The amazingly prolific John McWhorter has written another book, Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America. This is a follow-up to his 2001 book, Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America. I haven't had a chance to read the whole book but am eager to do so. Let me share with you some passages from the introduction.
McWhorter identifies as a major problem of black Americans "therapeutic alienation: alienation unconnected to, or vastly disproportionate to, real-life stimulus, but maintained because it reinforces one's sense of psychological legitimacy, via [defining oneself] against an oppressor characterized as eternally depraved."
He goes on:
Therefore, the question at hand is why therapeutic alienation acquired such a hold on black America only in the sixties. Insecurity alone could not have been the reason. Therapeutic alienation was not as widespread or influential in black America in 1903, or 1943, or even 1963, the year of the March on Washingtonat which time black people had plenty of clear and present reasons to feel insecure. Back in the day, the idea that it was progressive to obsessively tabulate black failure and propose that the only solution was for whites to become blind to race was rare to unknown in leading black ideology. Those who purported that blacks were incapable of surmounting the obstacles were generally tarred as defeatists-witness the reaction of much of the black punditocracy to Richard Wright's work. Most blacks were more interested in fighting the concrete barrier of legalized discrimination than the abstract psychological happenstance of racism.
Two new conditions were necessary for alienation among blacks to so often drift from its moorings in the concrete and become the abstract, the hazy "race thing" that whites just "don't get."
One condition was that blacks had to be prepared to embrace therapeutic alienation, and ironically, this could only have been when conditions improved for blacks. When racism was omnipresent and overt, it would have been psychological suicide for blacks to go around exaggerating what was an all-too-real problem.
Second, whites had to be prepared to listen to the complaints and assume (or pretend) that they were valid. This only began during the countercultural revolution, within which a new openness to blacks and an awareness of racism were key elements. Certainly this frame of mind was not true of all or even most whites. But it became a common wisdom especially among educated and influential ones, such that it quickly infused university curricula and grounded governmental policies intended as progressive.
Even though there were still plenty of white bigots, the nature of black life in America changed. Many whites were now, for the first time, ready to nod sagely at almost anything a black person said. And in that new America, for many blacks, fetishizing the evils of the White Man beyond what reality justified was a seductive crutch for a spiritual deficit that we would be surprised that they did not have. It was the only way to feel whole. Even blacks less injured were still injured enough to let the loudest shouters pass, as bards of their less damaging, but still aggravating, pains.
As Glenn Reynolds, says, read the whole thing.