Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Losing the Race 3

A lot of pages in John McWhorter’s 2000 book Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America—-a little over eighty—-are devoted to anti-intellectualism within the African-American community.  According to McWhorter, there is an anti-intellectual element of African-American culture that is behind low SAT scores among African-Americans and low academic motivation and achievement.

McWhorter does not blame underfunded inner-city schools for this because there are inner-city schools that get a significant amount of government funding (though he acknowledges that a lot of that money is not necessarily spent effectively), there are people in inner-city schools (including blacks from Africa and the Caribbean) who do quite well academically, and McWhorter observes anti-intellectualism even among African-Americans from middle-class families, African-Americans who attended integrated or well-funded schools.  McWhorter seems to agree that racism played some role in starting this anti-intellectual trend, for he notes the role of slavery in detaching African-Americans from their roots, plus he quotes a scholar who talks about how African-Americans were historically deemed to be intellectually inferior, and thus they considered intellectualism to be an aspect of a foreign white world.

I have to respect McWhorter for sharing his experiences as a professor.  I cannot say that what he says resonates entirely with my experience, however, for the African-Americans I have known love to read, to learn, and to analyze with precision—-they put me to shame!  McWhorter acknowledges that there are African-Americans who are pro-intellectual, but he deems them to be the exception to the rule.  My experience has been different.  Maybe that’s because most of the African-Americans I know are in academia, but I have known others, from churches and other settings.

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