away. Read this book only with these grains of salt in mind. Two stars for being interestingly written even if I disagree with nearly every word on some pages.

  10. 4 out of 5

    booklady

    Thank you to those unknown souls who have gone before and added so many of Thomas Sowell’s quotes to the Goodreads data base, especially those from this book, many of which are listed below. With respect to Black Rednecks & White Liberals, I highlighted many of the same quotes, but was delighted to become aware of those others. As for the vast reservoir of his other quotes, I could have ‘liked’ 99.9% of them, but there were so many I needed to get on with other things. Thomas Sowell is a brillian Thank you to those unknown souls who have gone before and added so many of Thomas Sowell’s quotes to the Goodreads data base, especially those from this book, many of which are listed below. With respect to Black Rednecks & White Liberals, I highlighted many of the same quotes, but was delighted to become aware of those others. As for the vast reservoir of his other quotes, I could have ‘liked’ 99.9% of them, but there were so many I needed to get on with other things. Thomas Sowell is a brilliant American economist and social theorist who’s currently a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution where he’s been since 1980. Sowell, who turned 90 this year, has served on the faculties of several universities, including Cornell University and University of California, Los Angeles and worked for think tanks such as the Urban Institute. He has written over 30 books and he writes from a conservative libertarian perspective; everything he writes is extensively footnoted. I wanted to read this book because of the recent outbreak of apparent racial tension in our country most of which is based on half-truths, falsehoods, misreading of our country’s history and/or a failure to know/understand slavery and racism/persecution in the wider context of world history. I deliberately write ‘apparent’ racial tension because while no country is perfect and although there is—and always will be—racial prejudice here also, in America, people of all races have a better opportunity to live lives free from racial tyranny than anywhere else on the planet. Most of the unrest and violence which is being perpetrated today is manufactured by outsiders wishing to bring down this great republic and change it into a socialistic regime which would deny all freedoms to all citizens. In the first chapter we read that many of the behavior patterns learned and practiced by blacks, are nearly identical to and originate from the antebellum Southern whites who migrated from the North of England and brought those same values, lifestyle and culture with them to America. Sowell painstakingly traces these ‘redneck’ tendencies (lack of ambition, low moral standards and general disregard for the law) as they were carried from place to place and how they adversely affected those who lived by them. He also shows how Southern blacks differed from their Northern brothers, who grew up not only free, but also in an entirely different culture, putting them way ahead. This accounts for the progress made by these African Americans immediately following the American Civil War up until the beginning of the twentieth century when Southern Blacks began to migrate North in large numbers and their lack of advantage showed the contest between the two groups. The earliest prejudice, however, was not from whites but from their own, who were shocked and appalled by the lack of motivation, virtue or sense of responsibility the newcomers possessed. It was only when they began to spread out to the larger community whites became aware of the problem and discrimination laws began to be passed. Until that time, the Northern blacks had been making slow but real progress toward equality in America through hard work, education and persistence, as have other successful minorities (Irish, Chinese, Jews, etc.) Sowell relating brief histories. In the second chapter, Sowell explores a concept he describes as the ‘middleman minority’ and how such people—throughout history they have often been the Jews—are hated for their hard work and success. (This chapter resonated so much with me as it reminded me of my school days where you see ambition and good grades punished by peers who don’t want to work. This has nothing to do with color!) This is how other minorities who migrated to America, though despised and discriminated against, were able to bring themselves and their children out of poverty level within at least two generations, if not one. I wish the third chapter was mandatory reading for every American citizen, black, white, red and every shade in between. The point of the chapter is that slavery is as old as human history; it was not invented by white Americans to punish black Africans. In fact, there have been plenty of instances of blacks owning white slaves and certainly African blacks owning their fellow Africans. In fact, slavery was considered normative social behavior throughout most of human history, as conquerors took the conquered as slaves. Freedom, as a virtue, is a relative latecomer on the world stage, human beings desiring many other things far more than freedom. The real irony in the whole slavery situation is that it was the conscience of Western civilization which pushed the rest of the world through economic sanctions to: first, put an end to slave trading and eventually, end slavery altogether. Although, in our present age we have a far more hideous hidden and unacknowledged slavery of children and youth to the sex-trafficking industry which no one is seriously talking about. Instead we are being called radically-racist while our children (of ALL colors!) are being victimized, abused and destroyed. I digress. The fourth chapter is a mini-case study of the German people. Sowell asks how could twelve fateful years of Nazi rule wipe out the long, noble and ancient traditions and history of the Germanic people? It is an interesting read, and yet he only shows that there was nothing hidden there which was bound to produce what eventually happened. There were a number of contributing circumstances, but it was not a function of the German character as some have alleged. The fifth chapter is an examination of black education in America with its successes and failures. One bittersweet example concerns a school in Washington D.C. which from the 1890’s