Monday, February 3, 2014

Losing the Race 2

My plan is to blog about John McWhorter’s Losing the Race every day that I read it, but I often feel that I should hold off on commenting before I finish the book and read other perspectives, since I don’t know enough to comment.  This is especially the case regarding the following issues:

1.  McWhorter asks why prominent African-American leaders don’t “pool their resources and provide start-up loans” so that African-Americans can start businesses in their neighborhoods, rather than complaining about Korean businesses there (page 43).  I can’t comment on this, for I don’t know what prominent African-American leaders do or don’t do when it comes to supporting African-American enterprise.  I read that Michael Eric Dyson defends Al Sharpton in his book about Bill Cosby, so it will be interesting to see how Dyson believes that Sharpton helps the African-American community.

2.  McWhorter states that African-Americans who defend O.J. Simpson do not give a positive impression of African-Americans’ intelligence to outsiders, for it is obvious from the evidence that O.J. Simpson was guilty of murder.  Well, my copy of Andrew Hacker’s Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal has a chapter on the O.J. Simpson verdict, and it will be interesting to see what he has to say.

3.  McWhorter appears to take a swipe at the welfare state on page 70, arguing that African-American employment in New York City was actually on the rise when welfare “was expanded there”, and that welfare was expanded for African-Americans out of white guilt.  McWhorter states that “an influential cadre of white leftist activist intellectuals became convinced that to expect blacks to work their way out of poverty was reminiscent of debt peonage in the South and thus unethical” (page 70).

I have read conservatives make that sort of argument: that a number of African-Americans were fairly successful before the Great Society came along.  I don’t discount that African-Americans had businesses prior to the Great Society, but I am skeptical of any claim that African-American poverty was not a problem in the 1960′s (not that McWhorter says this explicitly); on page 196 of Stephan and Abigail Thernstroms’ America in Black and White—-a book that McWhorter uses—-we see the proportion of African-American families to white families with incomes at least double the poverty line from 1940 to 1995: in 1940, it was one African-American family with such an income level to twelve such white families; in 1970, the figure was 39 to 70.  I doubt that the 1960′s were much better for African-Americans than the 1970′s were.  McWhorter himself acknowledges that the 1950′s-1960′s were times of racism against African-Americans, particularly when he argues that things have improved by the 1990′s.

I  do not mean to imply that McWhorter is against welfare, for he does say on page 70 that “Certainly our country needs a welfare program of some kind to assist those helpless, down on their luck, or disabled.”  McWhorter on page 43 calls enterprise zones in the inner-city, an idea that a number of conservatives support, “misbegotten but at least proactive”, so he does not swallow conservative talking-points.  Wikipedia quotes McWhorter’s description of himself as a “cranky liberal Democrat.”  I see that McWhorter later in the book has a section about Lyndon Johnson, so it will be interesting to read what he says there.

I can give more examples, but I’ll stop here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog