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Authentically Black Paperback – January 15, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

McWhorter, a linguistics professor, ventures again into his sideline as a black public intellectual as he did in his earlier work, Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America (2000), this time examining the direction--or misdirection--of black leadership in America. His working assumption is that black leaders--wedded to the political left, the Democratic Party, and affirmative action--are out of step with the times. He argues that the civil rights era is dead, and appropriately so. The new battleground against racism requires individual rather than collective action. McWhorter criticizes the icons and issues of black leadership from Randall Robinson on reparations, to Jesse Jackson's shakedown of lucrative deals for his friends, to Al Sharpton for perpetuating notions of victimhood. McWhorter's criticism of this old vanguard of the civil rights movement is formulaic in the mode of the Republican right wing. However, his real contribution to the debate regarding new directions for racial progressiveness is his emphasis on the positives of black endurance and progress. Despite its partisan slant, this is a worthy book. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Bill O’Reilly with a Ph.D." -- Black Issues Book Review

"McWhorter writes elegantly and covers plenty of turf . . . which ranges from rap music to reparations . . . [An] important book." -- The Wall Street Journal

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (January 19, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592400469
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592400461
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,314,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
If I were the kind of person who got into bar fights I'd want Professor McWhorter to back me up because he's as scrappy as a welterweight boxer. In Authentically Black he's on the attack. McWhorter fearlessly in a series of essays says a number of things the "silent majority" regular black people think and say in private.
Some of the essays are serious, others are quite funny. McWhorter pokes fun at poet Amiri Baraka, and Jesse Jackson. He demolishes Randall Robinson's arguments in The Debt and takes on pompous Donald Bogle and Cornell West with ease. McWhorter calls a fool a fool and challenges a number of racial assumptions. He slaughters every sacred cow I can think and does it with glee.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By The Spinozanator VINE VOICE on November 13, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
McWhorter considers himself a moderate black man. He is an academian in linguistics, but his second career is in writing and speaking about black issues. He has written a series of essays about the current problems facing blacks in America, many of which have been previously published. In this book, he expands on these essays, giving us a profound overview of the victimization attitude which contributes to the resistance to deracialization of blacks here in the USA.

I have a black friend who likes to play the race card at the drop of a hat. This leaves me with nothing to say, unless we both are willing to have a lengthy private conversation, which may or may not be productive. McWhorter has covered in this book topics I would like to discuss with my friend - has said it much better than I could - and has done it from a personal, studied, and comprehensive vantage point. Below are short excerpts from the chapters of this excellent book, mostly in his words.

Chapter I - Many blacks are careful to portray a pessimistic public outlook in order to "keep whitey on the hook." Privately, their silent mainly middle class majority wish they could have just one generation that didn't absorb this complex cultural victimization attitude. One generation would do it.

Chapter II - Racial profiling is a fact. Other than inconvenient examples of thoughtless inconsideration - which are just as easily overlooked - this remains the last bastion of overt racism. Yet a young black male usually did it, a problem that began with the war on drugs. A powerful and thoughtful analysis, advocating that a cultural bias (within the black community) against real achievement and education works against blacks.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By D. A. Martin on February 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
John McWhorter's "Authentically Black" picks up where his best-selling tell-it-like-it-is "Losing the Race" leaves off. He is not afraid to turn the microscope on black America and force us to take a hard look our current ways of thinking and how they hinder us from fully realizing our potential as the powerful people that we are. In fact, the author does so with surgical precison in this book, which is why black "flaming leftist" critics like Ishmael Reed have basically resorted to such childish tactics as calling the man names (e.g. "a rent-a-black who only writes and says what conservative whites want to hear." Give me a break!) instead of trying to offer thoughtful rebuttals to his arguments. They can't refute him, quite frankly, because deep down people like Reed know that McWhorter is telling the truth. Period.
One of the most important themes of this book is that the author wants black Americans to stop emphasizing black plight and misery and all the negative aspects of our history, while treating our successes as anecdotal "exceptions" (a constant theme in more liberal black American discourse these days). In other words, let's ACCENT THE POSITIVES: i.e., focus more on black American achievements of yesterday and today (two notable examples being that the current U.S. secretary of state and national security adviser are both black). As he states poignantly, a people cannot continue to stress how strong it is if it constantly focuses on the negative aspects of its history and current state of affairs. McWhorter blasts such an oxymoronic way of thinking, while reiterating a point he made in "LOSING THE RACE" that black American success stories nowadays are not longer "the exception" - they are THE NORM.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Dwayne I. Ingram on March 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I first must admit that prior to seeing an interview with John McWhorter on television in March 2003, I had never heard of him or his books. I was so enthused and validated by his interview that a couple of days later I purchased this book and his book "Losing the Race". I have long been frustrated by the negative manner of thinking that is seemingly handed down from generation to generation as though it's a badge of honor, by my fellow black Americans. I have not completed Authentically Black, but I am still compelled to write this review. Primarily because I feel that it is imperative that this book be purchased by as many black or bi-racial Americans ASAP! This book is a must read and it is one that I will have my younger children read as they grow older. Internalized oppression/victimhood is holding our race captive. Ideas, thoughts and beliefs set forth in McWhorter's book, are principles that may not be adopted for another 25 years. Which is a sad commentary.
It is so refreshing to read a young black author who is not afraid of having "tomatoes" thrown at him and who is verbalizing thoughts that I have had for awhile now, but not being as articulate as McWhorter, I couldn't quite verbalize my thoughts. Now I have a book that does just that.
Thanks John McWhorter for being brave and willing to break out of the mold. More of us are following.
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