until integration in the 1950’s graduated black students who averaged as high or higher test scores than students in two of the three white high schools in the area. Sowell looked at the demographics of the students, their parents, the teachers, the surrounding local area from every possible angle to see if Dunbar School as it was known had some economic, racial (children were more white than black) or other advantage which explained away the success. The children were not middle class, their parents working at low paying/status jobs and photographs in old yearbooks from the era of Dunbar’s academic success show no preponderance of light-skinned blacks. However, it was staffed with excellent teachers who apparently refused to tolerate absenteeism and tardiness as a spot check of attendance records and tardiness records showed less absenteeism and less tardiness than the white high schools in the District of Columbia at those times. ‘Three of the school’s first ten principals had graduated from Oberlin, two from Harvard, and one each from Amherst and Dartmouth. Because of restricted academic opportunities for blacks, Dunbar could get teachers with very high qualifications, and even had Ph.D.’s among its teachers in the 1920s. Mary Gibson Hundley pointed out, in her history of Dunbar High School: “Federal standards providing equal salaries for all teachers, regardless of sex or race, attracted to Washington the best trained colored college graduates from Northern and Western colleges in the early days, and later from local colleges as well.”’ ‘Over the entire 85-year history of academic success in this school, from 1870 to 1955, most of its graduates went on to higher education. This was very unusual for either black or white high-school graduates during that era. Because these were usually low-income students, most went to a local free teachers’ college or to relatively inexpensive Howard University, but significant numbers won scholarships to leading colleges and universities elsewhere.’ I could go on and would love to but then I would be quoting the entire book. Sowell’s point was, there were successful black schools, one in particular, where the students were held to tight standards, taught how to learn, given excellent instruction and the opportunity to do their best—and they did! It is possible! I have just skimmed the surface of this marvelous book. There is so much more, much of which cannot be summarized in brief paragraphs, hence – the book! The quotes below shed further light. Read it! I know I will read others by this amazing author!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    Trash. I respect that Prof. Sowell is trying to make a complicated point for a general audience, but so much of the language in this book, language that comes from Prof. Sowell and NOT from his sources, seem better placed in a high-school English essay than in a book. I made it through about 10 pages before I stopped, mostly because I couldn't trust what I was reading - how much of it was "fact", as Prof. Sowell seems all to glad to highlight at every chance he gets, and how much was the author's Trash. I respect that Prof. Sowell is trying to make a complicated point for a general audience, but so much of the language in this book, language that comes from Prof. Sowell and NOT from his sources, seem better placed in a high-school English essay than in a book. I made it through about 10 pages before I stopped, mostly because I couldn't trust what I was reading - how much of it was "fact", as Prof. Sowell seems all to glad to highlight at every chance he gets, and how much was the author's own subjective understanding coming out through his own analysis, unsupported? Here are some choice passages that made me question what I was reading, and ultimately put the book down. "In earlier centuries, Scotland was a poor and backward country, like Wales and Ireland..." p.5. The use of "backward" here has strong implications. Prof. Sowell contends that people from the American south emigrated from these regions, so by association, if these regions were "backward", then people from the American south would be "backward." That term conveys a very particular view of southern Americans, beyond the citations that are provided. "In this world of impotent laws, daily dangers, and lives that could be snuffed out at any moment, the snatching at whatever fleeting pleasures presented themselves was at least understandable." p.5. Understandable by who? Understandable by Prof. Sowell? Quite the claim, with lots of assumptions. Again, this is not cited, and stands on its own as a pretentious and patronizing characterization of life that is somehow not as good as the more "forward", maybe, parts of the British isles. Same paragraph: "Books, businesses, technology, and science were not the kinds of things likely to be promoted or admired in the world of rednecks and crackers." My god, what? This is not supported by any evidence - Prof. Sowell makes what might to him be an obvious connection between "backwardsness" and liking to read, but that's only on his own personal analysis, not based on anything he seems to take from other writings. Could you provide a citation that says "Because people threw chamber pots out of their windows instead of having running water, then they obviously don't like books?" The whole thesis of this book seems to be that these somehow-undesirable people from Scotland came to the American south, then passed on their somehow-undesirable culture to African-Americans, and that this culture is now embodied in urban poor areas... so this quote seems to imply that, in the long run, the reader should see how (obviously) African Americans don't like books (because of course black people don't like to read, am I right, guys?) I just can't with these assumptions. Racism? I can't tell, and that makes me very wary. Trash trash trash. Maybe if this had been written more objectively, or if Prof. Sowell had been able to hold back his own biased analysis of his "facts", then this book would be readable. It seems like there could be some interested observations in here - I would be interested in learning about demographic shifts, and cultural attitudes that come with cultural shifts during immigration - but I am not interested in biased writing that can crawl like a worm into my own analysis without my knowing it. No thank you, Professor.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Steven Percifield

