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Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality?

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  259 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
It is now more than three decades since the historic Supreme Court decision on desegregation, Brown v. Board of Education. Thomas Sowell takes a tough, factual look at what has actually happened over these decades -- as distinguished from the hopes with which they began or the rhetoric with which they continue, Who has gained and who has lost? Which of the assumptions behi ...more
ebook, 168 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 1984)
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Lucas Rodrigues
I liked this book for two reasons. First, it was strongly based on statistics (though you can discuss the method sometimes). Second, and more important, it calls for responsibilities of minorities what, in my vision, is important to strengthen them. I believe that whenever we denied taking responsibility a chance to create virtue is lost. So, every time you blame discrimination for an undesirable result which is in your power to change, you get weaker, not stronger.

Civil Rights Movement was resp
Jamie King
Aug 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
If feel that there is no way I could ever do justice trying to explain Thomas Sowell's intellect. On this topic alone I have gone through an exhaustive amount of material of his, yet each time go goes about explaining this it is intriguing and far from redundant.

Sowell admits this is no work of pleasure and hardly voluntary but a project of demand. One that is so crucially needed in dispelling so many of the accepted myths that have substitued a blind justice of equal opportunity, with one based
TJ Shelby
Nov 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I marvel at the coincidence in my decision to read George Orwell's 1984 as I simultaneously read Sowell's "Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality" which he wrote in 1984. Both deal with the issue of revisionist history and with those of capable thought processes to debate whether certain things did or were happening.

As a self-professed "Stat Geek" this book blew me away. It tore down a few walls that I harbored as fact and/or opinion regarding the role of government in the civil rights movement. One
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2017
I truly believe everyone should read this book or something else on a similar topic by Sowell. Aside from the specific information and arguments presented, enough in themselves to force any honest reader to think more rigorously about the topic and question many near-universal assumptions, I'll never look at statistics comparing various groups the same way again. I'll always have to ask: What level of aggregation are we looking at? What factors are not being considered? What unspoken assumptions ...more
Thomas Achord
May 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, politics, culture
Brown v. Board of Ed. “was not simply a decision but the beginning of a revolution that has not yet run its course, but which has already shown the classic symptoms of a revolution taking a very different path from the envisioned by those who set it in motion.

“The civil rights revolution of the past generation has had wide ramifications among a growing variety of groups, and has changed not only the political landscape and social history of the United States, but has also altered the very concep
Don Lim
May 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It may surprise the reader to know this book was published in 1984, and yet the same misconceptions and fallacies exist in the public. It is also sad that Sowell felt it was his duty to write this book when time could have been spent doing other work. Sowell makes quick work of the two incorrect reasoning when attempting to explain the discrepancies of the black population: statistics and discrimination. Statistics alone does not necessarily mean there is a disparity in equality of opportunity. ...more
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Sowell may be the most thoroughly intelligent man alive. He is an expert in systematically dismantling shallow visions, false assumptions, and the pernicious appeal of fluffy rhetoric and ego-driven self-flattery that persists in media, politics, and culture surrounding race and ethnic discussions. The real-life consequences of policies and philosophies that hide behind the language of good intentions are given a sober, clear-eyed, devastating critique in Sowell's work. How this man isn't ...more
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-history
When someone like Thomas E. Woods, Jr. recommends a book, you have to pay attention and then read that book.

This is one of those books, and it is as spectacular as Woods made it out to be. It is a must read, especially for anyone interested in "race" issues. As usual, Sowell uses his brilliant mind to pierce through the nonsense. No one does it more completely with more panache with more intelligence than Sowell. Read this! it will change your mind.
In reviewing this book, I begin first with the last words in the closing chapter of this book, largely because the author Dr. Thomas Sowell has been misrepresented by those who are more politically liberal. This work is not a recommendation of minorities to lift themselves out of their own bootstrap, but rather a focus on political policies with government interference that affects the disadvantage. Thus, it's not a complaint against individual minorities, nor is it a denial that there is no suc ...more
Mark Geise
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of all the Thomas Sowell works I have read to date, I believe this is his most scathing (and effective) attack on the prevailing civil rights mission. Written in 1984, Sowell correctly predicted the trend of the civil rights vision. The statistics largely indicate that he was correct when he stated that the civil rights battle was largely won in the 1960's; what has been done in the name of civil rights since that time has largely served to hurt the groups that legislation was intended to help. ...more
Zod Wolcott
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting economic look at the Civil Rights movement and its affects. Well written and presented.

