Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality? [Paperback]

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It is now more than three decades since the historic Supreme Court decision on desegregation, Brown v. Board of Education. Thomas Sowell takes a tough, factual look at what has actually happened over these decades -- as distinguished from the hopes with which they began or the rhetoric with which they continue, Who has gained and who has lost? Which of the assumptions behind the civil rights revolution have stood the test of time and which have proven to be mistaken or even catastrophic to those who were supposed to be helped?

Item Specifications...

Pages   164
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   0.45 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 1, 1985
Publisher   Harper Perennial
ISBN  0688062695  
EAN  9780688062699  

Availability  0 units.

More About Thomas Sowell, Steven Wooster, David Tsay, James Norman Kempster, Prokar Dasgupta, Claus Schroter, Dirk Verworner, Erika Sausverde & Szaulius Ambrazas
Thomas  Sowell Thomas Sowell was born in North Carolina and grew up in Harlem. As with many others in his neighborhood, Thomas Sowell left home early and did not finish high school. The next few years were difficult ones, but eventually he joined the Marine Corps and became a photographer in the Korean War. After leaving the service, Thomas Sowell entered Harvard University, worked a part-time job as a photographer and studied the science that would become his passion and profession: economics. Thomas Sowell graduated from Harvard University, received his Master's in Economics from Columbia University and his Doctorate in Economics from the University of Chicago. In the early '60s, Sowell held jobs as an economist with the Department of Labor and AT&T. But his real interest was in teaching. Sowell began the first of many professorships at Cornell University, and his other teaching assignments include Rutgers University, Amherst College, Brandeis University and the UCLA, where he taught in the early '70s and '80s. Thomas Sowell has a large volume of writing including a dozen books, and numerous articles and essays; covering a wide range of topics, from classic economic theory to civil rights and judicial activism, even choosing the right college. Much of his ground-breaking writing will outlive the great majority of scholarship done today! Though Thomas Sowell had been a regular contributor to newspapers in the late '70s and early '80s, he did not begin his career as a newspaper columnist until 1984. In 1990, he won the prestigious Francis Boyer Award, presented by The American Enterprise Institute.
"George F. Will's writing," says Sowell, "...proved to him that someone could say something of substance in so short a space (750 words). And besides, writing for the general public enables him to address the heart of issues without the smoke and mirrors that so often accompany academic writing."
Sowell's very timely book,The Housing Boom and Bust: Revised Edition attempts to determine whether what is being done to deal with America's 2009-2010 housing boom and bust problem is more likely to make things better or worse. His examination of racism and Liberalism in Black Rednecks and White Liberals is a classic from a daring perspective rarely heard in the Black Community. Nowhere else will you read about the co-dependent relationship between " rednecks.. and white liberals.." Currently Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute in Stanford, Calif.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Timeless  Mar 12, 2009
Never have I read something by Thomas Sowell that has left me disappointed. This book from 1984 is no different.

The author pounds the opposition with their greatest enemy, facts. It has great information in the debate on civil rights for black and women.

Ever wonder what is with the feminist talk about a pay gap between men and women? Read this book.
Wheel out the heavy artillery  Feb 18, 2009
When heavy artillery is needed in the fight against collectivist propaganda, then it's time to wheel out Thomas Sowell. Now in his late seventies, this distinguished economist and political philosopher has devoted much of his career to combating the myths of political correctness.

A prime example is his 1984 book, "Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality." In this monument to common sense, Sowell examines the disastrous turn in the American civil rights movement from equality of opportunity to equality of results.

Equality of opportunity is represented by the landmark 1954 lawsuit, Brown v. Board of Education, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down racial segregation in the public schools. The spirit of equal opportunity also was present in the formulation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Sowell brings several examples of Congressional sponsors of the bill (such as Hubert Humphrey) assuring their colleagues and the public that the legislation would not introduce quotas, preferences, or any other results-oriented mandate. The only target was to be intentional discrimination, and the burden of proof would be on the complainant.