    A few years after reading "A conflict of Visions" by Sowell a friend of mine (who is African-American) recommended this book to me. We had been debating our individual impressions of racial relationships between black and white friends. I had made the comment that there were "archetypal motiffs" common to persons on both sides of the color line. Although my friend agreed with me "...on average," he suggested that I read this book as it would give me a new perspective of a black intellectual's opi A few years after reading "A conflict of Visions" by Sowell a friend of mine (who is African-American) recommended this book to me. We had been debating our individual impressions of racial relationships between black and white friends. I had made the comment that there were "archetypal motiffs" common to persons on both sides of the color line. Although my friend agreed with me "...on average," he suggested that I read this book as it would give me a new perspective of a black intellectual's opinions on the entire subject of race relations. I did. It did.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Randall Jackson

    A woeful attempt in painting with the brush of a simple explanation to cover a complex social issue. The reader must first accept the authors's openly prejudiced view of southern Whites, then the reader must extrapolate that view to Black culture to be able to agree with his conclusions. This scholar, beforehand, states that his views which are commonly discussed among scholars and academia, would be hardly heard by the lay person. The proclamation itself is proof that he is not in touch with th A woeful attempt in painting with the brush of a simple explanation to cover a complex social issue. The reader must first accept the authors's openly prejudiced view of southern Whites, then the reader must extrapolate that view to Black culture to be able to agree with his conclusions. This scholar, beforehand, states that his views which are commonly discussed among scholars and academia, would be hardly heard by the lay person. The proclamation itself is proof that he is not in touch with the people he claims to represent.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Laila Kanon

    While I don't have favourite author per se, I must admit over the years, Thomas Sowell's writings have strong influence on my way of thinking, such as the wisdom to be critical on how an argument is packaged and presented particularly those by politicians, academia and experts, and above all--facts matter. Of all Thomas Sowell's books that I read thus far, this book is one that resonate the most to me, it's has global relevance even though the focal point of this book was an America's theme. While I don't have favourite author per se, I must admit over the years, Thomas Sowell's writings have strong influence on my way of thinking, such as the wisdom to be critical on how an argument is packaged and presented particularly those by politicians, academia and experts, and above all--facts matter. Of all Thomas Sowell's books that I read thus far, this book is one that resonate the most to me, it's has global relevance even though the focal point of this book was an America's theme.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Shayla Mays

    I better understand why Candace Owens mentioned Thomas Sowell as someone she thinks highly of and has learned from. Sowell not only obviously holds a huge prejudice against southern white people, but he also attempts to speak too confidently about a black culture he doesn't truly represent. I better understand why Candace Owens mentioned Thomas Sowell as someone she thinks highly of and has learned from. Sowell not only obviously holds a huge prejudice against southern white people, but he also attempts to speak too confidently about a black culture he doesn't truly represent.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Khari

    Wow. There's not much more that I can say about this book other than 'woah'. This was my first time through this book and I listened to it. The reader was great. Good on you Blackstone Audio for producing such a gem. On the other hand...I'm probably going to go buy this book, possibly in hard cover...it was that good and that intense. Just listening through it once was akin to dipping my toe into the ocean. There is a whole lot of information that I still can't wrap my mind around. I quoted half o Wow. There's not much more that I can say about this book other than 'woah'. This was my first time through this book and I listened to it. The reader was great. Good on you Blackstone Audio for producing such a gem. On the other hand...I'm probably going to go buy this book, possibly in hard cover...it was that good and that intense. Just listening through it once was akin to dipping my toe into the ocean. There is a whole lot of information that I still can't wrap my mind around. I quoted half of this book as I was reading it and it still wasn't enough for me to understand it all. One of the major things that I was struck with while reading this book was how often scholars and intellectuals do not read outside their own area of expertise. I'm a linguist, I have an MA in linguistics and we had several class discussions on AAVE (African American Vernacular English) aka Ebonics, and in not one of those classes was I introduced to the concept that many of the linguistic features of Ebonics were extant in 18th century England. That's kind of important. It does not surprise me that this isn't well known in the linguistic community: one, few read outside of their own specialty anymore and two, there are plenty of places where linguists fear to trod because of political repercussions and grant denials. On the other hand...as a linguist, I am still skeptical of Sowell's clear assertions, especially because a cursory search on Google scholar didn't really give me anything to back him up. On the other hand, a historian would have way more street cred with digging up first hand documentation of these phenomena than a run-of-the-mill linguist like me, so, to clarify this in my own mind I need to buy the physical copy of this book, check the notes, and then read his sources to find out for myself. I will actually probably do this, because I'm curious and linguistic puzzles are fun. I also thought it was interesting because a lot of the ideas that I encountered in this book I have encountered recently in other non-fiction books that I read. It was interesting to see parallels between this book and Murray's 'Coming Apart'. Even though the authors were approaching different problems they came to similar conclusions based on the empirical evidence, and that was interesting. There were parallels between this book and the 'Sports Gene' book that I read before it (Why on earth would there be?!?! A book about genetics and sports written by a sports reporter shouldn't have parallels to a book about history written by an economist!). There were even parallels between Sowell's discussion of intelligence and Jordan Peterson's discussion of it. Probably the greatest lesson I walked away with from this book was the nuance of history. The whole last chapter was about how we must not judge history or historical figures by the moral viewpoints or the cultural expectations of the modern age. As obvious of a truth as this is, it's still quite profound and very difficult to practice. I had never thought about the question: "How would you have felt if you were an Arawak who had their land taken away?" as a terrible question. I had always though, well, it's good for us to think by putting ourselves in other people's shoes. I still think that is the case, but Sowell made me view that question from another angle. How I as a millennial woman from a Western background view having my land taken from me is as far removed from how an Arawak would have felt as an alien imagining how I feel about riding a horse. My cultural history, values, experiences, concept of right and wrong, expectations of the universe, etc. are all different making it very difficult to even have a concept of how such a person would have felt. And that was his point, not that such a question is not valuable, but that it is not history. The place for such a question is after you have done the research to find out all of those things about that Arawak, then you can answer that question, anything else is rank speculation. What he said after that really smacked me upside the head, he said how can we imagine the impact of Columbus on an Arawak? There are no Arawaks left and they didn't leave any written records of what they thought or felt. That really struck me. Not least because it's true!!! How bloody arrogant of us all, when we answer questions like 'How do you think they would have felt?' Really, what makes us think that we have the right to answer that?! I can't even put into words what I feel half of the time, feeling like I have the right to explain someone else's just seems like rank arrogance to me now. The other thing that really struck me is how sad that is. How sad that we will never know what the Arawaks thought and felt. It made me fear the future. So much of our knowledge and experience as humans is being written in cloud formats now, we have no way of knowing how enduring that will be. In the past humans wrote down what was important to them in the most age-defying and long lasting material they could find, literally carving it into stone and here we are entrusting it all to the most ephemeral of things: essentially electrical signals. It made my mind explode. Anyway, read this book, learn about why the Marines have 'From the shores of Tripoli' in their song, about the success of certain schools in contrast to other schools, about pedagogies that work and those that don't, and about the dangers of letting ideologies dictate history instead of history being examined for its own value. It's a great book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Wiewel

