In the preface to Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America, John McWhorter writes:
"Black America is currently caught in certain ideological holding patterns that are today much, much more serious barriers to Black well being than is white racism, and constitute nothing less than a continuous, self sustaining act of self-sabotage."
This ideology that McWhorter speaks of consists of three main parts.
The cult of victimolgy, where Blacks see themselves as a victim of society which causes them to think that nothing can be done about their current situation. The second part of McWhorter's ideology consists of the idea of separatism; which causes Blacks to see themselves as a separate entity, where they are "special" and not held accountable to the same societal rules as the rest of the United States. The last part of McWhorter's ideology is anti-intellectualism. This is where Black Americans think that they are not supposed to be "intellectual".
McWhorter's statement in the beginning of his book denotes a distorted view of racism and prejudice against Black’s in America and appears to be very one sided. It is a statement that I do not agree with.
Both the perception of Black Americans and the result of that perception are detrimental to the well being of Black America. Even though McWhorter’s statement may have some validity, once the for mentioned factors have been taken into consideration, it will be shown that these
additional factors are deemed by many to be more dangerous to the welfare of Blacks in America than their “self sustaining act of self-sabotage”.
The perception of Blacks in American has been distorted from the very first moments of the founding of our nation. This distortion of perception was done not to show the good attributes that were inherent in Blacks, but is used as a way for whites to justify their cruel treatment of Blacks. From the early days of slavery to the not so distant days of Jim Crow, whites have used misconceptions and distrust to convince others to look down upon Blacks and try to keep them thought of as living in a sub-culture. Joe Feagin says in book Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations, that Blacks have historically been seen as lazy. He also goes on to say that there are misconceived notions that Black men and woman are heavily sexualized and avid drug users.
These misconceptions have attributed to the implementation of un-established policies, that some see aught to be commonplace. The fist type of these policies is that of most financial institution’s lending procedures. One such lending process is called “Redlining”. Redlining is a form of discrimination in lending and is a problem that has been prevalent for a number of years and has caused problems in both the Black and low-income communities. Redlining is the implanting of unfair terms on borrowers through aggressive sales tactics, taking advantage of borrowers’ lack of understanding of extremely complicated transactions, and outright deception. Redlining keeps the hope of owning a home out of the reach of many and in the worst instances ending in foreclosure. The damage is increased by the fact that Redlining is a procedure that is made in such a concentrated volume in poor and minority neighborhoods, where better loans are not readily available, and the loss of equity and foreclosure can devastate already fragile communities. Even though there has been legislation imposed to fight against redlining the practice still exists.
In the Indelible Color Line” by Gregory D. Squires, Squires lists acts that have been passed to stop financial institution’s discriminatory procedures such as Redlining. He talks of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 which both aided in stopping discrimination based on race by financial institutions in mortgage and other financial transactions, including credit transactions. Squires went on to say that in 1975 the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act which forced mortgage lenders to disclose the area where they have made mortgage transactions. Squires also mentioned that in 1977 Congress enacted the Community Reinvestment Act which forced financial institutions to be more sensitive to the needs of those that reside in the entire area that the financial institution serves.
In more recent years, Congress expanded the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act so that not just the area of the mortgage transaction was disclosed, but also the race, gender, income, census tract location of the applicant and weather of not the applicant was accepted or declined were also disclosed. Even though the for mentioned Congressional Acts have been implemented, there is still evidence that discrimination still exists. In “Of Race and Risk” Patricia Williams chronicles her plight through the home loan process. In this article Williams tells how she was approved for a home loan at a certain rate under the financial institutions misconception of her being white. Once this fact was cleared up and she indicated that she was Black, William’s financial institution wanted “more money, more points and a higher rate of interest.”
Another factor that I feel is more detrimental to the well being of Black American that their ideology of being a victim is the practice of job discrimination. Having a good paying job is necessary in establishing a foundation that will enable Black American to rise out of the strong hold of institutional racism that is omnipotent in lower income areas. In “Is Job Discrimination dead?” Cedric Herring argues that job discrimination is far from being dead. The presence of racial in the job place has taken on a new form so that it is less obvious. Herring states that this “subtle discrimination” is done in a couple of different ways. The first way that this is done is through the way that employees are paid. Herring says that white applicants are offered higher wages and higher profiled positions to white applicants than to applicants of color. Another way the employers try to hide their discriminatory practices is to avoid advertising job positions in the mainstream media. Instead, they advertised in publications that did not circulate to minorities or Black Americans.
After taking a look at some of the other things that can cause Black Americans to be stuck in the proverbial “depths of the inner city”, McWhorter’s statement that the ideology of the Black community is the most detrimental to their well being is not valid. It is the constant use of racially discriminatory procedures by institutions that impose the idea of victimology. These practices should the thing that is deemed more detrimental to the well being of Black Americans, than the ideology of victimology.
Feagin, Joe R. 2001. Racist America: Roots, Current Realities & Future Reparations. New York: Routledge.
Herring, Cedric. “Is Job Discrimination Dead?” In Sociology of the Black Community Course Packet, Professor Dickerson, Autumn 2003
McWhorter, John H. 2000 Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America New York: The Free Press
Squires, Gregory D. “The Indelible Color Line” In Sociology of the Black Community Course Packet, Professor Dickerson, Autumn 2003
Williams, Patricia. “Of Race and Risk” In Sociology of the Black Community Course Packet, Professor Dickerson, Autumn 2003