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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, professor
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,...
Published on January 29, 2003 by Amazon Customer

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but limited critique
The strongest and most thoughtful argument in "Authentically Black" is the author's insistence that African-Americans do not have to wait until every vestige of racism is eliminated to struggle both individually and collectively for a piece of the pie. Despite polemical swipes at the "hard left," (actually reasonable critiques of the academic "left", if you can call such...
Published on February 18, 2004 by Curtis T. Price


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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, professor, January 29, 2003
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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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye-Opening, November 13, 2005
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This review is from: Authentically Black (Paperback)
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.

Chapter III - The reparations movement - re: Randall Robinson's book, "The Debt." With the advantages legislated in by Johnson, blacks have been given all the boost they can expect. "Most blacks about fifty or younger tend to tacitly process affirmative action...as a 'reparation,' although they would not put it just that way...The fact that Robinson and the reparation crowd cannot see the alternative views as even worthy of addressing indicates their true interest - assuaging the sense of inferiority to whites that gnaws at the black American soul."

Chapter IV - Review of Bogle's "Primitive Blues," or playing the "can you find the stereotype" game. Bogle blames the TV industry since all shows are not like his preferential type (Cosby), criticizing all actors involved no matter how they perform their role. McWhorter gives the optimistic view, reflecting how the TV industry is well on its way toward an integrated and "deracialized" future.

Chapter V - Diversity - "There comes a point where a people can only achieve at the same level as the ruling group if the safety net is withdrawn."

Chapter VI - McWhorter analyses the "N" word from all vantage points: "Once we have done the right thing for ourselves - which is what interests me - the word will no longer seem so interesting." A fascinating chapter.

Chapter VII - African History - "Black Americans would benefit more from a conception of history focusing not on Africa but on the US: blacks in America speaking english, worshipping a Christian God, living with whites, in a post-industrial society." This chapter then gives a brief essay of McWhorter's idea of what black history should be.

Chapter VIII - Black academics and doing the right thing.

Chapter IX - A seething indictment of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton; then a thoughtful presentation of new black leaders who are quietly doing the right things.

