Losing the Race: Self-sabotage in Black America

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Is school a "white" thing? If not, then why do African-American students from comfortable middle-class backgrounds perform so badly in the classroom? What is it that prevents so many black college students in the humanities and social sciences from studying anything other than black subjects? Why do young black people, born decades after the heyday of the Civil Rights movement, see victimhood as the defining element of their existence? In this explosive book, Berkeley linguistics professor John McWhorter reports from the trenches of today's college classroom to offer a daring assessment of what's plaguing the children of yesterday's affirmative-action babies. The Civil Rights revolution was the pinnacle of American history, freeing African Americans from centuries of disenfranchisement. Yet, as McWhorter shows, it has had a tragic side effect. As racism recedes as a serious obstacle to black advancement, most black American leaders and thinkers have been misled into a self-destructive ideological detour. Victimhood is exaggerated and enshrined more than constructively addressed. Following from this, young black people are shepherded into a separatist conception of"blackness" defined largely as that which is not "white." This in turn conditions a sense, embedded in black American culture as a whole, that academic achievement is a "white" realm that the "authentic" black person dwells in only for financial gain or to chronicle black victimhood and victories. McWhorter addresses these problems head-on, drawing on history, statistics, and his own life experiences. He shows that affirmative action in university admissions, indispensable 30 years ago, is today an obsolete policy that encourages the counterproductive ideologies of what he calls Separatism, Victimology, and Anti-intellectualism. Most perniciously, it prevents black students from demonstrating the abilities our Civil Rights leaders gave them the opportunity to nurture, and it deprives them of the incentive to strive for the very top. Racism is not dead -- but as McWhorter so persuasively argues, dealing it a death blow will require a reinvestment in the strength that allowed black Americans to triumph and survive this far. His pathbreaking book is certain to shock, inspire, and ignite debate among all those who care about race and education today.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - gopfolk - LibraryThing

A place to start... Dr. McWhorter is simply a great writer. He describes realistic experiences that prove that this is not a "black thing" but a culture thing. After reading this book I immediately ... Read full review

LOSING THE RACE: Self-Sabotage in Black America

User Review  - Kirkus

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 ... Read full review


The Cult of Victimology
The Cult of Separatism
The Cult of Antiintellectualism
The Roots of the Cult of Antiintellectualism
How Can We Save the AfricanAmerican Race?

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About the author (2000)

John H. McWhorter is Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of The Word on the Street. He lives in Oakland, California.

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