The Sowell Digest

One Truth About Black Culture That Shocked Joe Rogan, Part Two


Few figures in conservativism are more revered than Thomas Sowell. A free-market economist, social theorist and philosopher, Sowell’s work has spanned decades and influenced generations.

Sowell wrote a nationally syndicated column, authored dozens of books and dazzled television audiences time and time again with his common sense, anti-intellectual approach to political and cultural issues.

The following story is part of The Western Journal’s exclusive series “The Sowell Digest.” Each issue will break down and summarize one of Sowell’s many influential works. This article is the second of two parts covering “Black Rednecks and White Liberals,” the first chapter of one of Sowell’s most prominent books which shares the same name. Read part one here.

In mid-2020, following the death of George Floyd, America’s race conversation underwent a drastic transformation. The Black Lives Matter movement hit its apex.

Founded by Marxist intellectuals, the movement forwarded the idea that racial equality could only be obtained through a radical political and social transformation of the U.S. Much as their idol Karl Marx had blamed business owners and merchants for oppressing working-class laborers, BLM’s founders maintained that all white people, regardless of their intention, are responsible for the oppression of American blacks. Racism, bigotry and a legacy of slavery, they maintained, were at the heart of all of America’s problems.

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In the following months, protests and riots filled the streets. Both large corporations and small local businesses kowtowed to the movement’s demands through donations to the movement’s partisan political causes and oaths of fealty.

As the movement and its cries for change grew larger and louder, Thomas Sowell’s depiction of the “white liberal” in “Black Rednecks and White Liberals” became ever more visible.

White Liberals Revealed

Nowhere was this more apparent than in a poster released by Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture in mid-2020 titled “ASPECTS & ASSUMPTIONS OF WHITENESS & WHITE CULTURE IN THE UNITED STATES.”

The poster listed a number of cultural values and expectations deemed to be “white.”

“White dominant culture, or whiteness, refers to the ways white people and their traditions, attitudes and ways of life have been normalized over time and are now considered standard practices in the United States. And since white people still hold most of the institutionalized power in America, we have all internalized some aspects of white culture — including people of color,” the poster read.

The list of items deemed to be “white” (and therefore presumably oppressive when forced upon minorities) included the following:

  • The nuclear family
  • Self-reliance
  • Work-ethic
  • Being polite
  • Following proper grammar rules
  • Planning for the future
  • Delayed gratification
  • Respect for authority
  • Christianity
  • English common law
  • Respect for property
  • The scientific method
  • Individualism
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Yes, you read that right: according to the Smithsonian, raising a traditional family, speaking proper English and planning for the future are all principles exclusive to “whiteness.”

The dangerous assumption implicit in all of this is that each value’s antithesis — non-traditional family structures, disrespect for authority, poor speaking skills, a lack of work ethic, etc. — are features of “black- and brownness.”

These ideas were nothing new. And believe it or not, they didn’t start with the Ku Klux Klan or neo-Nazis (though, both groups would agree with such a premise). In fact, in a book written nearly two decades ago, Sowell described exactly how white liberal’s began pushing this notion of “white” and “black” values.

According to him, these ideas have been around since the 1960s. The only difference now is that, thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement, the notion that these universal values are “white” has become mainstream.

White Liberals and “Values”

In “Black Rednecks and White Liberals,” Sowell maintained that many of the very same ideas presented via the Smithsonian’s “whiteness” poster first originated following the Civil Rights Movement.

As was discussed in part one of this series, during the era of American slavery, many southern blacks assimilated to the counterproductive cultural attitudes of white rednecks.

Instead of acknowledging that these sorts of attitudes — lack of work ethic, disrespect for authority, poor grammar skills, etc. — were counterproductive for both the whites and blacks that adhered to them, white liberals in the ’60s began to categorize such values as inherently “black.”

As a result, black Americans who adhered to more traditional, productive attitudes — hard work, respect, etc. — were deemed to be not “really” black.

Sowell called this the “identity fetish.”

“The notion that the ghetto black was the authentic black not only spread among both white and black intellectuals, it had social repercussions far beyond the intellectual community . . . more successful blacks were increasingly depicted as either irrelevant non-members of the black community or even as traitors to it,” Sowell wrote.

According to Sowell, these attitudes not only keep “black rednecks” in poverty but also shame young, college-aged middle-class blacks into spending less time studying “under the overhanging threat of being accused of ‘acting white.'”

It’s easy to see how the Smithsonian’s 2020 poster would help exacerbate such attitudes.

For instance, if a black person were to choose to marry before having kids, an accurate predictor of financial success, they could be accused of adopting the “white” nuclear family.

Similarly, if a black or brown person were to respect police officers during any given encounter by following the officer’s commands rather than protesting them (the latter situation being one that could presumably escalate into violence), that minority could also be seen as “acting white” for showing “respect for authority.”

