When Facts Fail and Knees Jerk
An Introduction to Thomas Sowell’s “Black Rednecks & White Liberals” – By Amanda S. Green
After a couple of weeks of angsting over what book to review next, the decision turned out to be easier than I thought. I knew going in I didn’t want to do another book on the last election, Hillary Clinton or Trump. I’ll come back to them, but not right away. I also knew I wanted something that didn’t send me screaming into the night, which is exactly how I felt while reviewing TSAR. Yet it had to be something timely and, more importantly, interesting. Then a headline in the local paper caught my eye and the decision was made for me. So, starting today, I’ll be spending the next several weeks discussing Black Rednecks & White Liberals: Hope, Mercy, Justice and Autonomy in the American Health Care System by Thomas Sowell.
I’ll admit, the title of the book intrigued me. I’d never heard the term “black redneck” before and wondered how in the world Sowell managed to get away with using it. I will also admit to being a fan of Sowell’s writing on economics. However, as alluded to earlier, I chose this book based on something that happened locally and, after reading the description for Black Rednecks & White Liberals, I wondered what Sowell’s take on current events might be.
Over the last year or so, we’ve been inundated with reports from around the country about statues being removed and parks and buildings being renamed. Why? Because politicians have been worried about those names and statues being racially insensitive in today’s enlightened age. I’ll even admit in some instances, they were right. However, as with so many other movements, things have reached the point of being ridiculous.
The latest case in point happened recently in Corsicana, TX. Corsicana isn’t a big town – the 2010 census placed its population at 23,770. Located an hour south of Dallas, it’s not one of those places you expect to see in the news, much less the national news. Yet that’s exactly where it found itself this week and all over the statue of a gorilla.
Yes, you read that right, a gorilla.
Specifically, Dobby the gorilla. A 500-lb statue that had been in place in a circus-themed public park for 19 years. During that time, there had been no problems with Dobby. In fact, the city took steps to insure the safety of children using the park as well as of Dobby by placing him in a cage. You see, Dobby hadn’t been reinforced when he was first brought to the park. So, what you had was a gorilla, one fist upraised, in a cage in an appropriately themed public park.
Suddenly, local government received complaints about how racially insensitive Dobby was. They were offended, I tell you, offended. Oh, and those complaints? There “about” 45 of them. Forty-five. If my calculations are correct, that’s 0.19% of the city’s population complaining, and that assumes those complaints came from citizens of Corsicana.
But, being concerned politicians, the city council removed Dobby. After all, they couldn’t be viewed as being insensitive to the concerns of their constituents, could they? What they didn’t expect was for it to blow up in their faces. Flowers, stuffed animals and balloons suddenly decorated Dobby’s now empty cage, a memorial to the beloved gorilla. One man staged a sit-in from inside the cage. There was a candle light vigil for Dobby. There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to Dobby’s memory. Part of the problem, beyond the fact Dobby had become a fixture at the park, was city government acted without actually letting the citizens give input on the issue. In other words, they knee-jerked based on a few complaints and, I have no doubt, memories of the protests about Civil War statues commemorating Confederate generals, etc.
As I said, it blew up in their faces. Reports now indicate Dobby will be returning to the park. Which he should, especially when you have local government officials admitting they don’t understand why there was suddenly concern about Dobby being “racially insensitive” and when those same government officials don’t detail what the complaints actually said. Was it because Dobby’s arm was upraised? What was it?
[No, it’s because Democrats are enormously racist and think black people look like gorillas. Then they project this on everyone else. Truth is, of course, all people look like gorillas. There was a gorilla at the springs zoo who looked remarkably like my brother and had his expressions too. My kids loved it. BUT democrats are enormous racists, so they think it’s only black people who resemble gorillas, themselves having been evolved from fairies and unicorns. I wouldn’t mind if they’d stop pushing their evil on us – SAH]
In other words, where is the context and what is the culture that not only brought about the complaints but caused the city council to respond in such a knee-jerk reaction?
And that brings us back to Thomas Sowell and Black Rednecks & White Liberals. (All quotes come from the preface of the Kindle edition.)
I knew I was in for an interesting read with the first sentence: Race and rhetoric have gone together for so long that it is easy to forget that facts also matter—and these facts often contradict many widely held beliefs.
