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on November 17, 2001
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psychological phobia of anything scholarly: how Black freshmen accepted at Berkeley after affirmative action was repealed (i.e. because of their high academic prowess and not their skin color) were looked upon as "OREOS" by the Black preference-benefitting upper-classmen; how when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.
For years I have grown sick and tired of liberal "blacker than thou" pseudo-intellectuals who claim to have MY best interests at heart as a Black American. They blame all of our problems on racism, constantly making us out to be victims - even 30-plus years after the Civil Rights Movement! Yet, they are never willing to turn the microscope on us as Black Americans and how we should take responsibility for the ways in which we do ourselves in, but are quick to try to censor, berate, and/or brand as a "traitor" someone like McWhorter for doing so, all for the so-called crime of "airing our dirty laundry." If I, the youngest of six children and the product of a broken home in inner-city Cleveland, OH, can graduate high school VALEDICTORIAN, become the first college graduate in my family, earn a master's degree, and ultimately become a diplomat for the U.S. government, then what in God's name is wrong with (suburban) middle-class black students - as the author clearly points out in his discussion of Shaker Heights High School - who attend the best schools, with top-notch teachers, guidance counselors and other educational resources, have college-educated parents and therefore no excuse NOT to succeed, yet STILL choose not to apply themselves, blow off the importance of education, care more about being popular than being smart, and then later on want to turn around and blame "WHITEY" for all of the opportunities that they missed? The three "Cults"as accurately explained by the author are what's wrong.
Furthermore, for those Blacks who fear that this book will serve as "further ammunition for racist Whites to use against us," I say that such an arguement is a copout. We need to stop worrying about what white people think of us and start getting our collective house(s) in order.
This book NEEDED to be written, and I applaud Professor McWhorter for having the guts to write it as passionately and critically as he has. It serves as a much-needed wake-up call for the entire Black community.
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on June 5, 2001
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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on October 13, 2000
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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VINE VOICEon October 2, 2005
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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on October 26, 2002
I am a 38 year old African-American woman who had never heard of John McWhorter prior to this year. While perusing books at a local bookstore, I picked up a copy of ''Losing the Race'' in which someone had defaced the cover with the inscription: "This book is a must read!" Two pages into the preface and I was hooked! No other author has ever written a book that so articulated and validated the beliefs of many ''silent'' blacks who truly feel that our fate and our future is within our own control. John McWhorter presents such a compelling thesis regarding the cult of victomology, seperatism and anti-intellectualism that explains, exceptionally well, why so many African-Americans fall short. He has brought to light the discussions many blacks have in the privacy of their homes or only in the company of other blacks and he has done it in a manner that is poignant, eloquent and thought provoking to say the least. As some critics have charged, he does not deny that racism is alive and well in America nor does he minimize the struggles of African-Americans, but what he does do is present a challenge. Buy the book, read it and make up your own mind about it!
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on July 28, 2001
The rather patronizing review from notwithstanding, this is actually a very well written and thoughtful analysis of a thorny and emotionally-charged topic (witness the personal attacks on the author in many of the previous reviews). Somebody has to say the things John McWhorter is saying or the problem of academic underachievement in the African-American community will never be adequately addressed. Several reviewers have criticized Dr. McWhorter's use of anecdotes to make some of his points, but I suspect that many of the areas he discusses have not been the subject of rigorous research, probably in part due to the political correctness that pervades the social sciences today. I found this book to be refreshingly candid and courageous. Although this man and his ideas will surely be vilified by more closed-minded members of his own ethnic group and by some whites as well, he has done all concerned a great service by shining a bright light on a subject that is usually tiptoed around (when it is acknowledged at all). Pretending that the problem doesn't exist or that it is all due to institutionalized racism helps no one and dooms another generation of students to mediocrity at best.
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on November 2, 2001
I NEEDED this book during the early '70's when I entered high school!!
We MUST eliminate culture-based problems brought forth by Victimology, Separatism and Anti-Intellectualism, as Professor McWhorter so brilliantly suggested.
As an African-American probation officer (monitoring a caseload with 80% African-American clients), I see the ravages of continued welfare and low expectation.
When a Black client tells me that working toward a GED is "too hard,"-WE DEFINITELY have a problem!!
