Thomas Sowell

In this era, when indignation has replaced thought for many people, it should not be surprising that the very title of my book "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" should have provoked angry reactions and bitter denunciations, even from people who never read it. 
Some whites in the South have reacted with resentment at the thought that they are being stereotyped as rednecks while some blacks resent anything that suggests anything negative about themselves. However, it would require reading no further than the preface to learn that neither most Southern whites today, nor most blacks, are considered to be part of the redneck culture that once dominated the South.

 I came out of that Southern culture and could have been considered one of the black rednecks. More important, vast amounts of historical research by dedicated scholars have shown sharp differences between the white population of the antebellum South and the white population of the North.

 While those differences have eroded over the generations, they have not completely disappeared among the poorest and least educated blacks living today in urban ghettos, North and South. Many of the differences between blacks and whites nationwide today are strikingly similar to the differences between Southern whites and Northern whites in the 19th and early 20th century.

 What are those differences?

 They include rates of violence, rates of sexual promiscuity, and -- most explosive of all -- differences in intellectual development. The biggest taboo that people are most afraid to talk about is that blacks do much worse on mental tests or in schools and colleges.

 Some try to deny that there is any such difference, that it is all due to biased tests or bad schools or whatever other evasion comes to mind. The great unspoken fear is that it is racial.

 In reality, antebellum Southern whites likewise lagged behind Northern whites in intellectual or educational achievement, though this could not be explained by race or racism or other factors used to explain similarly lagging intellectual and educational performances among blacks today.

 As late as the First World War, whites from a number of Southern states scored lower on mental tests than blacks from some Northern states. During the antebellum era, before there were mental tests, there were other clear indications that the redneck culture did not promote intellectual development.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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