    Fascinating review of historical race data with bold, honest evaluation from an astounding mind

  18. 4 out of 5

    Taylor

    I read this book as part of a deal with a friend. He accused me of not being well acquainted with the counterarguments to my views that we have a problem with systemic racism in this country. I told him I would read any book of his recommendation on the subject if he would do the same. In the end, I agreed to read this book, and he agreed to read Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow. After reading this book, the first essay is the one that speaks to the issue of whether systemic racism exists in th I read this book as part of a deal with a friend. He accused me of not being well acquainted with the counterarguments to my views that we have a problem with systemic racism in this country. I told him I would read any book of his recommendation on the subject if he would do the same. In the end, I agreed to read this book, and he agreed to read Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow. After reading this book, the first essay is the one that speaks to the issue of whether systemic racism exists in the US today. So, in a nutshell the first essay of Sowell’s book says: 1) Rednecks from N. England/Scotland settled the American south and brought their culture, including violence, ultra-sensitivity to perceived slights, laziness, and lax sexual mores (these characteristics are collectively referred to in the book as “redneck culture”). 2) Redneck culture was adopted by black slaves in the antebellum south. 3) Over time, southern whites largely abandoned redneck culture because the consequences of bad behavior associated with the culture motivated them to change. 4) Blacks, on the other hand, exported redneck culture to cities throughout the country during the great migration, and have never been able to escape the culture because white liberals allow them to escape the consequences of their actions via the social safety net, etc. The result is modern day urban black ghettos. 5) Also, none of this is the result of slavery, as proven by the fact that some free blacks in the north were also descended from slaves in the Caribbean, yet never adopted redneck culture. To say that the premise and conclusions drawn by Sowell here are problematic would be the ultimate understatement. First, if (arguendo) an entire racial group adopted cultural practices of another group while enslaved by that other group, how can Sowell argue that slavery was not a cause of that adoption? Slaves were uprooted from their native land and forced under threat of violence and death to abandon their culture. Somehow, then, adopting a form of the culture of their new environment was not a result of slavery? Second, Sowell’s conclusion is that many of the problems faced by modern day black communities are the result of cultural norms that have been passed down for generations, and not racist legacies of slavery. If any racism exists, Sowell argues, it is practiced by white liberals who keep black communities down by offering social services and support rather than allowing them to experience the natural consequences of their actions, which would spur them to improvement. Yet in all the pages devoted to supporting this hypothesis, Sowell never once mentions any systemic racism in our society after slavery. Is his position that Jim Crow did not exist, or that it was not a racist system? What about mass incarceration of black people today? Leaving out any discussion of these and other parts of our history is a major omission. The result is an essay that is not the scholarly piece advertised, but a cheap underdeveloped opinion.

