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June 29, 2005

Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality?

Thomas Sowell – 0-688062695

This book is no less relevant today than when first published, and in some ways a little more prophetic than it was at the time.

Sowell emphasizes the history and explores the intentions of the original civil rights efforts, and what has transpired in the interval, with leaders of the movement now going off tangentially in the attempt to stay relevant, and in power. Written 20 years after the original Civil Rights Act (enacted-1964) he discusses in detail what was accomplished, and that civil rights, per se, have been achieved, i.e.: equality under the law is an established fact, and in large measure “equal opportunity” is a reality. He reminds that “while the Constitution prohibits segregation, it does not require integration.”

“[H]onest convictions of the initial civil rights advocates meant less in the long run than the implicit logic of the civil rights vision as it unfolded over time.” The altogether predictable offshoots of affirmative action: set asides, quotas, school bussing, and later the inclusion of other minorities into the ideation of civil rights—not excluding women, who aren’t even a minority—have entirely distorted the picture.

“[unasked is] whether assumptions are to be accepted for their plausibility and their conformity to a larger social vision, or whether even the most plausible and satisfying assumptions must nevertheless be forced to confront actual facts.” He discusses at some length Brown and Green in which the Supremes, for laudable reasons, so distorted logic and fact, that they were, in truth, quite erratic and inadvertently laid the groundwork for a number of subsequent decisions with which we now must all live.

Being a highly respected and productive economist, philosopher and author, he underpins all of his arguments with solid facts, often offering a global dimension. He points out the intentional imprecision of the agendized cognoscenti, and their ignorance and/or distortion of widely studied areas of human endeavor and interaction, while abominable, are generally accepted as fact. There is absolutely no corroboration of any of these theories, and some outcomes are inversely related to intentions. Those who benefit from being in charge of the civil rights activities, with the help of the press, prevail despite the reality that little of what they say is true . . . it is presumed “common knowledge.” Incorrect, and undebatably not knowledge, but accepted nonetheless. The powers that be simply have too much at stake to alter their approach, and they have nothing to do if civil rights, as it should, becomes a non-issue, hence searching for decisive factors in advancement is buried by “common belief.”

His wide-ranging experience and knowledge of planetary migrations and cultural history and attitudes assists in his explanations because he is able to decant into the discussion, for example, facts about the Chinese predominance in certain fields in all countries and Japanese dominance in others. He notes Jewish successes and those of Blacks as well . . . and he draws from information which separates the performance and successes of West Indian Blacks (of whom he is one) from American Blacks. “Cultural differences are real, and cannot be talked away by using pejorative terms such as ‘stereotypes’ or ‘racism.’”

Emphasizing the fact that none of his arguments necessarily disprove the existence of discrimination--not his purpose—he asks whether or not the statistical differences offered by the ideologues add up to discrimination, or “whether there are innumerable demographic, cultural and geographic differences that make [these] crucial automatic inference[s] highly questionable.” He also expounds upon the fact that within the minority communities it is the advantaged who have benefited from affirmative action, and the disadvantaged who are further disadvantaged, thus serving as a negative rather than a positive effect.

Of great interest is the discussion--and factual corroboration--that trends of normalization and inclusion of blacks long predate any of the civil rights activities of the 60’s, in nearly all parameters from education to employment. Significantly he observes that in South Africa apartheid had to be enforced by law to prevent whites from employing blacks.

Overall this is a quick, very informative and thought-provoking read and I recommend it highly. This review is based upon my third re-reading of this tract over 20 years.

Posted by respeto at June 29, 2005 1:27 PM