But whose numbers can you believe? I should be just as skeptical of Dr Sowell's numbers as I should be of those whose views he disagrees with.
Mar 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Insightful look at evolution of thinking behind the civil rights movement - and the consequences that followed. In particular, Sowell takes aim at what he sees as one-dimensional thinking related to economic disparities:

"Those who carry the civil rights vision to its ultimate conclusion see no great difference between promoting equality of opportunity and equality of results. If there are not equal results among groups presumed to have equal genetic potential, then some inequality of opportunit
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sowell launches a frontal assault on modernity's obsession with statistical equivalence in incomes and other areas across race, gender, subculture and belief. "In short, statistical disparities are commonplace among human beings." Were this common-sense truth more common. Backed by economic theory, historical evidence and a strong personal testimony, Sowell unpacks the assumptions and fallacies behind this vision, and in characteristic fashion shows how even the best-intentioned policies can mak ...more
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The message of the book is; check your assumptions. Sowell argues that neither genetic inferiority/superiority nor discrimination can explain the disparate outcomes we see within and between racial, ethnic, and gender groups. He then goes on to explain the costs, benefits, incentives, and constraints that arose when the civil rights movement want from an equality of opportunity movement to attempted equality of results via affirmative action, forced integration, lawsuits based on statistics, etc ...more
Steve Sawyer
Oct 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An awesome book by the extremely intelligent Thomas Sowell. Thomas Sowell grew up in Brooklyn and in his college days was an avowed communist. How ever after working for the government he quickly realized just how disastrous Central Planning was in a free country and understood how much more a disaster it would be if you gave government even more power.

This book really makes you think about civil rights with a focus on the arguments. He provides the statistics that show how the current civil rig
Peter B.
May 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture
A good, factual examination of the civil rights movement, especially in the way it has developed into an ideological vision since the initial movement in the 50s and early 60s. Basically, while civil rights are important, they can't be made to solve all societal problems. Striving for forced equal group results actually harms the disadvantaged by ignoring economic considerations. Factual and economic sense is needed more than rhetorical flourishes in these civil rights discussions, and Sowell do ...more
Sylvester Kuo
Oct 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics, history, essays
A really short book summarising some of Dr. Sowell's earlier works in a simpler format and shorter length that made economic illiterates able to understand the book. Although not his finest or his most detailed work, Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality is still a good book to educate people about the economic reality of affirmative action and how it does the opposite of what it was intended to do, as all socialist ideas go.
Yuri Zbitnoff
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
A sober, fact based analysis of economic outcomes for women and minorities and their correlation to civil rights legislation. A poignant rebuke to social justice warriors everywhere whose influence has compounded since its publication in 1984.
Brilliant, deeply sourced and absolutely essential.

Full review here:
Apr 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Sowell does an outstanding job of showing how the economic impact of decisions can be counter-productive to the decision's intended consequence. I have read two or three other books by Thomas Sowell and this one seems to become very defensive towards the end.

I put "Ethnic America" & "Intellectuals and Society" on my reading wishlist.
Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Thomas Sowell, a black man, is one of the most enlightened, knowledgeable, and honest conservatives of my lifetime. He's not afraid to address how the noble origins of the civil rights movement have turned into a rhetorical exercise that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton continually exploit.
Oct 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Topic is timely today. Well reasoned.
Oct 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This blew me away. I was blind to how many of my ideas about civil rights were based on rhetoric and not facts!
Ted Heitz
Aug 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: political
Amazing! A realistic and honest account in every aspect. All the ammo you could ask for as a conservative and a must read for anyone on the fence between the left and right.
Apr 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Civil Rights: It's all rhetoric!
Dec 16, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A brief look at the contrast between the outcome promised by the civil rights "vision" and the reality of imposed quotas and increased unemployment, poverty, and reduced educational outcomes.
May 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an outstanding book on the degeneration of the Civil Rights movement citing sources and making very logical arguments. Worth reading.
Jul 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
Another Thomas Sowell home run. Equal outcomes are not the same as equal opportunity. This book is short and still valid today.
Gloria Preston
Nov 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very insightful. Dr. Sowell makes you think, and then think again. I am enthusiastic about reading more of his books.
Oct 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very good alternate point of view. He made some logic mistakes but this book is great for understanding why some concepts don't work.
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Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social commentator, and author of dozens of books. He often writes from an economically laissez-faire perspective. He is currently a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In 1990, he won the Francis Boyer Award, presented by the American Enterprise Institute. In 2002 he was awarded the National Humanities Medal for prolific scholars ...more
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“However much history may be invoked in support of these policies (affirmative action), no policy can apply to history but can only apply to the present or the future. The past may be many things, but it is clearly irrevocable. Its sins can no more be purged than its achievements can be expunged. Those who suffered in centuries past are as much beyond our help as those who sinned are beyond our retribution.” 13 likes
“If there is an optimistic aspect of preferential doctrines, it is that they may eventually make so many Americans so sick of hearing of group labels and percentages that the idea of judging each individual on his or her own performance may become more attractive than ever.” 0 likes
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