  19. 5 out of 5

    NinaB

    4.5* I had heard about Mr Sowell before reading this book, but soon after I started it, questioned myself why I waited this long to read his works. He is a clear writer, straight to the point and explains his thesis well. He taught me new things and made me think differently of current events, history and the possible solutions to our current societal problems. His well researched book explains the redneck culture and its ongoing influence to American society, more specifically to the black commun 4.5* I had heard about Mr Sowell before reading this book, but soon after I started it, questioned myself why I waited this long to read his works. He is a clear writer, straight to the point and explains his thesis well. He taught me new things and made me think differently of current events, history and the possible solutions to our current societal problems. His well researched book explains the redneck culture and its ongoing influence to American society, more specifically to the black community. He expounds on how liberalism, especially, has bought into this wrong understanding of the African American culture that results in their errant policies to “help” the blacks, but end up doing the opposite. The only reason for the 4.5 stars is because I believe some of his views on the middleman culture are inaccurate. Outside of that, I wholeheartedly agree with Sowell’s assessment and solutions and recommend this insightful book to everyone, especially the young people who are confused about the racial issues that have been plaguing America throughout its short history.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Heldt

    Okay, this guy is a stud. I love the rare academic who will actually shoot straight with you. This was a collection of 6 refreshingly incisive essays that systematically debunked many of the pet beliefs and agendas of today's intelligentsia. Okay, this guy is a stud. I love the rare academic who will actually shoot straight with you. This was a collection of 6 refreshingly incisive essays that systematically debunked many of the pet beliefs and agendas of today's intelligentsia.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Achord

    Excellent and eye-opening. Most discussion about race or slavery is too narrow and simplistic. They are much broader than a Eurocentric view would imagine. Sowell's research is wide and deep, his reasoning cool and exacting, his arguments compelling and, largely, unchallenged. I found this review to curtail some of what Sowell has to say about blacks obtaining their cultural attitudes and actions from whites: http://www.vdare.com/articles/tom-sow... Some important quotes: "Discussions of slavery i Excellent and eye-opening. Most discussion about race or slavery is too narrow and simplistic. They are much broader than a Eurocentric view would imagine. Sowell's research is wide and deep, his reasoning cool and exacting, his arguments compelling and, largely, unchallenged. I found this review to curtail some of what Sowell has to say about blacks obtaining their cultural attitudes and actions from whites: http://www.vdare.com/articles/tom-sow... Some important quotes: "Discussions of slavery in the West tend to be disastrously narrow." – Thomas Sowell "The situation in the Islamic world was very different from that in the West. Despite the larger total numbers of slaves sent from Africa to the Islamic world over the centuries, the surviving African population in these countries was much less than the tens of millions in the Western Hemisphere. In addition to higher mortality rates of slaves en route to North African and Middle Eastern countries, the survival and reproduction rates of African slaves there were much less than in the United States. While slaves in the antebellum South lived in families, even though they lacked official legal sanction for their marriages, both marriage and casual sex among slaves were suppressed in the Islamic world and, among the relatively small numbers of children born to African slaves there, the mortality rate was so high that few lived to adulthood. The sex imbalance among African slaves—far more women than men in the Islamic countries—and the fact that eunuchs were common among the relatively few African men likewise precluded a vast African slave population in the Moslem countries..." "Particularly dangerous to contemporary visions and agendas are the achievements by groups that began in poverty and rose to prosperity, such as emigrants from Japan, Italy, China, or India who settled in various countries around the world. It is not just their achievements, but the very concept of achievement, which is antithetical to the multicultural vision - and which is therefore often evaded or denied. "Much verbal ingenuity has been used circumventing the concept of achievements by calling them "advantages" or "privileges," even when this does violence to the meaning of the words and the facts of history. Often discussions of the supposedly impenetrable social barriers of poverty and skin-color prejudice pass over in utter silence the history of various emigrants from Asia whose economic levels have in fact often begun in poverty and later surpassed that of the white majorities in countries of the Western Hemisphere. "When visions and agendas suppress history, that not only distorts the achievements of groups, nations, or civilizations, it forfeits valuable knowledge as to the things that have led to past progress and can lead to progress for others who are still lagging today. In short, it sacrifices the material interest of millions for the ideological or other parochial interests of a few." "The region of West Africa...was one of the great slave-trading regions of the continent-before, during, and after the white man arrived. It was the Africans who enslaved their fellow Africans, selling some of these slaves to Europeans or to Arabs and keeping others for themselves. Even at the peak of Atlantic slave trade, Africans retained more slaves for themselves than they sent to the Western Hemisphere. This pattern was not confined to West Africa, from which most slaves were sent to the Western Hemisphere. In East Africa, the Masai were feared slave raiders and other African tribes- either alone or in conjunction with Arabs-enslaved their more vulnerable neighbors." "In short, the drastic changes in law enforcement and social morality during the 1960s had a particularly adverse effects on the behavior and actions of blacks and on black victims of the criminals in their midst. Intellectuals have also played a role along with the welfare state in prolonging and legitimizing a counterproductive culture among blacks. Nowhere was the effect of the white liberalism of the 1960s in the social evolution of black culture more devastating than in the disintegration of the black family." "By projecting a vision of a world in which the problems of blacks are consequences of the actions of whites, either immediately or in times past, white liberals have provided a blanket excuse for shortcomings and even crimes by blacks... "White liberals long denied that there were higher crime rates among blacks by pointing to the imperfections of crime statistics in general or, more specifically, claiming that blacks are simply arrested more often for things that whites would not be arrested for. But if the imperfections of crime statistics were the real problem, then discussions could be limited to murder statistics, since dead bodies are not ignored, whether they are black or white, and neither are murderers, whatever their race. But murder statistics show the same disproportionate number of crimes by blacks as other statistics do. While murder statistics might provide more accuracy, they would not provide white liberals with a means of evading the obvious. "Riots by blacks are almost automatically blamed on whites, whether in the Kerner Report on the riots of the 1960s or in the reactions among white liberals to the Los Angeles riots of 1992. In some white liberal circles—the New York Times, for example—the police are almost automatically at fault in confrontations with black criminals, hoodlums, or rioters. When the police arrive on a scene of crime or violence in black communities, whatever they do is likely to be categorized later as either having let the situation get out of hand or as having used excessive force. Any force sufficient to prevent the situation from getting out of hand is almost certain to be called excessive force by white liberals in the media, so that—by definition—the police will have acted badly, no matter what they did or failed to do. Should the police arrive in such overwhelming numbers as to bring the disorder to a quick halt without any need to use force at all, then they will often be said to have “over-reacted” by sending so many cops to deal with unresisting people. "One of the reactions of the police to such predictable scapegoating in the media has been to “de-police” some of the most violent black neighborhoods, looking the other way rather than risk seeing a whole career ruined by media charges of racism. This gives criminals, hoodlums and rioters a freer hand—at the expense of law-abiding blacks, who may be the great majority, even in a high-crime neighborhood. There is evidence that this is in fact what happens after a barrage of adverse media coverage against the police.” "The chafing restrictions of civilization, which can at times become irksome to people of any color, may be vicariously thrown off by those white intellectuals who cheer on outlandish and even lawless behavior by black hoodlums or entertainers. Blacks in effect become the mascots of these intellectuals, symbolizing and acting out the latter’s resistance to “society” — or, more accurately, civilization. But while mascots may be indulged, more fundamentally mascots exist for the sake of those who adopt them and the actual well-being of the mascot is seldom a high priority. 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 kinds of friends who can do more harm than enemies.” Here is a larger collection of salient quotes from his book: https://ronloneysbooks.files.wordpres...

