Black Conservative Intellectuals in Modern America by Michael L. Ondaatje

By Michael L. Ondaatje

Within the final 3 many years, a model of black conservatism espoused by way of a arguable crew of African American intellectuals has develop into a fixture within the nation's political panorama, its proponents having formed coverage debates over one of the most urgent issues that confront modern American society. Their principles, notwithstanding, were ignored via students of the African American experience—and a lot of the accountability for explaining black conservatism's historic and modern value has fallen to hugely partisan reporters. usually, these pundits have addressed black conservatives as an undifferentiated mass, proclaiming them sturdy or undesirable, wrong or right, color-blind visionaries or Uncle Toms.

In Black Conservative Intellectuals in glossy the United States, Michael L. Ondaatje delves deeply into the old archive to chronicle the origins of black conservatism within the usa from the early Eighties to the current. concentrating on 3 major coverage issues—affirmative motion, welfare, and education—Ondaatje severely engages with the information of 9 of the main influential black conservatives. He extra files how their rules have been acquired, either through white conservatives wanting to capitalize on black aid for his or her principles and via activists at the left who too frequently sought to impugn the reasons of black conservatives rather than hard the benefits in their claims. whereas Ondaatje's research uncovers the subjects and matters that hyperlink those voices jointly, he debunks the parable of a monolithic black conservatism. Figures reminiscent of superb court docket Justice Clarence Thomas, the Hoover Institution's Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele, and cultural theorist John McWhorter come to be people with their very own special understandings of and relationships to the conservative political tradition.


"A excellent narrative of the increase of black conservative intellectuals who emerged into the general public sphere with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. . . . a prime, evenhanded account of black conservatism that may most probably be a pivotal paintings at the subject for years to come."—Journal of yankee History

"Michael Ondaatje has taken on a subject matter that few have written approximately so completely and widely, and his booklet makes a awesome contribution to trendy American highbrow heritage and race kinfolk. He probes deeply into the idea of black conservative intellectuals, exploring their positions on such key racial matters as affirmative motion, welfare coverage, and public schooling. making use of rigorous serious research, he additionally records their logical disasters, highbrow inconsistencies, and suspect arguments."—Raymond A. Mohl, coeditor of the recent African American city History

"A well-written and critical piece of scholarship that aids significantly in old realizing of black conservatism specifically and glossy American conservatism in general."—Edward J. Blum, writer of W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet

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But there was no doubt that the controversial black econo-­ mist was an impressive figure in several respects. Born into segregated North Carolina in 1930 to parents who were “low­-­skilled workers,” Sowell moved to Harlem at the age of nine. 47 Re-­ turning to civilian life at the war’s end, the reformed Sowell completed high school with sufficient competence to earn entry to Howard Uni-­ versity, before going on to Harvard.  . ”48 These words would stay with Sowell throughout his life and arguably form the basis of his renowned contempt for the politics of victimhood.

132 What-­ ever one’s political criticisms of this black conservative, his media savvy lay beyond doubt. 01 Ondaatje_BlackConservat42 42 9/1/09 9:00:05 AM Profiles of an Intellectual Vanguard 43 Steele, then, was an existential neoconservative rather than an anti-­ statist economic conservative, a former liberal who­—­to invoke Irving Kristol’s words­—­had been “mugged by reality” and come to believe that the urgency of the times mandated fresh ideas and approaches. But while Steele presented fresh ideas in the form of psycho­-­racial analy-­ sis, he offered little by way of practical solution to improve the black condition.

48 These words would stay with Sowell throughout his life and arguably form the basis of his renowned contempt for the politics of victimhood. Whether it was the discipline he had learned in the Marine Corps or the stirring words of Sterling Brown that motivated him, Sowell’s new-­ found resolve brought him great success in the Ivy League. 49 In search of an academic career, Sowell received strong support from his mentor Friedman, who wrote years later of the job opportu-­ nities the young man initially considered: “He talked to several of us about which to accept, expressing a strong preference for one of the least attractive offers­—­at Howard University in Washington­—­on the purely emotional grounds that it would enable him to make the great-­ est contribution to members of his race.

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