This is a superb book that builds interest gradually until it can barely be put down. If you're not black, there is probably much that has escaped your notice. Having read "Authentically Black," I now possess a vastly better understanding of the situation and recommend this book be promoted to the top of your list.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Picks up where LOSING THE RACE leaves off., February 19, 2003
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.
John McWhorter represents the most refreshing and eye-opening contribution to the dialogue on American race relations since Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell. This book along with "Losing the Race" should be required reading in every African-American studies and sociology college curriculum in the country.
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49 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentically Black: Essays for the Black Silent Majority, March 11, 2003
By 
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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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentically Bold, February 20, 2003
By 
Terry A. Green (Glencoe, IL United States) - See all my reviews
As someone interested in learning more about race issues in America, I recently picked up John McWhorter's "Authentically Black" and was pleasantly surprised. Professor McWhorter's essays are well-constructed and to the point, and bound to create controversy, particularly among blacks. The concept of a "black silent majority" is new to me, which could have something to do with the fact that it is silent and I am white. If I have any concern, it's how to interpret other contemporary books I've read on race, particularly those written by Cornel West. McWhorter's reaction to West's resignation from Harvard last year seems a bit severe, in my opinion. On the other hand, I'm almost reluctant to admit that I agree with his opinions on Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Perhaps my greater concern is how to approach black people without knowing which side of the argument they're on. If the majority is indeed silent, how am I to know and what can I do to change it? Or is any attempt to change a silent majority into a more vocal one relevant to the discussion? "Authentically Black" packs a powerful punch and Professor McWhorter should be commended for raising some very difficult questions that affect Americans of every race.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentically Human, March 8, 2003
By 
Bruce Crocker "agnostictrickster" (Whittier, California United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
John McWhorter, linguistics professor at UC Berkeley and author of The Power Of Babel, takes off his linguistics hat and puts on his opinionated American hat and picks up the arguments he last visited in Losing The Race with the well-written Authentically Black. I think I can best sum up the essays in this book by saying that they are McWhorter's call for his [and everybody elses] right to hold the tastes and opinions of an individual human and American, and not the opinions assigned to him as a member of a group [African-American males who have made it] and his call for everybody to get off their duffs, get educated, and get to work [something the lazy 9th graders of all shades in my science classes need to hear]. Even though I didn't always agree with McWhorter [because I too am an opinionated American, and not because I'm a slightly left-of-center freckled American], I thoroughly enjoyed wrapping my brain around his arguments. More often than not, I found myself agreeing with him. I highly recommend you challenge your current opinions and read John McWhorter's Authentically Black.
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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Keys to True Racial Equality, January 27, 2003
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John McWhorter, a liberal black linguistics professor from Berkeley and author of "Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America" which explained how victimology, separatism, and anti-intellectualism are destroying America's black society, explores in his latest book what it means to be black in today's American society. He explains how too many blacks still think of themselves as a race apart. They have been tacitly taught to believe "authentic blacks" must stress victimhood in public in order to protect themselves from a white backlash while stressing initiative only in private. This hunkering down mentality leads to a separatist ideology that gets in the way of racial enlightenment and achievement.
McWhorter presents an eloquent and powerful explanation of issues all Americans, but especially blacks, must address if true racial equality is ever to be achieved.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Insights Into The Black Experience, March 20, 2003
I was very impressed by the observations of John McWhorter when I attended a speech he gave last fall regarding the topic covered in his previous book LOSING THE RACE. He was able to cogently expound upon his ideas not only in his prepared remarks but also in the give and take of the subsequent dialog with his audience. I find that the latter is often a much better indication of the depth of an author's convictions and familiarity with his subject (especially when faced with confrontational and hostile questioners). Thus, I was delighted that this collection of his recent essays was given to me by a friend and made reading it a priority as soon as I quickly perused the topics included in his commentary.
McWhorter is not only obviously intelligent, but also a keen observer and someone who can assimilate his observations and assemble disparate facts into a cohesive and consistent whole. The advantage that he then brings to his task is his background as a linguist. It allows him to wonderfully and precisely articulate his viewpoints regarding the role of race in black life and consciousness today. I found his presentation very helpful in furthering my understanding of the barriers which both races have to overcome to achieve true racial equality in America and the colorblind opportunity which was the dream that I was privileged to hear Martin Luther King espouse.
This is a book with which conservatives will have more agreement than liberals, but I believe that it will provide many insights (and probably some new facts as well) to anyone who approaches it with an open mind. And it certainly presents many opportunities for debate about significant issues influencing black opportunities for progress. As McWhorter admits, it is not intended to be a scholarly work, but it is clearly a work that benefits from his credentials as a scholar.
