by Thomas Sowell
by Thomas Sowell: Misleading
long last has had the courage to tell the plain, honest truth about
of young blacks rampaged through Philadelphia committing violence
– as similar mobs have rampaged through Chicago, Denver, Milwaukee
and other places – Philadelphia's black mayor, Michael A. Nutter,
ordered a police crackdown and lashed out at the whole lifestyle
of those who did such things.
"Pull up your
pants and buy a belt 'cause no one wants to see your underwear or
the crack of your butt," he said. "If you walk into somebody's office
with your hair uncombed and a pick in the back, and your shoes untied,
and your pants half down, tattoos up and down your arms and on your
neck, and you wonder why somebody won't hire you? They don't hire
you 'cause you look like you're crazy," the mayor said. He added:
"You have damaged your own race."
might seem like it is just plain common sense, what Mayor Nutter
said undermines a whole vision of the world that has brought fame,
fortune and power to race hustlers in politics, the media and academia.
Any racial disparities in hiring can only be due to racism and discrimination,
according to the prevailing vision, which reaches from street corner
demagogues to the august chambers of the Supreme Court of the United
Just to identify
the rioters and looters as black is a radical departure, when mayors,
police chiefs and the media in other cities report on these outbreaks
of violence without mentioning the race of those who are doing these
things. The Chicago Tribune even made excuses for failing
to mention race when reporting on violent attacks by blacks on whites
might make sense if the same politicians and media talking heads
were not constantly mentioning race when denouncing the fact that
a disproportionate number of young black men are being sent to prison.
social dogma is that disparities in outcomes between races can only
be due to disparities in how these races are treated. In other words,
there cannot possibly be any differences in behavior.
But if black
and white Americans had exactly the same behavior patterns, they
would be the only two groups on this planet that are the same.
minority in Malaysia has long been more successful and more prosperous
than the Malay majority, just as the Indians in Fiji have long been
more successful and more prosperous than the indigenous Fijians.
At various places and times throughout history, the same could be
said of the Armenians in Turkey, the Lebanese in Sierra Leone, the
Parsees in India, the Japanese in Brazil, and numerous others.
There are similar
disparities within particular racial or ethnic groups. Even this
late in history, I have had northern Italians explain to me why
they are not like southern Italians. In Australia, Jewish leaders
in both Sydney and Melbourne went to great lengths to tell me why
and how the Jews are different in these two cities.
In the United
States, despite the higher poverty level among blacks than among
whites, the poverty rate among black married couples has been in
single digits since 1994. The disparities within the black community
are huge, both in behavior and in outcomes.
the dogma persists that differences between groups can only be due
to the way others treat them or to differences in the way others
perceive them in "stereotypes."
the country, people in politics and the media have been tip-toeing
around the fact that violent attacks by blacks on whites in public
places are racially motivated, even when the attackers themselves
use anti-white invective and mock the victims they leave lying on
the streets bleeding.
This is not
something to ignore or excuse. It is something to be stopped. Mayor
Michael Nutter of Philadelphia seems to be the first to openly recognize
to be done for the sake of both black and white Americans – and
even for the sake of the hoodlums. They have set out on a path that
leads only downward for themselves.
of the media have their antennae out to pick up anything that might
be construed as racism against blacks, they resolutely ignore even
the most blatant racism by blacks against others.
a pattern of violent attacks on whites in public places in Chicago,
Denver, New York, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Kansas
City, as well as blacks in schools beating up Asian classmates –
for years – in New York and Philadelphia.
have been accompanied by explicitly racist statements by the attackers,
so it is not a question of having to figure out what the motivation
is. There has also been rioting and looting by these young hoodlums.
have no monopoly on these ugly and malicious episodes. Remarkably
similar things are being done by lower-class whites in England.
Anybody reading "Life at the Bottom" by Theodore Dalrymple will
recognize the same barbaric and self-destructive patterns among
people with the same attitudes, even though their skin color is
today's headline stories about young hoodlums turning the streets
of London into scenes of shattered and burning chaos, complete with
violence, will discover the down side of the brotherhood of man.
While the history
and the races are different, what is the same in both countries
are the social policies and social attitudes long promoted by the
intelligentsia and welfare state politicians.
A recent study
in England found 352,000 households in which nobody had ever worked.
