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Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America Paperback – Bargain Price, July 31, 2001

3.9 out of 5 stars 179 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For the past two decades, an academic cottage industry has developed to analyze--and some would say overemphasize--the social and educational problems of African Americans. Such writers as Dinesh D'Souza, Shelby Steele, Armstrong Williams, and Ken Hamblin have all contributed in this area; now add to that list John McWhorter, a Berkeley linguistics professor and the author of Word on the Street, an examination of Ebonics and Black English. The basic idea he presents in this occasionally insightful if flawed book is that African Americans are not advancing socially as a result of victimology, separatism, and anti-intellectualism.

According to the author, victimology "has become a keystone of cultural blackness to treat victimhood not as a problem to be solved but as an identity to be nurtured," while "separatism encourages black Americans to conceive of black people as an unofficial sovereign entity, within which the rules other Americans are expected to follow are suspended out of a belief that our victimhood renders us morally exempt from them." Anti-intellectualism is a belief that "school is a 'white' endeavor." McWhorter suggests that only blacks embrace such opinions, placing most of the blame on them while underemphasizing the institutional racism that facilitates such views. Needless to say, McWhorter has no love for the likes of Al Sharpton, Hazel Carby, June Jordan, or Patricia Williams and their ilk. His chapter on Ebonics, his specialty, is the most nuanced, though certainly not the final word on the matter. And though some readers will be turned off by his use of tired anti-affirmative-action, right-wing clichés, anyone interested in the education of African Americans in the post civil rights era will find Losing the Race a worthy read. --Eugene Holley Jr. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Are African-Americans using past racial injustices as an excuse for not working to take advantage of contemporary opportunities? McWhorter, a linguistics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, thinks he has the answers to this question and othersAand he points the finger directly at the black community. Starting with the premise that white racism is no longer the threat it once was, McWhorter singles out "the cult of victimology" and the glorification of white racism as a major cause for several social crises afflicting African-Americans. Offering little that has not been said previously by conservatives like Pat Buchanan and Shelby Steele, McWhorter uses a cookie-cutter approach to explain away recent race pressure points such as the arson directed against black churches, the high proportion of black inmates in America's prisons, the practice of racial profiling and police brutality. In each case, he finds fault with the African-American community's interpretation of these situations, accusing African-Americans of hypersensitivity to racial bias and a reluctance to relinquish the past. Victimology, as well as separatism, in his words, "gives failure, lack of effort and criminality a tacit stamp of approval." Most disturbing, his suggestion that a cultural trait drives the low scholastic performance of black youth borders on the views of those who consider heredity the cause of blacks' poor performance on standardized tests. Like many of the new black conservatives, McWhorter spends much time going after liberal columnists and social critics, attacking both their intent and message. Even his closing segmentA"How Can We Save the African-American Race?"Asounds more like a well-worn campaign speech than a call to initiate a dialogue on race in the African-American community and the nation. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (August 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060935936
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060935931
  • ASIN: B004LQ0G0I
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (179 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,087,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. A. Martin on November 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is unquestionably the best piece of factual non-fiction scholarship I have ever read. John McWhorter hits the nail right on the head in eloquently explaining the three "cults" that plague us as Black Americans - Victomology, Separatism, and particularly ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM. As a young Black man whose dearly departed mother instilled in him the value of education at an early age, who did well in school, and who was viciously ostracized and ridiculed by his Black peers for "actin' white" as a result, reading LOSING THE RACE represents the ultimate validation for me. The fact that so many Black young people see not only academic success, but a mere love of learning as something "not BLACK" is a CULTURAL problem I have witnessed my entire life. I realized in reading McWhorter's book that I am not alone.
The many anecdotes he gives poignantly and accurately explains the Black American self-induced psychological phobia of anything scholarly: how Black freshmen accepted at Berkeley after affirmative action was repealed (i.e. because of their high academic prowess and not their skin color) were looked upon as "OREOS" by the Black preference-benefitting upper-classmen; how when he was growing up one of his childhood friends had his little sister slap him for correctly spelling the word "CONCRETE"; how, while in graduate school, after engaging the professor in a discussion on the Swahili verb TO BE - a subject of dear interest to him - some other Black grad students approached him afterwards asking "whether or not he was a TRUE BROTHA." While reading, I had flashbacks of my own childhood experiences of being dissed almost daily by my own "people" for being smart and having the audacity to actually ENJOY school.
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Format: Hardcover
As an African-American high school teacher, I can wholeheartedly agree with much of what McWhorter says. It has puzzled me for quite some time why, despite having educated parents, equal access to resources an intricate knowledge of the educational system, and extra attention from me as well as the other black teachers, my African-American students were routinely the worst in any of the classes I taught. They put forth less effort, are less ambitious, and seem permanently indignant at being challenged and expected to work hard. By contrast, the Nigerian, Senegalese, and West Indian students I taught turned in work of the same caliber as my White and Asian students. Like McWhorter, I also grew weary of trying to make excuses for students who really had no barriers to achieving success, especially when being educated side-by-side with students who looked just like they did.
Apparently a few of the previous reviewers missed McWhorter's point, as he predicted they would. For example, one reviewer points out "gender equity" and the fact that the book does not address this. The title of the book is "Losing the Race," not "Losing the Boys," or "Losing the Girls." Discussing gender equity would have been an unneccessary detour in subject matter. The reason for the gender gap is easily explained anyway: lack of black male "academic" role models, boys focus more on athletics, and also have other options that females tend to approach less avidly, such as the military and technical fields which don't necessarily require degrees. Regardless of even this, Mr. McWhorter is addressing the LACK OF QUALITY of Afican-American students IN GENERAL, not just the NUMBERS.
This book is a must-read for black parents, teachers, and administrators in particular, but also for anyone who is looking for a fresh take on the race debate.
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Format: Hardcover
it seems to me the people who disliked the book are usually the ones who saw themselves in the book but did not like what the saw.
As a Black Man I agree 100% with McWhorter. The black people who do not choose to be blind to the truth. They would prefer to blame others for their own failings. That is not new. It is a story as old as man. It is easier to blame "the man" than actually taking responsibility for your own actions.
In effect, it is great he gets negative reviews from people who admit to not reading the book. It proves his points more powerfully than he ever could.
Like they say, Buy the book, don't wait for the movie.
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Format: Hardcover
Anyone who lives in the real world knows that McWhorter is speaking the truth. It's unfortunate, but it's true.

Go to just about any college in the U.S. and you'll see prime examples of all the anecdotal evidence that McWhorter uses. Even at an advanced level, you'll see the negative attitude towards education and the anti-intellectualism spoken of so many times in the book. For some reason, it's not cool to be smart.

If you listened to all of the so-called experts, or at least the ones who are yelling the loudest about the problems addressed by McWhorter, you'll hear one word: racism. Yep, he covered that one too; it's called Victimology. Constantly making "the Man" and "the System" out to be the problem is just ridiculous, and it fuels that mindset shared by those like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Yet the professional victimologists are never willing to turn the microscope on Black Americans, asking why there is no self-responsibility; however, they are quick to try to censor, belittle, and toss around the phrase "Uncle Tom", given to those who disagree with their agenda (like McWhorter).

Bravo Mr. McWhorter. Thank you for exposing the main problem in the on-going problem that American children face in our schools today.
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