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Bookstore Ghettoes (Thomas Sowell)
GOPUSA ^ | May 10, 2007 | Thomas Sowell

Posted on 05/09/2007 8:34:59 PM PDT by jazusamo

May 10, 2007

If Rachael Ray had been black, there are bookstores where her cookbook would not be displayed in the same section with all the other cookbooks. It would be displayed off in a special section for black authors.

This means that many people who were looking for cookbooks would not even see Rachael Ray's cookbook, much less buy it.

This is not rocket science but it seems to have escaped the notice of those publishers who supply racial information on their authors, thereby jeopardizing sales of their own books.

Some years back, I was looking for a particular book on child development and was surprised not to see it in the large section of child development books at a local bookstore.

When I asked a clerk to check and see if that book was available, she checked her computer and then said that there were copies in the store right now -- in the section for black writers.

I had no idea what race the author of this child development book was, and would have considered it irrelevant if I had known. But our schools and colleges have turned out millions of people steeped in the new sacred trinity of "race, class, and gender."

I was reminded of all this recently when I noticed that my own latest book, "A Man of Letters," had as its number one official classification "African-American Intellectuals."

This book is no more about black intellectuals -- I don't even use the term "African American" -- than the child development book was about race.

Fortunately, a local San Francisco Borders bookstore that I visited seems to have ignored that classification and had the book on the shelves for books on government and politics.

Actually, "A Man of Letters" is a collection of excerpts from letters I have sent and received since 1960, on topics ranging from education to economics, law, the media, Third World countries and -- in a very few places -- black intellectuals.

Since these letters also cover events in my own life, the book is probably best classified as autobiographical. But I was happy to see it on the bookstore shelves under "government and politics," instead of being shunted off into a racial ghetto, where people looking for this kind of book are unlikely to go.

This is only one of many examples of how much this generation -- especially the "educated" part of it -- has let symbolism over-ride substance.

With just a moment's thought, anyone whose IQ is not in single digits would see the absurdity of the idea of losing book sales for the sake of symbolism. But the real problem is that so many people today don't stop and think when they are being swept along by some fashionable notion.

The notion of honoring black ("African American") writers with a special section in bookstores is just one of innumerable fashionable symbolic notions that ignore consequences.

In other situations, the negative consequences of mindless symbolism can be far more serious.

For example, one of the letters in "A Man of Letters" is from my friend and fellow economist Walter Williams, mentioning that he learned of a teaching hospital near him which had an unwritten policy against giving a failing grade to any black medical student.

Similar policies are mentioned in other letters, to and from other people, about double standards for black medical students at other places, including the Harvard Medical School in the 1970s.

Apparently the symbolism of having more black medical students on display was allowed to over-ride consideration of the consequences of sending out into the world under-qualified doctors, at the risk of their patients' lives.

It is not that these consequences are too complicated for the people who run medical schools to figure out. But nothing gets figured out if you don't bother to stop and think about it.

One of the reasons people don't bother to stop and think is that symbolism lets them feel good about themselves. They can go through life leaving havoc in their wake, while enjoying a warm glow of self-approval.

Lower book sales for black writers are one of the milder consequences.


Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His Web site is

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial
KEYWORDS: sowell; thomassowell
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To: jazusamo
The Sharpton’s and Jackson’s are self promoting con men in it for the bucks and are trying to get something for nothing for themselves and for many others that want everything handed to them.

Indeed. One would think that an Al Sharpton or a Jesse Jackson would read this essay by Mr. Sowell then stand up and applaud its message. It would only seem to be the logical reaction if...and here's the BIG "if"...these two charlatans are true to their words and want an end to racism.

They are more damned by what they don't say than by what they do say.

41 posted on 05/10/2007 8:40:40 AM PDT by Bloody Sam Roberts (Don't question faith. Don't answer lies.)
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To: jazusamo; Bloody Sam Roberts; bad company
Sowell speaks of "symbolism." For someone who's usually such a straight shooter, I'm surprised he didn't call it what it is: racism. Classifying people by race is purely and simply RACISM. It disgusts me so much today to see hypocritical "civil rights" leaders urging special treatment for blacks, and viciously smearing anyone who opposes them by wrapping themselves in the names of truly great men, especially the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..