Moreover, two-thirds of the adults in those households said that
they didn't want to work. As in America, such people feel both "entitled"
In both countries,
those who have achieved less have been taught by the educational
system, by the media and by politicians on the left that they have
a grievance against those who have achieved more. As in the United
States, they feel a fierce sense of resentment against strangers
who have done nothing to them, and lash out violently against those
riots, looting and violence in England, a young woman was quoted
as saying that this showed "the rich" and the police that "we can
do whatever we want." Among the things done during these riots was
forcing apparently prosperous looking people to strip naked in the
The need to
bring people down in humiliation that marked the mass violence against
the Armenians in Turkey nearly a century ago, and that later marked
the Nazi persecutions of the Jews in Germany, is still alive and
well in people who resent those who have achieved more than they
A milder but
revealing episode in England some time back involved burglars who
were not content to simply steal things but also vented their hostility
by scrawling on the wall: "RICH BASTARDS."
In the United
States, young black thugs attacked whites with baseball bats and
took their belongings in Denver, while voicing their hatred of whites.
But it is all a very similar attitude to what has been found in
other countries and other times.
correct intelligentsia will tell you that the reason for this alienation
and lashing out is that there are great disparities and inequities
that need to be addressed.
But such barbarism
was not nearly as widespread two generations ago, in the middle
of the 20th century. Were there no disparities or inequities then?
Actually there were more.
What is different
today is that there has been – for decades – a steady drumbeat of
media and political hype about differences in income, education
and other outcomes, blaming these differences on oppression against
those with fewer achievements or lesser prosperity.
there has been a growing tolerance of lawlessness and a growing
intolerance toward the idea that people who are lagging need to
take steps to raise themselves up, instead of trying to pull others
All this exalts
those who talk such lofty talk. But others pay the price – and ultimately
that includes even those who take the road toward barbarism.
of violent attacks against strangers on the streets – in both England
and the United States – are not necessarily just passing episodes.
They should be wake-up calls, warning of the continuing degeneration
of Western society.
doctor and author Theodore Dalrymple said, long before these riots
broke out, "the good are afraid of the bad and the bad are afraid
Not only the
trends over the years leading up to these riots but also the squeamish
responses to them by officials – on both sides of the Atlantic –
reveal the moral dry rot that has spread deep into Western societies.
Even when black
youth gangs target white strangers on the streets and spew out racial
hatred as they batter them and rob them, mayors, police chiefs and
the media tiptoe around their racism and many in the media either
don't cover these stories or leave out the race and racism involved.
the government did not call out the troops to squash their riots
at the outset. The net result was that young hoodlums got to rampage
and loot for hours, while the police struggled to try to contain
the violence. Hoodlums returned home with loot from stores with
impunity, as well as bringing home with them a contempt for the
law and for the rights of other people.
With all the
damage that was done by these rioters, both to cities and to the
whole fabric of British society, it is very unlikely that most of
the people who were arrested will be sentenced to jail. Only 7 percent
of people convicted of crime in England are actually put behind
to incarceration" are in vogue among the politically correct elites
in England, just as in the United States. But in Britain those elites
have had much more clout for a much longer time. And they have done
much more damage.
our own politically correct elites are pointing us in the same direction.
A headline in the New York Times shows the same politically
correct mindset in the United States: "London Riots Put Spotlight
on Troubled, Unemployed Youths in Britain." There is not a speck
of evidence that the rioters and looters are troubled – unless you
engage in circular reasoning and say that they must have been troubled
to do the things they did.
like other rioters on both sides of the Atlantic they are often
exultant in their violence and happy to be returning home with stolen
designer clothes and upscale electronic devices.
In both England
and in the United States, whole generations have been fed a steady
diet of grievances and resentment against society, and especially
against others who are more prosperous than they are. They get this
in their schools, on television, on campuses and in the movies.
Nothing is their own fault. It is all "society's" fault.
One of the
young Britons interviewed in the New York Times reported
that he had learned to read only three years ago. He is not unique.
In Theodore Dalrymple's book, Life
at the Bottom, he referred to many British youths who are
unashamedly illiterate. The lyrics of a popular song in Britain
said, "We don't need no education" and another song was titled "Poor,
White and Stupid."
says, "I cannot recall meeting a sixteen-year-old white from the
public housing estates that are near my hospital who could multiple
nine by seven."
In the United
States, the color may be different but the attitudes among the hoodlum
element are very similar. In both countries, classmates who try
to learn can find themselves targeted by bullies.
those who want to study in ghetto schools are often accused of "acting
white." But whites in Britain show the same pattern. Some conscientious
students are beaten up badly enough to end up at Dr. Dalrymple's
often advise us to learn from other countries. They usually mean
that we should imitate other countries. But it may be far more important
to learn from their mistakes – the biggest of which may be listening
to fashionable nonsense from the smug intelligentsia.
show us where that smug nonsense leads. It may be a sneak preview
of our own future.
"Send not to
know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee."
Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford
University. His Web site is www.tsowell.com.
To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other
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