This is Part III of my review of Thomas Sowell's "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" and the focus has not yet shifted from the first chapter, an essay of the same name as the book's title. Its been awhile since my last post on Sowell's book, so let me refresh your memory concerning Sowell's argument. Sowell, an African American professor, contends that all the economic and social ills that plague contemporary black society cannot be blamed on slavery. Instead, he places the blame upon African exposure to a redneck Southern society which had its roots in lawless regions in England, Scotland and Ireland. While agreeing with Sowell as to the culpability of slavery, to me, it is illogical to blame the white redneck culture in which American slavery existed. Yes, his portrayal of the Antebellum Southern white culture is accurate and his list of sources concerning his portrayal is impressive. Yet, if American blacks largely overcame the evil effects of slavery before the 1960's (which Sowell argues), then we cannot blame the Southern white culture which practiced slavery. If African Americans rose above slavery, they also overcame the effects of exposure to the culture of their former masters. Even Sowell admits that his case is circumstantial.
Thomas Sowell is at odds with the liberal cultural elite that blames contemporary African American woes on slavery. His history of black America before the 1960's makes inspiring reading. He makes the case and cites the sources that indicate the stability of the American black family prior to the introduction of the Great Society welfare programs. If the liberals are right, than the disintegration of the black family should have occurred shortly after the Civil War. Yet the evidence of disintegration is more prevalent today than at the beginning of the Twentieth Century when blacks were just one generation out of slavery. The same holds true for the situation at the middle of the past century.
Sowell blames liberal intellectual elites, both black and white, for the celebration of the negative aspects of black culture, therefore perpetuating attitudes that prevent blacks from achieving success. He debunks the notion that African Americans are incapable of the same intellectual success as other racial groups. He cites data that shows that northern blacks have consistently achieved higher educational testing scores than Southern whites. In fact, former slaves were able to rid themselves of the shackles of slavery through the help of New England educators who traveled South to do the job of educating blacks that the Southern whites could not and would not do. It was the imposition of one culture (New England America) upon another (former slaves). There was no celebration of the negative aspects of the Southern white culture the slaves grew up in, and it worked. It succeeded where today's multi-cultural methodologies fail. And all this was achieved in the generation after the Civil War. The standards of excellence introduced by the New Englanders were perpetuated in the black community until the 1960's, when the imposition of the welfare state wiped out much of these gains.
I will directly quote from Sowell on these issues in a "Quotes and Facts" feature. The next post on "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" will review three of Sowell's other essays from the book.