It did not take long, however, before the Supreme Court began its crusade to re-introduce racial considerations into education and other spheres of American life. In the 1968 case of Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, the Court ruled that a Virginia school district was in violation of the Brown decision because its schools were still either predominantly white or predominantly black--even though families now had the choice of sending their children to any school they desired. In other words, racial barriers had been dismantled, and equal opportunity was in force.

But the results of the school district's new rules were not in keeping with the vision of Brown, said the Court. And thus the decision in Green paved the way for that great social catastrophe, the forced busing of children to achieve racial balance.

Three years later, in 1971, we witness the advent of quotas, as the Department of Labor issued "goals and timetables" to

"'increase materially the utilization of minorities and women'...Employers were required to confess to 'deficiencies in the utilization' of minorities and women whenever statistical parity could not be found in all job classifications, as a first step toward correcting this situation. The burden of proof--and remedy--was on the employer. 'Affirmative action' was now decisively transformed into a numerical concept, whether called 'goals' or 'quotas'."

This approach was soon rubber-stamped by the Supreme Court in the Weber case, in which the Civil Rights Act was stretched and distorted to allow affirmative action as we now know it.

All of this, asserts Sowell, was latent from the outset in the "civil rights vision of the world," which interprets statistical disparity as the work of discrimination and various "root causes." According to this view, the so-called under-representation of blacks (or women or Hispanics or the victim group du jour) in a given domain is ipso facto evidence of discrimination, regardless of the intent of the authority in question. If a department of physics at a major university does not have a single black faculty member, then racism is lurking somewhere, even if no qualified black person ever submitted a resume.

Sowell thoroughly deconstructs the madness behind this obsession with statistical disparity and its endless harvest of victim claims. Aggregate statistics on income prove nothing about underlying causes. An ethnic group can be poor in conditions of complete equality, or well-to-do in conditions of extreme adversity. The émigré Chinese communities are a classic case. Says Sowell:

"Throughout southeast Asia, for several centuries, the Chinese minority has been--and continues to be--the target of explicit, legalized discrimination in various occupations, in admission to institutions of higher learning, and suffers bans and restrictions on land ownership and places of residence...Yet in all these countries, the Chinese minority--about 5 percent of the population in southeast Asia--owns a majority of the nation's total investments in key industries...In Malaysia, where the anti-Chinese discrimination is written into the Constitution, is embodied in preferential quotas for Malays in government and private industry alike, and extends to admissions and scholarships at the universities, the average Chinese continues to earn twice the income of the average Malay."

Sowell also tackles the myth that women are underpaid and targets of discrimination in the workplace. When all the feminist hype is stripped away, we see that women are paid the same wages for the same work. True, women on average earn less then men, but this is due to (a) their greater tendency to work part-time; (b) interruptions in career due to the demands of motherhood; and (c) type of chosen profession.

If we compare apples to apples, that is, men who have never married to women who have never married,

" entirely different picture emerges. Women who remain single earn 91 percent of the income of men who remain single, in the age bracket from 25 to 64 years old. Nor can the other 9 percent automatically be attributed to employer discrimination, since women are typically not educated as often in such highly paid fields as mathematics, science, and engineering...This virtual parity in income between men who never marry and women who never marry is not a new phenomenon, attributable to affirmative action. In 1971, women who had remained unmarried into their thirties and who had worked since high school earned slightly higher incomes than men of the very same description. In the academic world, single women who received their Ph.D.'s in the 1930s had by the 1950s become full professors slightly more often than male Ph.D.'s as a whole."

A particularly biting testament against the travesty of affirmative action comes from Sowell's own personal experience. In the book's epilogue, he answers his critics. One of their many attacks is that Sowell (who is black) allegedly benefited in his own career from affirmative action. The fact that a scholar of Sowell's stature must rebut such a demeaning slander is a chilling reminder of the extent to which the apostles of the victim industry--from Supreme Court Justice William Brennan to Senator Barack Obama--have polluted American culture with their intellectual dross.

