For decades, Thomas Sowell has been the victim of the left’s most Machiavellian racism: he shuns any black man who disagrees with his dictated version of race-based realities or remedies.
The narrow, tiny tent of racial policy-making has no place for black conservatives, but especially for a hulking intellectual and social theorist with a set of unique qualifying credentials.
At 16, Sowell was reportedly voted least likely to succeed at his Harlem high school in New York. He dropped out that year and, after being deemed a “misguided minor”, ended up in a homeless boys’ shelter in the Bronx.
His self-proclaimed “school of hard knocks” would last a decade and included various odd jobs and enlistment in the United States Marine Corps before finding his way back to formal education which would eventually include a bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree. prestigious universities such as Columbia and the University of Chicago.
His early “woes were in some ways lucky,” he told biographer Jason Riley. “[T]hey taught me things that would be hard to understand otherwise…. It gave me an enduring respect for the common sense of ordinary people, a factor systematically ignored by the intellectuals among whom I would later make my career.”
Having had real-world experiences that other intellectuals have only theorized about, he said, removed a blind spot in social analysis and emphasized the empiricism and evidence based on data.
Coupled with this reflective approach is a knack for writing that is focused on ideas, research and results. As Riley has noted, Sowell pays little heed to fads — “awakening” is just the latest iteration in a series of centuries-old “social justice” advocacy thoughts — and places great emphasis on importance to facts, especially insofar as they could challenge popular beliefs.
Now 91, Sowell dropped his longtime national column in 2016, and his prolific personal bibliography includes 43 books, plus half a dozen other revised editions. He has been writing as a resident scholar at the Hoover Institution since 1980.
The following sample of quotes from Sowell should inspire readers to want to read more of his indispensable writings.
On the widespread hypocrisy about diversity: “The next time academics tell you how important diversity is, ask how many Republicans there are in their sociology department.”
In wake of racial hostility to police: ‘If not a single police officer has killed a single black individual anywhere in the United States in all of this year, that would not reduce the number of homicide victims black lives by 1%. When crowds of protesters declare “Black lives matter”, does that mean that all black lives matter – or only less than 1% of black lives lost in conflicts with the police?
On racial hustlers 50 years ago: “The black community has long been plagued by spellbinding speakers who know how to turn the hopes and fears of others into dollars and cents for themselves.”
Demystifying disparities as de facto evidence of discrimination: “Discrimination can certainly cause statistical disparities. But statistical disparities do not automatically mean discrimination. … The obvious fact that different individuals and groups make different choices is steadfastly ignored, as it does not correspond to reality. dominant preconceived ideas, or the crusades based on these preconceived ideas.”
Calling selective reporting that matches race-based programming: “The poverty rate among black married couples has been in the single digits since 1994. You’ll never learn that from most media. Similarly, if you watch these Blacks who went on to college or completed college, the incarceration rate is only a tiny fraction of what it is among blacks who dropped out of high school. not being black; it’s a way of life. Unfortunately, the way of life that’s celebrated not just in rap music, but among the intelligentsia, it’s a way of life that leads to a lot of really big problems for the most people.”
Summing up the predicament of racializing everything: “When people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment looks like discrimination.”
Explaining the intolerant liberal bias in academic echo chambers: “The most basic fact about the ideas of the political left is that they don’t work. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas don’t have to work to survive.”
Analysis of the imperfect economics of universal health care: “It’s amazing that people who think we can’t afford to pay for doctors, hospitals and drugs somehow think that we can afford to pay doctors, hospitals, drugs and a government bureaucracy to administer them.”
Presenting the effects of crude politicization: “Immigration laws are the only laws that are discussed in terms of helping people who break them.”
Declare a fundamental truth: “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.”
And finally, a key insight (from his early work at the Department of Labor) into the inherent and intractable problem of government programs: “You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats, procedure is everything and results are nothing.”
Dana D. Kelley is a freelance writer from Jonesboro.