The central theme of the book is in the last few decades black Americans have adopted an ideology that has become couterproductive to their continued progress. This has been reinforced by black academicians and politicians for their own reasons and in order to maintain their power and leadership credentials; it might best be characterized as the politics of victimization. This involves the continual reinforcement of the attitude of hopeless occasioned by a belief that even though legalized discrimination has been eliminated, pervasive racism remains a roadblock preventing advancement rather than an occasional hurdle to be overcome. Thus reparations rather than opportunities are sought. He advances this viewpoint through an examination of several different aspects of society and the distorted lens through which the progress in these areas is viewed. His chapter on blacks in television and the media, entitled The "Can You Find The Stereotype" Game is a wonderful discussion of how preconceptions distort reality (which could only have been written by a self confessed TV addict such as McWhorter). Other powerful insights are provided in his discussion of "white guilt and university admissions", the debate over quotas to which he brings his informed perspective as a faculty member at the Berkeley campus of UC. Probably the most controversial chapter involves his criticism of the individuals annointed by the press as the current black leaders, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
The two discussions most illuminating to me were the identification of what he labels "the new Black double consciousness" and the crucial role that profiling (even when justified) plays in this and his discussion as a knowledgeable academic of the Cornel West - Larry Summers widely reported face off at Harvard. These discusions helped more clearly formulate my opinions on these matters and while basically reinforcing my thoughts caused me to much more fully comprehend the importance of the issues involved.
Compared to most texts, this is a relatively easy book to read regarding such controversial public policy subjects. All relevant references are incorporated into the text, there are no distracting formats or obtuse formulations of obscure points. I did reread several paragraphs simply because they were so insightful and enjoyable, and I wanted to reinforce their impact on my thinking. And I have incorporated some of his phraseology into my discussions regarding these issues. for instance, one line I loved was the general belief of many liberals is the solution involves "government as savior", yet these people often reject the success that private and voluntary religious efforts have had in aiding the poor. And his phrase that the salad bowl has replaced the melting pot as the goal which many people now have for America actually captures both the problems we face and the disregard of the truth that there has never been a time in our history where there has been more cultural and racial interaction than the present. In this regard, he traces convincingly the influence of the musical tradition of Blacks on popular music over the last fifty years.
So I strongly rccommend this book for anyone interested in an articulate, informative discussion of the black experience in America today. Hopefully the dialog which the author and other members of his generation will engender will lead us to a better understanding of how to become a society in which all citizens feel that they are first and foremost Americans. The author's goal is not to convince his fellow Blacks that everything is perfect, but that a paradigm of hope and opportunity and an ethic of hard work is the best road to achieving the progress which will benefit us all individually and collectively.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting even when you don't agree, May 27, 2003
By 
Andre M. "brnn64" (Mt. Pleasant, SC United States) - See all my reviews
Being an African-American of the same age as McWhorter, I can relate to a lot of what he says in these essays. On one hand, many people of our generation are somewhat annoyed by the tendency of Blacks who were born before 1960 to view everything with a racial angle as if we were still fleeing lynchers and Jim Crowists on a constant basis. So to a point, some of this is refreshing. However, I also feel that McWhorter should show some understanding of the effects the Jim Crow era had on that generation and see why they feel the way they do. I've always taken that into consideration when suffering through bitter tirades from people who grew up with segregation. (Read Ishmael Reed's latest "Along The Front Lines" for an example).
However, I like the fact that McWhorter makes it clear that he cannot be pigeonholed as a "Black Conservative" or a "Black Republican" and that his views result from his own readings and personal expreiences, not anyone's recycled dogma. I can respect this even when I don't agree and I'd love to chat with him sometime. By that same token, I also feel that had McWhorter grown up in the deep South or in a more low-income background, he may sing a different tune about race relations. I don't think things are as bad as the gloom-and doomists make it out to be, but I don't think it's quite as rosy on the whole as McWhorter sees in his immediate surroundings.
In either case, I hope he keeps writing. It's certainly different than the norm and not along the party lines of the likes of Ken Hamblin, and it is overall a good source of discussion and dialogue.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very honest, February 13, 2003
I really enjoyed reading this series of essays. I understand and empathize with many of his sentiments. What I found most enjoyable is how John weaved in a call for blacks to increase intellectual endeavors through individual and group efforts, yet he did not demean the traditional ways we communicate, share, sacrifice and entertain ourselves. Too often, criticism in the black community falls into two categories: high brow intellectual scepticism that looks down with shame on anyone who is not "deep" (read: cynical) or "keeping it real" attitudes which are sceptical of individualism.
My onnly criticism would be some doubts I have on your understanding of economics. There were a few points where I thought you confused social policy with economic policy. Maybe a consultantion with Mr. Sowell is needed. The best compliment I can pay you Prof. is that I will recommend the book to others, which includes passing on my own copy! (That way you can replace it with an autographed copy! smile!)
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Authentically Black
Authentically Black by John H. McWhorter (Paperback - January 19, 2004)
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