We can only sigh with Thomas Sowell as he writes:

"If there is an optimistic aspect of preferential doctrines, it is that they may eventually make so many Americans so sick of hearing of group labels and percentages that the idea of judging each individual on his or her own performance may become more attractive than ever."
Thomas Sowell, Exposer of False Dichotomies  Jul 29, 2008
If you will get one message from this book, it will be that there is no dichotomy between the innate inferiority of a group X and socially-institutionalized discrimination against group X to explain the statistical disparities between the achievements of members of X and individuals who are not included in X. If this dichotomy were true, then this would mean that the American public school system is blatantly biased in favor of students of Asian descent, as this minority group outperforms students of non-Asian descent to a statistically significant degree. However, the allegation of pro-Asian discrimination in this respect is ludicrous. Unfortunately, as Thomas Sowell so eloquently argues, the aforementioned false dichotomy forms the basis for much of the anti-discrimination legislation in existence today.

Thomas Sowell refutes many of the claims that are used to justify ongoing anti-discrimination laws. For example, the claim that statistical disparities in income and academic achievement imply that current society is still inherently (and possibly subconsciously) biased against blacks. However, Sowell argues that this cannot be true, as the fact that there are no statistically significant disparities between blacks from the West Indies and non-blacks serves as a counterexample.

Another claim refuted by Sowell is that institutionalized discrimination against a minority group prevents that minority group from obtaining a high standard of living. Although this claim might be true depending on the level of institutionalized discrimination, Sowell provides counterexamples to this as well, as the Han Chinese are heavily legally discriminated against in Malaysia and yet they disproportionately enjoy a higher standard of living in that region.

Sowell also challenges the claim that government programs that are designed to help a minority group, such as Affirmative Action, actually help that group. For example, instead, Sowell argues, by lowering admission standards for members of certain minority groups, universities merely ensure that these groups remain below their peers.

There are plenty more examples of the above nature in this book.

What explains these differences if not innate inferiority or institutionalized racism? Sowell argues that volitionally embraced cultural values explains these differences. Some cultures are almost entirely confined within a certain race. For example, redneck culture is considered entirely a white phenomenon.

Fortunately, since individuals have free will, if an individual wishes to be successful then they merely need to embrace values such as diligence, ambition and perseverance and eschew values that are antagonistic to such ends.
Stellar.  May 25, 2008
A piercing eye-opener. Sowell systematically illuminates and picks apart the cloud of unquestioned assumptions, faulty axioms, and bogus 'foregone conclusions' on which so much social policy dogma and more importantly, countless political careers, hangs.
I seem to need to know "why" . . . again.  Apr 1, 2008
In the days following 9/11, after the initial shock and anger, I found myself spending hours on the internet trying to figure out who Al Qaeda were and what would motivate such a hideous attack on innocent Americans. Why?!

What does this have to do with Thomas Sowell and Civil Rights? Well, although I am neither a Democrat nor a liberal, politically speaking, my opinion of Senator Obama was that maybe he was a candidate who deserved consideration over the alternatives of Clinton or McCain. But then came the revelation that Senator Obama was a 20-year congregant and an apparent friend and admirer of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. And once again, I found myself surprised and completely baffled, asking myself "why"-- why would Sen. Obama, apparently in the main stream of current American politics (or any reasonable American of any race) find the hate-filled racial rhetoric of Rev. Wright a source of inspiration, spiritual, social or otherwise?

One of Thomas Sowell's more recent columns on the topic of race led me to the purchase his book. Written more than 20 years ago, Sowell's insights into the Civil Rights movement of the 60's, and its mutation from the ideal of "equal opportunity" to the social and racial politics of the present seem to resonate. After reading "Civil Rights", I believe Thomas Sowell clearly knows and also forcefully and logically explains, better than any other authority I have found, the "why" of our current social and racial politics.

Read and draw your on conclusions. I believe it will be well worth the time, irrespective of one's race and politics.

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