"...I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'...
"...I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Ask yourself, does putting black authors in their own section and judging university and job applicants to be better than their peers because they're not white fit the above statements, or do they more invoke

"All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."


"We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff's argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority."

So long as we judge people by race, even for their benefit [of course, that just means a different race becomes the one discriminated against], we're sustaining the notion that people of different races are somehow fundamentally different in either their innate abilities or how far they can advance in life. Black leaders today capitalize not on trying to empower blacks, but by bombarding them with the notion that they cannot succeed without help. What is the message of affirmative action anyway? It's "You can only succeed if you get special treatment because your race is special." No wonder inner city minority youth are so disillusioned- no one's ever told them they can do what they want in life.
To be fair, I know black people often do have it harder as a matter of their circumstances. But we shouldn't use that as justification to defile what so many gave their lives for as slaves, in the Civil Rights movement, and even the Revolutionary War. Blacks, and minorities in general, today are still treated as a second class of citizens just as they were when they were slaves or suffering under Jim Crow laws. That must stop.

It is one of my most fervent hopes that some day race statistics won't be keep for lack of need. But moreover I wish attitudes based upon race would go away. Ask a child too young to know who the president is nowadays who is in this photo:

and the response will be "a black man and a white man." When will that response be merely "two men" ?
42 posted on 05/10/2007 2:33:08 PM PDT by verum ago (The Iranian Space Agency: set phasers to jihad!)
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To: verum ago
When will that response be merely "two men" ?

Amen brother. Amen.

43 posted on 05/10/2007 3:21:14 PM PDT by Bloody Sam Roberts (Don't question faith. Don't answer lies.)
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To: verum ago

Excellent post, VA.

44 posted on 05/10/2007 3:31:00 PM PDT by jazusamo (
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To: Elsiejay

I had a high school english teacher who broke it down into “see paw rate” = “se pa rate”. Receive was “ree cee”.

45 posted on 05/10/2007 3:57:22 PM PDT by LexBaird (98% satisfaction guaranteed. There's just no pleasing some people.)
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To: verum ago

You nailed it.

46 posted on 05/10/2007 10:18:52 PM PDT by bad company (I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous)
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To: dcwusmc
He just hit another one out of the park!

If he was a baseball player, he'd bat 1.000, every at bat a home run. They would have to ban him from playing the game. Thank God liberals are not successful enough (yet) to ban him from the sport of political commentary where he excells.

47 posted on 05/10/2007 10:28:47 PM PDT by Captainpaintball
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To: jazusamo

When I was a senior in high school, I had a history teacher introduce me to Thomas Sowell, back in 72-73....been reading him a long, long time....He was always a breath of wisdom and fresh air....

48 posted on 05/10/2007 10:29:16 PM PDT by Knitting A Conundrum (Act Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly With God Micah 6:8)
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To: Knitting A Conundrum

That’s great, KAC. I would love to be able to meet him and be able to talk for even a couple minutes.

49 posted on 05/10/2007 10:52:54 PM PDT by jazusamo (
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To: jazusamo
One of the reasons people don't bother to stop and think is that symbolism lets them feel good about themselves. They can go through life leaving havoc in their wake, while enjoying a warm glow of self-approval.

Yep, that about nails it.

50 posted on 05/10/2007 11:03:21 PM PDT by SuziQ
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To: verum ago

The liberals could have a field day with that picture, especially Bush’s.

51 posted on 05/24/2007 4:44:32 PM PDT by HarmlessLovableFuzzball
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To: goodnesswins
How stupid.....all this does is contribute to racism against the successful black medical graduates....who would YOU want doing your surgery?

I'm surprised to have not seen a backlash against Affirmative Action from truly qualified minority professionals.

The fact that I haven't seen such makes me wonder...

52 posted on 05/24/2007 4:56:48 PM PDT by Trailerpark Badass
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To: Trailerpark Badass

1. They’re too busy working and being productive
2. The MSM wouldn’t publish anything they said, anyway!

53 posted on 05/24/2007 7:22:47 PM PDT by goodnesswins (We need to cure Academentia)
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