Cover image for Winning the race : beyond the crisis in Black America
Winning the race : beyond the crisis in Black America
McWhorter, John H.
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Publication Information:
New York : Gotham Books, 2006.

Physical Description:
viii, 434 pages ; 24 cm
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E185.86 .M427 2005 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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A provocative new look at the true sources of the social scourges that are holding back black America—and an impassioned manifesto for change Four decades after the great victories of the Civil Rights Movement secured equal rights for African-Americans, black America is in crisis. Indeed, by most measurable standards, conditions for many blacks have grown worse since 1965: desperate poverty cripples communities nationwide, incarceration rates have reached record highs, teenage pregnancy and out-of- wedlock births are rampant, and educational failures are stifling achievement among the next generation. For years, prominent sociologists and pundits have blamed these problems on forces outside the black community, from lingering racism, to the explosion of the inner-city drug trade, to the erosion of the urban industrial base and the migration of middle-class blacks to the suburbs. But now, in an important and broad-ranging re-envisioning of the post-Civil Rights black American experience, acclaimed author John McWhorter tears down these theories to expose the true roots of today’s crisis, and to show a new way forward.In Winning the Race, McWhorter argues that black America’s current problems began with an unintended byproduct of the Civil Rights revolution, a crippling mindset of “therapeutic alienation.” This wary stance toward mainstream American culture, although it is a legacy of racism in the past, continues to hold blacks back, and McWhorter traces all the poisonous effects of this defeatist attitude. In an in-depth case study of the Indianapolis inner city, he analyzes how a vibrant black neighborhood declined into slums, despite ample work opportunities in an American urban center where manufacturing jobs were plentiful. McWhorter takes a hard look at the legacy of the Great Society social assistance programs, lamenting their teaching people to live permanently on welfare, as well as educational failures, too often occurring because of an intellectual climate in which a successful black person must be faced with charges of “acting white.” He attacks the sorry state of black popular culture, where indignation for its own sake has been enshrined in everything from the halls of academia to the deleterious policy decisions of community leaders to the disaffected lyrics of hip-hop, particularly rap’s glorification of irresponsibility and violence as “protest.” In a stirring conclusion, McWhorter puts forth a new vision of black political and intellectual leadership, arguing that both blacks and whites must abolish the culture of victimhood, as this alone can improve future of black America, and outlines steps that can be taken to ensure hope for the future.Powerful and provocative, Winning the Racecombines detailed research with precise argumentation to present a compelling new vision for black America. Acclaim for Winning the Race: “This is the work of a serious man who knows what the demons are and realizes that they must be identified and fought, not glibly redefined so as to maintain the old order of mush-mouthed ineffectiveness.” —Stanley Crouch, author of The Artificial White Manand The All-American Skin Game, Or the Decoy of Race “John McWhorter demolishes the liberal conventional wisdom about the sources of poverty, crime, family breakdown, and other social ills that afflict the black community today, and offers a compelling alternative vision of how to move beyond the current crisis. Winning the Raceis a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in the problem of race in modern America.” —Stephan Thernstrom and Abigail Thernstrom, authors of America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisibleand No Excuses: How to Close the Racial Gap in Learning

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

McWhorter, author of Losing the Race0 (2000), returns to expand on the theme that the problem with black America is black centered. He attributes the current crisis in black America to that point in the mid- to late-1960s when the countercultural forces opposed to the war merged with a black-as-perpetual-victim perspective, creating a sense of entitlement that has undermined notions of personal responsibility. To make his point, McWhorter strikes at progressive critiques about the causes of the black underclass, from Douglas S. Massey's American Apartheid0 and its focus on hypersegregation to Wilson Julius Wilson's Truly Disadvantaged0 and its emphasis on job loss and withdrawal of the middle class from the inner city. McWhorter dismisses these claims as insignificant, if not outright false. The theme--the Left is wrong and the Rright is right--is his direction, if not objective. Although readers with strong opinions on the subject may not be moved by McWhorter's work, his arguments are worthy reading for more open minds on the Left, Right, and in between. --Vernon Ford Copyright 2006 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this sequel to his 2000 bestseller, Losing the Race, McWhorter exhorts blacks to leave their "anti-whitey theatrics" behind and acknowledge the new racial realities of America. What began as civil rights activism in the late 1960s, he argues, has devolved into empty gestures that leave blacks "defined by defiance" and unwilling to face their problems with innovative responses. The flight of industrial jobs and middle-class blacks from the inner city and the spread of drugs should all have been dealt with head-on, he writes, but instead a debilitating rejectionist attitude took hold. McWhorter vigorously claims that, while blacks weren't well off before the '60s, black Indianapolis in 1915 wasn't "New Jack Indy," and blacks managed to get by without welfare. Yet welfare ended urban blacks' self-reliance and "taught poor blacks to extend the new oppositional mood from hairstyles and rhetoric into a lifestyle separated from mainstream American culture." Blacks grew to think of studying hard as "acting white," and a destructive sense of "therapeutic alienation" that ignores personal responsibility permeated black society, from school and hip-hop culture to leadership and politics. Accessible, if at times long-winded and repetitive, McWhorter's provocative, tough-love message is both grounded in history and forward-looking. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In what is in effect a sequel to his Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America, McWhorter (senior fellow, Manhattan Institute; contributing editor, the New Republic) claims that racism is not the most daunting barrier to success for African Americans. He states that the social behaviors attributed to some poor, inner-city blacks are rooted in cultural rather than economic causes. The author's thought-provoking, insightful investigation challenges such highly regarded academic sociologists as William Julius Wilson and Elijah Anderson, by arguing that welfare dependence and inner-city drug use and violence are not caused by a lack of accessible blue-collar jobs and white racism. Instead, McWhorter concludes, these forms of conduct are rooted in a culture of poverty that emerged in the mid-1960s and in what he calls "therapeutic alienation," which entices a minority of African Americans to remain apart from mainstream society. Included here are affirming narratives about the expansion of a vibrant suburban black middle class and about a greatly improved civil rights climate unavailable to African Americans as recently as 30 years ago. This book energizes the continuing dialogue about racism in the United States and is strongly recommended for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/05.]-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

McWhorter, a scholar at the Manhattan Institute, here expands his critique of educational scholarship on race (Losing the Race) to address the broader writings of social scientists. Dismissing structural explanations of black social problems (segregation and job loss), he claims black advance is impeded by a culture of victimhood that he terms "therapeutic alienation." McWhorter's method is disarming. He expresses respect for his opponents' motivations, and has clearly worked hard and thought deeply about his subject. Many points hit the mark, and his chapter on "black middle class rage" is thoroughly illuminating. Nearly all of his points are interesting and worth addressing. However, there are frequent errors and oversights. McWhorter supports his central claim--that a qualitative shift has decreased the quality of life in black America since the 1960s--with little evidence. He uses rhetorical flourishes to make many points, leading to overstatement. In the end, it is hard to take seriously an author who states without apparent irony, "If the four hundred-plus years of black American history from the early 1600s to 2006 were compressed into twenty-four hours, something went seriously wrong only at about ten o'clock p.m." ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Most levels/libraries. K. J. Bauman independent scholar