Book Reccomendation: Black Rednecks and White Liberals by Thomas Sowell

Is there one book that will trigger both racists and hard left social justice warriors? Yes.

"Black Rednecks and White Liberals," by Thomas Sowell is that book.

The left claims that racial disparities are caused by structural racism, a history of slavery, and Jim Crow. Racists claim those disparities are due to genetic differences.

Thomas Sowell, a brilliant Stanford economist (and incidentally a black man), answers this question by rejecting both those positions. His argument is that differences are the result of significant cultural differences.

Sowell starts with the following 1951 quotation from an Indianapolis Newspaper,
These people are creating a terrible problem in our cities. They can’t or they won’t hold a job, they flout the law constantly and neglect their children, they drink too much and their moral standards would shame an alley cat. For some reason or other, they absolutely refuse to accommodate themselves to any kind of decent civilized life.
Sounds pretty racist right? Well, it was not written about black people. It was written about poor white southerners. Sowell goes on to tell story after story of poor white southerners behaving in such a way as to get scorn, dismissal, and prejudiced from their norther observers. Sowell explains that many property owners would refuse to rent apartments to poor white southerners.

The poor white southern culture is what Sowell calls redneck culture. He tells the history of this culture going back to the lawless hills of Scotland. He explains that many of the redneck dialect including phrases like, "I be going there," and "I been dissed," go all the way back to Scotland. But the culture goes much further than the speaking patterns. This culture glorified laziness and violence. Those raised in this culture tended to be more sexually promiscuous. And their brand of religion tended to be more emotional and emotive. Crime rates were higher. Farming and industrial yields were lower.

Sowell with painstaking care, details how all of these things (that would sound racist if said about black people) were said about poor white southerners and backed up with actual economic data of the time. People who lived in this redneck culture had a huge achievement gap in almost every category when compared with people who had been raised in other cultural traditions (in particular English culture that characterized the northern states). 

Sowell then explains how black people, in the days of slavery, were overwhelmingly concentrated in the south while white people had a much larger percentage of people in the north. After the fall of slavery, your average white had the northern (English tradition) culture and your average black person had the poor southern (Scottish tradition) or redneck culture.

Sowell spends a lot of time looking at how blacks fair when they either are not exposed to redneck culture or when their school or family discourages the cultural norms of redneck culture. He provides data and anecdotes that show convincingly that the achievement gap closes significantly when this takes place.

He argues that much of the racism of Jim Crow was the result of one culture (English tradition) wanting to be separate from another culture (Scottish or redneck). Because of where the majorities of white and black populations lived, race and culture became attached in people's minds. He argues that when black populations started to adopt the northern culture, that segregationist laws started to be rolled back.

Midway through the book, there is an interesting review of various cultures throughout the world and how various cultures interact and why racism, and prejudice has happened in areas other than the United States. He talks about ways that minority cultures with achievement gaps have successfully closed the gaps.

This entire book is interesting. This entire book will challenge you. The book is interesting and informative and worth reading by every interested in race relations.


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