It’s Not All Rooted in Slavery
Black Rednecks and White Liberals Pt. 4
By Amanda S. Green
Thomas Sowell has never been one to mince words. Nor has he shied away from hard topics or hot button issues. That is very apparent in his essay, “Black Rednecks and White Liberals.” This essay, the foundation document in the book, Black Rednecks & White Liberals: Hope, Mercy, Justice and Autonomy in the American Health Care System, doesn’t disappoint.
Sowell points out that “redneck culture” has historically been a less achieving culture. It doesn’t matter if the person is white or black. However, that culture has impacted a much higher proportion of blacks than whites. Why? Because “only about one-third of all whites lived in the antebellum South, while nine-tenths of all blacks did.” (BRAWL, p. 33) That origination in the antebellum South is, according to Sowell, key.
There are caveats to this, however, and Sowell is quick to point them out. “Contemporary black ghetto culture in the United States is not, however, a simple linear extrapolation from the culture of Southern whites.” (BRAWL, p. 33)
- Most black Americans are no longer part of the ghetto culture.
- Aside from influences peculiar to the circumstances of blacks, profound changes in the larger American society around them have also had an influence, both positive and negative.
Even so, the culture has continued and, in some instances, thrived. Why? That’s the question we all need to ask. The answer isn’t one many in our country will admit, much less accept.
The burgeoning of the American welfare state in the second half of the twentieth century and the declining effectiveness of the American criminal justice system at the same time allowed borrowed and counterproductive cultural traits to continue and flourish among those blacks who had not yet moved beyond that culture, thereby prolonging the life of a chaotic, counterproductive, dangerous, and self-destructive subculture in many urban ghettos. (BRAWL, pp 33-34)
There’s so much truth in that one short paragraph. Truth that applies not only to the “black rednecks” but to whites as well. The welfare system might be based in good intentions, but you know the old adage. The path to Hell is paved with good intentions. The system should not be such that it carries through generations of a family. It should be there to help those who need it but not in such a way they have no impetus to get off the system
Some years ago, Michigan (if I remember correctly) had a system in place where a person could only receive state welfare benefits for two years. There were exceptions, of course, for those who were medically unable to work. But the able-bodied had a time limit. However, the state also tried to help get them off the dole. There were programs in place to help them find a job. There were training programs available and, again if I am remembering correctly, child care provisions.
So what happened? The answer is very simple. The white liberals. They felt the requirements of the program were too onerous. What if someone couldn’t finish the programs and find a job by the end of two years? It was cruel and evil to just cut them off. The program died an ignominious death and, well, we know what sort of situation Michigan is in now.
Then we have the justice system. Part of me wants to laugh hysterically and another part, the part that still holds some belief in that system weeps. Why? Because the system is broken. There are few who have paid any attention to it over the years who can deny it. Our prisons are overcrowded. Laws, especially sentencing laws, are outmoded and both too random and too rigid at the same time. (I know, that doesn’t make sense. Except it does. Mandatory sentencing guidelines are too rigid because they don’t allow the judge and/or jury to take into account all the factors that should be considered in rendering sentencing after a guilty verdict. They are also too random because someone convicted of a lower felony theft charge or drug charge can wind up serving more time than someone convicted of murder. It makes no sense.)
As Sowell points out, crime and violence are part of the redneck culture that have been artificially prolonged. “Prior to the 1960s, while black males had a higher murder rate than other males, their murder rate was also declining more sharply than the general murder rate. Subsequently, the general murder rate in the United States and the murder rate for black males both reversed and began rising sharply—that of black males more sharply than others. (BRAWL, p. 34) This has nothing to do with the need for more gun control, despite what the anti-2nd Amendment advocates will say. It has everything to do with a change in attitude and, as Sowell says, with the intellectuals of the time.
“Nowhere was the effect of the white liberalism of the 1960s on the social evolution of black culture more devastating than in the disintegration of the black family.” (BRAWL, p 34) To support this position, Sowell notes the 20% decline in the number of black women between the ages of 15 – 44 who were married and living with their husbands (down to 31% in 1980). By 1994, 56% of black women in this age bracket had never been married and only 25% were married and living with their husbands. An even more telling number, according to Sowell, is that 22% of black children were born to unmarried women in 1960 while, by 1994, 70% were.
White liberals, instead of comparing what has happened to the black family since the liberal welfare state policies of the 1960s were put into practice, compare black families to white families and conclude that the higher rates of broken homes and unwed motherhood among blacks are due to “a legacy of slavery.” But why the large-scale disintegration of the black family should have begun a hundred years after slavery is left unexplained. Whatever the situation of the black family relative to the white family, in the past or the present, it is clear that broken homes were far more common among blacks at the end of the twentieth century than they were in the middle of that century or at the beginning of that century—even though blacks at the beginning of the twentieth century were just one generation out of slavery. (BRAWL, pp 34-35)
This problem with white liberal thinking is not one that is going away. In fact, we see it every day. It is much easier to blame the sins of the past for today’s problems than to look in the mirror and admit they might be part of the problem. So, instead of overhauling the welfare system, instead of working to rebuild the family unit, they concentrate on removing Civil War statues that honor Confederate “heroes”. They willingly spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars – or more – to remove those statues or rename buildings and parks and streets because they don’t want to remember a part of history that stands for something they don’t agree with. (For the record, slavery is abhorrent but not every person who supported the CSA was evil or doesn’t deserve to be remembered for other contributions they made to history.)
Don’t get Sowell wrong. He is quick to point out that not all blacks come from this redneck culture of the South. Teachers and missionaries from New England went into the South and brought a new culture to some of those living there. According to E. Franklin Frazier, a noted black scholar, “ ‘The missionaries from New England who founded the first schools for Negroes in the South left the imprint of their Puritan background upon Negro education.’ In addition to strict morality, these missionaries ‘taught the Yankee virtues of industry and thrift.’ ” (BRAWL, pg 36) This was a deliberate effort on the part of the missionaries to supplant the culture of the South these young blacks had been brought up in. To help with this, they created enclaves in the South where they moved the young blacks to help reinforce their teachings.
In short, however divergent the different schools of thought were on educational philosophy, as between the Hampton-Tuskegee approach and the approach of the founders of other institutions for blacks, they were agreed that what was most needed for the advancement of blacks in the post-bellum South was the replacement of the culture prevailing around them and among them by a new imported culture. However, the greatest obstacle to creating this new culture was the existing black redneck culture. (BRAWL, pg 37)
Why is it the problem of culture was recognized more than a century ago and yet, today, is almost completely ignored? As Sowell states, “Today, the culture that is celebrated in much of the media and in the schools is not the culture that succeeded, but the culture that has failed—the black redneck culture.” (BRAWL, pg 40)
Again, why? And what do we need to do to overcome this tendency?
Those questions are at the very core of what Sowell writes about.
One of my favorite Sun Tzu quotes goes something like this, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
This is something white liberals have excelled at. We, as conservatives and libertarians, need to remember the quote and figure out why liberals have worked so hard to perpetuate the welfare state. We need to figure out why – and how best to combat it – those who have become perpetual beneficiaries have accepted their role as what so many view as “second-class citizens”. Most of all, we need to figure out how to help them rise out of that system and become less a part of the “redneck culture” and more a part of an overall successful culture, a culture of achievement and responsibility to themselves, their families and society as a whole.
[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]