Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America by John McWhorter (2005)

brings a different perspective on black and white race relations in the United States of America, how it arrived to today's state and what can/should be done to move forward.
(A disclaimer here, the author of the book is African-American, so even if someone disagrees with the conclusions, it maybe hard to call the book racist. And just feeling the need to point out this fact shows how charged this topic is).
The book is somewhere between a scholarly work and a book targeting a general audience. The author offers first hand observations and opinions on many topics in the book, including strong opinions on academic papers published by other authors.
The book contains three sections, the first details how this state of affairs came into existence, the second explains how it persists (as a "state of mind") and the third is what can be done to improve it.
The first section discusses how we arrived to this present state of affairs. First a historical lesson on black ghettos, they were by no means idyllic places, people did live in great poverty, but criminal behavior was an exception and not a rule, most people did work for a living and raised children in “traditional” families. Something changed at around 1970, as the author shows on the primer of Indianapolis, disintegrating whole communities. The academics give a whole lists of explanations (which are all refuted on the primers of Indianapolis and other communities):

  • the higher wage factory jobs moved away (only to bus riding distance in Indy)

  • housing discrimination didn't allow the blacks to move closer to the jobs (in Indy there was no need to move, as jobs are still reachable even by public transport)

  • the middle class moved away leaving no role models (the middle class actually became suspect in the new “culture”, and many other places didn't go to hell, because the richer folks left)

  • housing projects and high rise building invite chaos (strangely these same housing projects over went a steep downhill process transforming from a not really inviting places in the 1950s into a really uninviting ones in the 1990s)

  • highway construction killed thriving black neighborhoods (so here the dispersal is an issue, while the concentration is a problem with the high rises?)

  • drugs came in (as in somebody sending them in?)

The authors contention is that it was the open-ended welfare (allowing “reproductive choices” for teenage black women/mothers, meaning having multiple children in many cases from multiple fathers without finishing even high school and obtaining no education enabling them to work for living, and living in mostly women households, with the men/fathers not staying around, and also allowing men not to work the “menial” read: paying less than welfare, and would need to wake up early morning to get there, jobs) and the alienation against the “System”, the “Man” and the whitey (think gansta rap, Ebonics and casual gangland style killings here). Social activists pushed a great number of minorities on welfare during the 1970s and later, and even with the welfare reforms of 1996, the established lifestyles are not going away quickly (although some encouraging changes can be observed). And strangely the rap alienation also seems fashionable with non-minority young persons (together with the clothing choices and attitude towards life).
The second section describes how the therapeutic alienation persists as a “meme” (things were always bad for us, and we have to blame the “System”, and how Ebonics is the first language we speak, and English is just something forced on us by the “System”, and other similar trains of thoughts). Even many of the Civil Rights like actions simply became a caricature (the motion stayed, but the meaning is no longer there). The Black middle class mostly no longer sees discrimination in day-to-day life, in careers, in society, and indeed giving into discrimination would be considered as a betrayal to the values of the ancestors, who were able to carve out a dignified living in spite of real racist conditions. Scholarly works also trying to distort reality and advance their own propaganda, not recognizing the progress made since the Civil Rights era.
The third section offers steps on how to change the today's status quo. From affirmative action (which essentially serves little purpose helping minorities, as it mostly goes to students whose parents are already middle class, thus to be discontinued), through hip-hop (which advocates violence, defeatism, sexism and perpetuates the alienation, thus causing great harms to individuals and communities as a whole), to the need of having a new generation of black readers (who instead of dwelling on imaginary discrimination wrongs and trying to keep the whitey “on the hook” by discussing various failures, and provides real leadership improving integration in society, achieving and celebrating black successes).
Recommended for readers who are interested to understand these issues and how they can be improved.

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