As was discussed in part one, the painful irony in all of this, however, is that the values liberals deem to be authentically “black” are actually authentically “white redneck.”

Liberals’ efforts to preserve these values within the black community are seen constantly in the education system.

Demands to lower standards for tests and exams, for example, are born out of a belief that non-whites are less capable of following grammar rules, the scientific method and other ideas deemed “white.”

If these were truly “white” values, however, and if our current educational system is rigged against those who aren’t white, then how come blacks from the West Indies and New England traditionally perform so well when compared to their “black redneck” counterparts?

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Part one briefly touched upon a conversation between podcaster Joe Rogan and author Hunter Maats, the latter explained one of Sowell’s key hypotheses.

“When liberals look at the people in ghettos, they say ‘ah, racism, that’s why they’re not succeeding,'” Maats said.

“Sowell is saying ‘no, it’s not because if you look at this group from the West Indies, they also came from the experience of slavery… they are also black, so they also face racism, and yet they do well.'”

Sowell doesn’t just claim that blacks from the West Indies perform better than their counterparts from the southern U.S.

The economist provides irrefutable evidence.

“The 1970 census showed that black West Indian families in the New York metropolitan area had 28 percent higher incomes than the families of American blacks. The incomes of second-generation West Indian families living in the same area exceeded that of black families by 58 percent,” Sowell wrote.

“Neither race or racism can explain such differences. Nor can slavery, since native-born blacks and West Indian blacks both had a history of slavery. Studies published in 2004 indicated that an absolute majority of the black alumni of Harvard were either West Indian or African immigrants, or the children of these immigrants.”

“Somewhat similar findings have emerged in studies of some other elite colleges. With blacks as with whites, the redneck culture has been a less achieving culture.”

White Liberals Fight Against Good Education

Many blacks who came from the southern redneck tradition went on to live very productive lives. You might think this fact undermines Sowell’s point but it actually strengthens it; those black rednecks who succeeded were the very ones who were forced to abandon their values by New Englanders.

As soon as the Civil War ended, many teachers from New England, eager to establish new schools, poured into the South and began educating many of the communities there.

As a result, a large number of southern blacks began to acclimate to the New England values of hard work and studiousness.

Thousands of schools were founded by mostly-white New Englanders.

Many of these schools were founded by religious institutions such as the American Missionary Association. Unlike the white liberals of today, these educators held high standards for their students, regardless of skin color.

What’s more, they believed that teaching moral virtues and good cultural values was a key part of educational success.

“The avowed purpose of the American Missionary Association was to transplant a different culture into the school and college enclaves . . . to deliberately supplant the existing culture,” Sowell wrote.

These schools taught New England virtues and morality, such as hard work, proper grammatical speech and so on — many values which would be described as “white” today.

These efforts were undeniably successful and helped propel many southern blacks to educational and financial success. Graduates from the New England schools showed great proficiency in Latin, Greek, geometry and many other areas of study.

Racist ex-slaveholder Joseph Brown was certainly surprised by the results. Brown conducted a series of tests on many students from such institutions in Atlanta, expecting the results to “confirm the Negro’s inferiority.”

Instead, Brown was forced to disavow his beliefs.

“[W]e were impressed with the fallacy of the popular idea . . . that the members of the African race are not capable of a high grad of intellectual culture,” he said.

A journalist from the Atlanta Constitution quoted by Sowell was similarly surprised by the results. “To see colored boys and girls fourteen to eighteen years of age, reading in Greek and Latin, and demonstrating correctly problems in Algebra and Geometry . . . appears almost wonderful,” the Constitution said, per Sowell.

Is Thomas Sowell right about “white liberals”?

Perhaps if today’s educational institutions were to take a similar, no-nonsense approach to teaching rather than an insistence that black students act more like white rednecks, similar results would be seen today.

As long as white liberals perpetuate a culture that encourages black Americans to act like white rednecks, economic, educational, occupational and societal disparities will continue to exist to some extent between the two races.

However, if they decide to wake up to reality and decide that all groups should be encouraged to adhere to the same universal standards of excellence, freedom and moral virtue that created the freedom and prosperity of the Western world, then perhaps we may have a chance at racial parity.

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Michael wrote for a number of entertainment news outlets before joining The Western Journal in 2020 as a staff reporter. He now manages the writing and reporting teams, overseeing the production of commentary, news and original reporting content.
Michael Austin graduated from Iowa State University in 2019. During his time in college, Michael volunteered as a social media influencer for both PragerU and Live Action. After graduation, he went on to work as a freelance journalist for various entertainment news sites before joining The Western Journal in 2020 as a staff reporter.

Since then, Michael has been promoted to the role of Manager of Writing and Reporting. His responsibilities now include managing and directing the production of commentary, news and original reporting content.
Ames, Iowa
Iowa State University
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Culture, Faith, Politics, Education, Entertainment