  22. 5 out of 5

    RubyNibs

    Gobsmacked. Excellence that should grace every home, every school, every library. Empirical evidence on a wide range of history that follows a common theme: the Redneck attitudes that are keeping down urban Blacks, why they are weighing down Blacks, their origin (shockingly, the Scottish Borderlands, the Ulster area of N. Ireland, and Wales--typically, at the time, reckless, shiftless people too proud to work until they had to), and how to dispel them. Dr. Thomas Sowell takes us on a gut-wrenchi Gobsmacked. Excellence that should grace every home, every school, every library. Empirical evidence on a wide range of history that follows a common theme: the Redneck attitudes that are keeping down urban Blacks, why they are weighing down Blacks, their origin (shockingly, the Scottish Borderlands, the Ulster area of N. Ireland, and Wales--typically, at the time, reckless, shiftless people too proud to work until they had to), and how to dispel them. Dr. Thomas Sowell takes us on a gut-wrenching tour of slavery in human history. He exposes Roots, by author Alex Haley, as, in Haley's own words, "a myth." Sowell exposes the brutality of the white slave trade that predominated in much of the world. He mentions current slavery and sex slavery, primarily under Islam. Black education. Why some Black schools graduated incredible numbers of highly educated Blacks who went on to careers, not simply to vocations. And what went wrong, after 85 years of admirable teaching, when the government stepped in. (You can guess; the school went down the gutter, thanks to government intervention.) This is one book that tells true history, without bias, from one of the big brains in the US, who used to be a Marxist, but has long since been a Conservative Black economist.

  23. 5 out of 5

    NormaCenva

    This is an amazing book! I am saddened that I had no idea that this author even existed before picking up this book. Maybe he is not widely known because his opinions are "unpopular"? This book is not concerned with "feelings" or with pleasing the ego of the reader. It is a hard read and left me thinking and re-thinking a lot of my own stands on many issues. It can be now clearly seen how 3rd wave feminism is only harming and not helping. This book relies on facts, scholarly publications, resear This is an amazing book! I am saddened that I had no idea that this author even existed before picking up this book. Maybe he is not widely known because his opinions are "unpopular"? This book is not concerned with "feelings" or with pleasing the ego of the reader. It is a hard read and left me thinking and re-thinking a lot of my own stands on many issues. It can be now clearly seen how 3rd wave feminism is only harming and not helping. This book relies on facts, scholarly publications, research and first-hand life experiences. It is not interested in political agendas or popular approval. It is masterfully written and I will be on a look out for other books from this author as I was very impressed with his presentation style and sources quoted.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    Too bad this book is unlikely ever to be required reading in American high schools or colleges. It's scholarly, thoughtful, objective - far from the superficial, agenda-driven treatment that's being handed out today. If you read "Under Our Skin" (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2...), be sure to read this, too. Or skip that one and just read this one. Too bad this book is unlikely ever to be required reading in American high schools or colleges. It's scholarly, thoughtful, objective - far from the superficial, agenda-driven treatment that's being handed out today. If you read "Under Our Skin" (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2...), be sure to read this, too. Or skip that one and just read this one.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    A friend recommended this book me seven years ago and I can’t account for my taking this long to take his advice. Sowell is the least-known national treasure we have in the U.S. His title essay is worth the price of the book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Wade Stotts

