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.