When I can't have a decent debate with college educated Black co-workers concerning current news because, "Nobody wants to talk about Afghanistan! Did you watch Jerry Springer yesterday?"- We DEFINITELY have a problem with Anti-Intellectualism!
Bravo! Professor McWhorter! Your book should be required reading for all African-Americans!
I'm sending copies to all my Black friends with young children.
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on April 10, 2002
I first heard McWhorter speak on National Public Radio. Curious about his work, I read his book. I'm very glad I did. McWhorter discusses a theory about Black people in the United States that is more radical, uncomfortable, and life-changing than anything since the 1960s: Black people, as a group, are not getting ahead in America not because of racism (although it definitely sitll exists) but because of a mind-set of Victimization, Separatism, and Anti-Intellectualism. McWhorter dares to say something people like Al Sharpton and other prominent Black figures would never speak: in many important ways, it's OUR fault we are where we are. The statistical evidence presented in the book is incomplete, but McWhorter does point out many sociological trends to support his arguments, such as how African and Carribean immigrants as a group do better in school than American Blacks, not because they are smarter but because of the way they approach and value education, and how Black American students consistently rank in the bottom portions of stnadardized tests regardless of how sucessful their parents are or if they live in the suburbs or the ghetto.
Even if you do not agree with his arguments, I would encourage you to read this book. At the very least it is a refreshing change from the "Blame Whitey" party line that has dominated African-American social thought for the last 40 years.
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on November 25, 2001
Thanks to John McWhorter for having the courage and honesty to write this book.He writes of things that are desperately overdue to be talked about;things that our politically cockeyed and o so correct times have wholly failed to address.Thanks to Mr.Mcwhorter for tearing into those who would perpetuate the "I'm a victim" syndrome for their own selfish interests(the Reverend Sharpton and his ilk).I personally have seen the anti-intellectualism and cult of victimology that pervades inner city students especially.I went to school with many kids who were afraid to succeed for fear of what their "homeboys" might think of them.So much wasted potential and time-it is sickening to think about.One thing that Wcwhorter could have gone into depth about but didn't, was how the mass media portrays the only successful black Americans as football and basketball players,and ignores the sizable contributions of black scientists,doctors,lawyers,educators and many other professionals.This book will anger you,make you question the motivations of the same old talking heads rehashing the same old politics that has yet to provide solutions, and it offers hope that people are waking up to the fact that the past cannot be used as an excuse for failure.Most of all it shows that the saviors and sheisters(one and the same usually)and papa government and its endless programs will not cure the problems so long in the making.This book is a wake up call for our society in general and the black community especially.
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on May 12, 2001
In "Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America," John McWhorter shows in devastating detail what is behind the stunning failure of black Americans to do what so many other once-depised minorities have done as a matter of routine in American history: rise to a level of intellectual (and thus economic) parity with the majority of the nation.
McWhorter's work is a stunningly painful personal account of racism (or the lack thereof) today, and the lingering psycho-social effects of past racism and discrimination on black Americans. McWhorter is in a fine position to write such a book. He's a professor of linguistics at Berkeley, an African American who grew up in comfortable homes, in safe suburban towns, in a family without financial problems, who attended excellent schools with supportive and dedicated teachers, whose mother was a college professor, and who never experienced serious discrimination on account of race. You'd expect success of anyone who's fortunate enough to have grown upin such privileged surroundings.
And you probably wouldn't expect success of anyone growing up in poverty, studying in dilapidated schools, with no family history of academic success.
The problem is: you'd be wrong on both counts. As McWhorter makes clear, black Americans who grow up with all the advantages do worse in academics than white and Asian students who come from poorer families, attend worse schools, and so on.
McWhorter analyzes all the easy answers that would explain black academic underachievement. He examines and discards theories that the underachievement is caused by lower family income, by racism of teachers or society generally, by underfunded schools, and by the practice of "tracking" students. Rather, McWhorter shows that the culprit is an attitude within black America, an anti-intellectual bias.
McWhorter's book is extremely intimate. He describes his experiences at Berkeley, the apparent disinterest in academics shown by many black students, and the unintended effects of affirmative action in university admissions. He also recommends steps to take to eliminate the anti-intellectual bias among African Americans.
This book is a terribly important addition to the literature on the black/white gap in American education and society.
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