    Wonderful. Essential.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Void lon iXaarii

    I tend to follow experts in their fields... which often doesn't translate to other fields, as many people successful in one field turn out to be not that knowledgeable or skilled in another. Thomas Sowell is, for me, one of the few exceptions i know of. I Started reading his books because of his economics knowledge but i can so relate to his way of viewing the world that I can't stop following his books even when they're not directly in the field. Why? Because unlike many others he doesn't take I tend to follow experts in their fields... which often doesn't translate to other fields, as many people successful in one field turn out to be not that knowledgeable or skilled in another. Thomas Sowell is, for me, one of the few exceptions i know of. I Started reading his books because of his economics knowledge but i can so relate to his way of viewing the world that I can't stop following his books even when they're not directly in the field. Why? Because unlike many others he doesn't take things for granted, and instead applies solid research to presuppositions which many others take for granted. This book hasn't only opened my eyes to many historical truths, facts about about the actions and structures of whole societies but even more valuably about the HUGE impacts that certain ways of thinking have across humanity, often regardless of place, time, biological or social backgrounds. The book feels huge as it goes through several apparently independent sections jumping across fields like cultural European very white roots of some ghetto behaviors, the historic costs of violent machismo, the universal hate towards middleman minorities, analysis weather or not stigmas associated with certain peoples like the Germans are in fact reasonable and so on, the biggest and most costly totally surprising shift in thinking of humanity that i never knew of in terms of slaves... More than once i've wondered what the unifying theme of the book might be... hard to say, but for me, personally, it is being blown away by just how huge an impact ways of thinking/behavior (with an accent on the latter, not very into intellectuals) cross any and all borders of space and time, for bad and for good.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Danelley

    Adam was telling me about this book, and about the amazing man that is Thomas Sowell. Read his bio -- he's led a very interesting life. It's interesting that many of the "undesirable" qualities of the South, e.g. working to feed the family when needed, rather than having a steady work ethic and income, may have come from original settlers from wilder areas like Ulstead County, Ireland, and Wales, and Northern Scotland, where many of my ancestors are from! (Back in the 17th-18th centuries, they w Adam was telling me about this book, and about the amazing man that is Thomas Sowell. Read his bio -- he's led a very interesting life. It's interesting that many of the "undesirable" qualities of the South, e.g. working to feed the family when needed, rather than having a steady work ethic and income, may have come from original settlers from wilder areas like Ulstead County, Ireland, and Wales, and Northern Scotland, where many of my ancestors are from! (Back in the 17th-18th centuries, they were known as the rednecks and crackers.) Thanks for being such a wild, ferocious, touchy people!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elena

    Exellent argumentation and general tone. Typical Sowell, one of my favourite non-fiction authors.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chris Niessl