Such a simple statement and one that, on its surface, appears self-evident. Yet, it points out the problem facing our country right now. Politicians are so afraid of being seen as racist or, at the very least, insensitive, they act without taking a moment to consider the complaint. Facts have been thrown out the window all too often (and not just in race issues but also in other hot button issues like gun control. We’re seeing that play out in the media right now with the latest press for gun control). No one wants to deal with those pesky little facts when the feelz are so much more important. (Sarcasm high here.)
In the preface to the book, Sowell explains his purpose “is to expose some of the more blatant misconceptions poisoning race relations in our time.” That is a huge task he’s set for himself. More than that, as I read the book last night, it dawned on me just how big of a risk he took in publishing it back in 2009. He doesn’t mince words. He doesn’t hesitate to place blame where he sees it – both within the African-American community and with white liberals. He brings forth facts that will shatter the beliefs of some people – if they would sit down and read the essays in the book. Most of all, he gives us something to think about and does so in a way that is not only readable but thought-provoking.
[E]ven a work seeking primarily to untangle a complex set of historic social issues can provoke the fashionable question: “But what is your solution?” Yet there is not the slightest danger that there will be a shortage of solutions. On the contrary, an abundance of uninformed solutions has been one of our biggest social problems.
Isn’t that the truth and aren’t we seeing so many examples of that today? It doesn’t matter how well-meaning a so-called solution might be, if it isn’t based in facts, it is doomed to failure. Perhaps not right away but eventually it will fail. The question then becomes how great the harm will have been.
One thing Sowell said in the preface really struck me, especially after having just re-read Lenin’s The State and Revolution:
Common sense can be more readily expected when writing for the general public than when writing for the intelligentsia.
Think about that single sentence for a moment. “Common sense can be more readily expected when writing for the general public than when writing for the intelligentsia.” It’s important that we ask ourselves why that is. Then we have to ask why, if that is the case, the so-called intelligentsia have failed to recognize that truth. Is it because they don’t want us to seek common sense solutions to the problems that plague us today? Are they afraid of losing status or power? What is it? More importantly, why have we allowed ourselves to be swayed by them?
Sowell does state certain facts about the essays contained in this book. They are something we need to remember as we go forward: [T]hese essays do not mean that (1) all Southern whites were or are rednecks, that (2) all black Americans today or in the past were or are black rednecks, that (3) Jews are exactly the same as the other groups with whom they are compared, or that (4) slavery is somehow morally acceptable because everyone was guilty of it. He states this because, as he points out, you can’t predict “the clever misinterpretations that others might put on one’s words.” Keep those premises in mind as we go forward with the book.
Next week, I’ll tackle the first essay, “Black Rednecks and White Liberals”. In the meantime, if you haven’t read this book before, I highly recommend it. Here’s a teaser from the next chapter:
Moreover, such cultural traits followed blacks out of the Southern countrysides and into the urban ghettos—North and South—where many settled. The very way of talking, later to be christened “black English,” closely followed dialects brought over from those parts of Britain from which many white Southerners came, though these speech patterns died out in Britain while surviving in the American South,143 as such speech patterns would later die out among most Southern whites and among middle-class blacks, while surviving in the poorer black ghettos around the country. For example:
Where a northerner said, “I am,” “You are,” “She isn’t,” “It doesn’t,” and “I haven’t,” a Virginian even of high rank preferred to say “I be,” “You be,” “She ain’t,” “It don’t,” and “I hain’t.” …These Virginia speechways were not invented in America. They derived from a family or regional dialects that had been spoken throughout the south and west of England during the seventeenth century.
Now consider these two paragraphs and think about speech patterns we hear today. We’ll be discussing that and much more next week. In the meantime, think about other instances where facts have been pushed aside in favor of rhetoric. What about where common sense has been tossed aside for the convoluted “solutions” of the intelligentsia?
[For raising the tone of this blog — ATH is culture! — and helping me with the exposing of the roots of the current mess — in her case with more facts! — if you decide to send the woman a drink– And her Amazon author page is here – Also, she has a new book: Light Magic, under her Ellie Ferguson pen name. SAH]