An impassioned but meticulously argued plea for African Americans to address the three basic problems—identified by the author as separatism, anti-intellectualism, and “a cult of victimology”—largely responsible for “keeping black Americans eternally America’s case apart.”
In elegant, jargon-free prose, McWhorter (Linguistics/Univ. of California, Berkeley), while never minimizing the experience and the legacy of slavery, argues that much has changed to African-Americans’ advantage since the 1960s. In 1960, 55 percent of blacks lived in poverty, now only 25 percent do; there were 4 blacks in Congress, now there are 41; only 2.8 percent were doctors, by 1990 there were twice as many. But McWhorter contends that African-Americans still subscribe to what he calls “the seven Articles of Faith,” which fuel their sense of victimization despite impressive evidence to the contrary. They believe that most blacks are poor and three out of four live in the ghetto when in fact by 1995 only one in five did; that blacks get paid less than whites for the same job; that there is an epidemic of racist arson against black churches; that the US government funneled crack into South Central Los Angeles; that racism is responsible for the high rates of black male incarceration; and that police brutality reflects an unchanging racism. With an impressive range of statistics and facts, McWhorter proves that not only are these tenets no longer relevant, their continued prevalence is deeply harmful. He also offers persuasive analysis and proof that all African-Americans, regardless of class, are seriously affected by separatism and anti-intellectualism; he believes that the latter is mostly responsible for their children’s continued poor academic showing. And he touches that third rail of black orthodoxy, affirmative action, which he contends should be retained in business, but not in education.
An important book that forthrightly confronts and questions conventional wisdom.