Losing the Race: Selfsabotage in Black America

John McWhorter, Author Free Press $24 (304p) ISBN 978-0-684-83669-0
Are African-Americans using past racial injustices as an excuse for not working to take advantage of contemporary opportunities? McWhorter, a linguistics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, thinks he has the answers to this question and others--and he points the finger directly at the black community. Starting with the premise that white racism is no longer the threat it once was, McWhorter singles out ""the cult of victimology"" and the glorification of white racism as a major cause for several social crises afflicting African-Americans. Offering little that has not been said previously by conservatives like Pat Buchanan and Shelby Steele, McWhorter uses a cookie-cutter approach to explain away recent race pressure points such as the arson directed against black churches, the high proportion of black inmates in America's prisons, the practice of racial profiling and police brutality. In each case, he finds fault with the African-American community's interpretation of these situations, accusing African-Americans of hypersensitivity to racial bias and a reluctance to relinquish the past. Victimology, as well as separatism, in his words, ""gives failure, lack of effort and criminality a tacit stamp of approval."" Most disturbing, his suggestion that a cultural trait drives the low scholastic performance of black youth borders on the views of those who consider heredity the cause of blacks' poor performance on standardized tests. Like many of the new black conservatives, McWhorter spends much time going after liberal columnists and social critics, attacking both their intent and message. Even his closing segment--""How Can We Save the African-American Race?""--sounds more like a well-worn campaign speech than a call to initiate a dialogue on race in the African-American community and the nation. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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