    I initially wanted to read this book to gain a conservative economist's view on history, specifically on the 18th through 20th century, in order to broaden my beliefs not only racially, but also to try and understand a well though-out and articulated conservative perspective (Sowell himself would prefer the term 'libertarian' over 'black conservative') Sowell's analysis in each of the essays in his book is very broad, each one containing hundreds of citations. In each one I found that I could ap I initially wanted to read this book to gain a conservative economist's view on history, specifically on the 18th through 20th century, in order to broaden my beliefs not only racially, but also to try and understand a well though-out and articulated conservative perspective (Sowell himself would prefer the term 'libertarian' over 'black conservative') Sowell's analysis in each of the essays in his book is very broad, each one containing hundreds of citations. In each one I found that I could appreciate the conservative perspective on a variety of issues. At the same time, the book was highly readable, using both unambiguous terms while avoiding sociological or other research nomenclature that a layperson might not understand. For example, in his first essay, he provides great historical background on the first cultures from the British Isles to come colonize the Americas. While the essay is not as in depth as the book "Albion's Seed" (Compare 60 some pages to 900) Sowell identifies that Southern blacks inherited the Scotts-Irish "Redneck" culture that predominates the Southeastern and mid-Atlantic states, and that the cultural attitudes of today can be traced back to similar "Honor-culture" issues that plagued whites in early American history (And even today, read "Hillbilly Elegy") and also existed back in Europe before then. Such culture was often hostile to the ideas of formal education, and over-reactive and violent to perceived slights. This ties in with his fifth essay on the history of black education and asks the question of the reader: Why did Dunbar High School have poorer academic performance amongst its black students after Brown v. Board of Education and Desegregation? Why were blacks, on average, gaining in prosperity from World War I up until the Vietnam war when state enforced segregation was becoming more draconian since reconstruction? As he claims in the preface of the book, "...There is not the slightest danger that there will be a shortage of solutions. On the contrary, an abundance of uniformed solutions has been one of our biggest social problems" His reasons for bringing this up, as he claims later in the book, is that affirmative action based policies have done little to help promote black excellence, as well as the fact that welfare policies that don't address the increase in broken black families will be ineffective at best, and further destructive at worst. Sowell also admonishes current cultural-studies departments for their bias in covering the history of the institution of slavery. Specifically the lack of instruction in the institutions of the Ottoman Empire and Barbary coast, as well as the fact that the original efforts to destroy the institution came from abolitionists in the British Empire and United States. He also provides a counter-narrative that racism developed as a result of slavery. First, he explains that for a good portion of time free blacks lived in the South. The institutionalization of race in slavery didn't gain traction until religious revivalist movements sought to justify slavery against early abolitionist and democratic causes. Second, that many of the choices of the Founding fathers to retain their slaves stemmed not from their moral justification from it, but because they had to make careful political choices. For example, Jefferson only freed a fraction of his slaves, since the majority of them belonged to the "estate" that he inherited, and not necessarily to him. Because the estate still had outstanding mortgages, freeing the slaves would, in the most abhorring way, be devaluing the property collateral against the estate and would be means for the bank to claim default. Such facts are despicable today, but Sowell doesn't claim that such actions were moral, but necessarily pragmatic. Imagine if Jefferson had lost that estate. Would a Southern bank care for the integrity of the slave families of that estate? Jefferson vigorously advocated for preventing slavery for expanding into new states, and while unsuccessful, one can't imagine Jefferson could lobby if he was forced into a scandal amongst his fellow Virginians for freeing slaves. While Sowell challenged and tempered my liberal political outlook, he was unable to fully convince me on several topics, not for my own biases, but because while well-sourced, the book is not comprehensive, or he hand-waves several topics away without providing a stronger argument in support of his views. For example, Sowell chides white liberals for supporting contemporary rap music: "The thuggish gutter words and brutal hoodlum lifestyle of 'gangster rap' musicians are not merely condoned but glorified by many white intellectuals- and 'understood' by others lacking the courage to take responsibility for siding with savagery." In doing so, he betrays his views and shares in the hypocrisy of other censorious busybodies of the 80s and 90s, for example conservatives in admonishing metal and rock music for "satanic anti-Christian" and "misogynistic" themes. Metal doesn't contribute to the lawlessness of its audience, so why would rap music do the same? Another example of Sowell's hand-waving is his omission of several key portions of European history between Czechs and Germans. He claims that the Czech mistreatment of Germans after WW I contributed to the rise of Nazism and had its roots in Czech "Identity-politics" from losses incurred during the Thirty Year's War. However, his glaring omission of the politics of the 1848 revolution: that Germans were actively trying to annex the *full* kingdom of Bohemia, the majority who identified ethnically and linguistically Czech, and not just its ethnic German enclaves, as well as active discrimination against Czech citizens (Václav Klemen) paints a more complex view of history than the one Sowell provides. While I understand why Sowell wanted to include an essay/chapter on the history of Germany, its especially ironic how ten years after the writing of this book, a good number of the issues Europe faces today can stem from the overreaching dominion of Germany and its politics in the EU. The inclusion of this chapter doesn't enhance his argument in his other essays, and its inclusion is dubious. One last point, while Sowell does provide arguments and evidence against the benefits of Affirmative action, he does not any policy solutions, nor does he celebrate liberal policies that do have significant evidence of working. For example, he chides Social Security and civil rights era policies for harming blacks, but ignores the massive benefit they have had in reducing the poverty of the elderly. Thus he misses an opportunity to demonstrate how social security has some racist undertones, for example, with a fixed retirement age across race despite Blacks having a lower life expectancy on average, and thus Black men drawing less benefits. Highlighting this however, would show the benefits whites and thus a majority of citizens have received, from Social Security. Second, he doesn't provide much investigation into the Flynn Effect, where IQ and other standardized test scored have significantly increased over the last century, across all races. While he uses to Flynn effect to chide liberals for being against IQ-Race related research, he misses addressing the fundamental question: Why would IQ suddenly increase across all races. One theory that is gaining traction is the improved environmental regulations that have taken place across the country: (http://web.mit.edu/ckolstad/www/Newel...) The unleading of gasoline coincides well with the sharp jump of the Flynn effect as well as sharp decrease of violent crime from the 80s onward. This makes a compelling case that environmental regulation is desirable in order to address these kinds of issues, but such a viewpoint is absent from Sowell's analysis and libertarian perspective. As a result of all these factors, I would rate 3/5. While well researched and written, I would have been inclined to give a 4, or possibly even a 5, if Sowell had omitted his German ethnography and other biases in the book.

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