Tuesday, April 26, 2005

What's The Matter with Thomas Sowell

In today's WSJ, black conservative Thomas Sowell posits a new (cultural) explanation for continuing racial inequality: "redneck culture". Sowell argues that those whites from Western Europe who crossed the Atlantic and settled in the South brought this type of culture with them. Black slaves and sharecroppers adopted this southern white "redneck culture", and it traveled with them as they migrated north. Sowell argues that,

" Today, the last remnants of that culture can still be found in the worst of the black ghettos, whether in the North or the South, for the ghettos of the North were settled by blacks from the South. The counterproductive and self-destructive culture of black rednecks in today's ghettos is regarded by many as the only "authentic" black culture--and, for that reason, something not to be tampered with. "

"Black rednecks"? "Redneck culture"? This is what passes for social science these days? (Note: Sowell is the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.) Be prepared for the media blitz on this when the book comes out later this week. I wonder what Southern whites might think of this theory. I'm guessing Sowell might argue that the attractiveness of George W's "texas swagger" to red state whites is really an indicator of "redneck culture".

6 comments:

QPRHigh said...

You start out talking about racial inequality, and a long quote and a couple of stream of consciousness sentences later you end with a silly little putdown of a President whose two Secretaries of State have been African-American. Some day your visceral dislike of President Bush will seem ridiculous to even you.

Dorian Warren said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comment QPRHIGH. A couple of things: There was no "silly little putdown" of GWB. Trust me, if that was my aim, I'd do a much better job, and I'm fully capable of substantive disagreements with the policies of the current administration without it being painted crassly as "visceral dislike". I really am wondering if Sowell would argue that "redneck culture" is attractive to southern whites who voted for Bush, since Sowell would probably argue (not me) that Bush embodies "redneck culture". (What are YOUR thoughts about this)? Second, appointing two Black faces has no relationship whatsoever to patterns of racial inequality, as measured by several standard social scientific indicators. Simplistic symbolic politics does not equal racial equality.

Marc Schneider said...

Wile I'm certainly not a Bush fan, it's hard to argue that appointing having his two most important national security posts held by African-Americans is nothing more than symbolic politics. You can say a lot about Bush and you can certainly argue that his overall policiers have not been helpful to African-Americans, but to be fair, you have to give him some kudos for trusting his national security apparatus to Powell and Rice (and not making a big deal out of it either.)

And think about what you are saying. What if you had predicted in, say, 1963, that one day the Secretary of State and the National Security Adviser would both be African-American and one would be a woman to boot. People would have locked you up (in the South, they would have lynched you). So, to say this is just symbolic politics is sort of silly. I'm not arguing that we have reached the nirvana of racial equality, but you have to grant substantial progress and you have to give Bush some credit IMO.

Jonathan David Jackson said...

On the face of it, appointing blacks in top governmental leadership positions seems like progress. However, if the blacks in power within the Bush administration advance the same hurtful practices (especially to low-income working people of all cultures, races and ethnicities), then they serve a hurtful master. Colin Powell fares better than Condi Rice in his ability to actually disagree with the president's policies (albeit covertly). Rice continues to demonstrate mainly a willingness to do anything and everything her white male bosses tell her to. That's not progress. There is a name for real progress (in terms of black management positions) within the administration: Bunnatine (Bunny) Greenhouse. Now that's a black woman full of real power that knows no partisan bounds, that knows no master. Read up on her.

Marc Schneider said...

"On the face of it, appointing blacks in top governmental leadership positions seems like progress. However, if the blacks in power within the Bush administration advance the same hurtful practices (especially to low-income working people of all cultures, races and ethnicities), then they serve a hurtful master"

I find that comment incomprehensible. So what you are saying then is that all minorities have to think alike and if they choose to think differently than your preferred agenda, that is really retrograde? Apparently the only appropriate attitude is strict identity politics in which people think according to the group in which they are cast. Rice is Secreatary of State. To say that is not progress is simply crazy. This kind of thinking exemplifies why so-called progressives have so little influence in America.

I don't know who Bunny Greenhouse is, but to say that she is more important than the Secretary of State, simply because she apparently shares the "correct" political views is just perverse.

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