Peter Zhang

Black Rednecks

Review

Black Rednecks and White Liberals is a stimulating collection of essays on culture and race from Thomas Sowell, a renowned black, conservative intellectual. It traverses topics ranging from redneck culture and Jewish oppression to Nazism and black education. It is an important and valuable critique of progressive understandings of history and society,

Here’s the paperback and audiobook.

Utility: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Writing: ★★★★✰ (4/5)

I am no history buff. My historical knowledge starts and ends in left-leaning high school classrooms. Each time Sowell disputed a reading of history, he directly challenged my own beliefs. It was a refreshing and exciting experience to hear his perspective. If you’re left-leaning but open-minded, I think you’ll enjoy this book.

I admire his thought process. He often backs off of a subject, acknowledging that it “remains an empirical issue.” He precisely points out logical gaps in the arguments of others. When Sowell uses case studies, they are generally only to dispute the sweeping claims of an opponent.

The writing was clear, but a little slow. Some of the details are likely unnecessary, and I sometimes felt myself wanting to yell at him to get to the point.

Notes

To be clear, these are not my beliefs; they are a summary of Sowell’s points.

  • Cultural attitudes towards work and education play an important, overlooked role in shaping a group’s success. In America, white redneck culture was imported from Scottish/Irish immigrants and passed on to modern African Americans.
  • Caribbean black people and free American Americans had a distinct culture than those of enslaved black people. After emancipation, the movement of formerly enslaved black people from the south to northern city was the cause of segregation.
  • Slavery is a global phenomena that has lasted for millennia. Western values played a crucial role in initiating and enforcing the abolition of slavery. Criticisms of our founding fathers for owning slaves usually overlook their constraints and cultural context.
  • Middlemen minorities are racial and ethnic groups that tend to work as peddlers, merchants, and wholesalers. Examples include the Chinese in South Asia and Jews in Europe and America. The dominant population percieves these middlemen as accumulating excess wealth without material contributions, stoking resentment.
  • Nothing about Germans predisposed them to Nazism. Jews were welcome Germany before Hitler, and Hitler’s election campaign carefully avoided excessive anti-Semitic violence. That the horrific actions of Nazis were possible in a otherwise normal society should attune us to the possibility of fascism in every society.
  • Many schools have produced successful black students that excel on standardized tests. They tend to model Puritan Englishmen, with an emphasis on discipline and industriousness.

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