Headshot of Thomas Sowell
C. Liegh McInnis shares his thoughts after watching Dr. Thomas Sowell, a Black conservative economist, discuss “The Myths of Economic Inequality'' in an interview with Pete Robinson on Uncommon Knowledge. Photo courtesy Thomas Sowell website

White Supremacy vs. Negro Ineptitude: Sowell’s Myths of Economic Inequality

One of the best parts of my life is knowing so many well-rounded and brilliant folks who regularly share articles, books, videos and documentaries of various ideas, often leading to great dialogue. 

One of these brilliant minds recently shared a video with me of Dr. Thomas Sowell, a Black conservative economist, discussing “The Myths of Economic Inequality.” He argues that most people live by the “constrained” ideology that “bad things happen naturally and that social institutions can protect humanity from those bad things.” However, he proposes the “constrained” ideology is more true than “good things happen naturally and that institutions cause bad things.” Sowell claims that “nature shows that equal opportunity or economic equality is a myth because even in all-white populations there are haves and have nots.” 

African-American conservative economist Thomas Sowell discusses “The Myths of Economic Inequality” with Uncommon Knowledge host, Pete Robinson.

For Sowell, inequality is a product of social Darwinism and not racism, mainly because slavery is as old as humanity and has existed in every culture. He asserts that constrained ideology is flawed for saying bad things or that the natural order of the universe can be fixed. He goes further, contending that the unconstrained ideology is correct because inequality is natural and cannot be fixed. Sowell further explains that a constrained vision assumes “that humans have a power that they do not have, have never had, and can never have to change or stop the natural order of things.”  

Sowell argues that “liberalism” has been worse than “slavery” on African Americans because it attempts to “fix” something that is “unfixable” by making the so-called oppressed people even more dependent through the creation of a welfare state. That so-called welfare state, in turn, causes economic retrogression in the Black community because, as a circular effect, the welfare state creates more poverty and crime by making people dependent. 


Ultimately, Sowell argues that lifestyle choices have consequences, especially regarding educational attitudes, marriage and parenting. It seems that, to Sowell, lifestyle choices for African Americans are more powerful than white supremacy.

Frederick Douglass served as the last President of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company.
Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave who became one of the greatest social reformers, abolitionists and orators, served as the last president of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company. Photo courtesy U.S. Office of Comptroller of the Currency

I agree with Sowell that emotionalism and a fantasy vision of what they want life to be leads most people and that empirical evidence leads very few. I agree that lifestyle choices are primarily important to the life that one creates or has, especially in regards to educational sensibilities and people having babies that they don’t want or can’t afford. 

However, Sowell seems to assert that slavery and its lingering effects have no impact on the current destructive acts or sensibilities of African Americans.

A bank book from the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company.
Pictured is a bank book from the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company. Photo courtesy U.S. Office of Comptroller of the Currency

Since Sowell also says that it’s a waste of time to be worried about slavery or its lingering effects, I wonder if he would view Black Nationalism as a viable way of “just getting over slavery, getting an education and working diligently.” For instance, what amount of planning and effort would Sowell suggest that African Americans engage to develop and support Black-owned businesses? 

Or, does Sowell view “getting over slavery” as exclusively an individual act by individual African Americans and not as a work of collective effort, even though the oppression of Black folks was a collective/systematic effort? 

I have no issue with his notion that social-welfare programs have done a great amount of harm to Black communities. My grandfather held the very same position. Still, returning to Carter G. Woodson’s “The Miseducation of Slavery” or Na’im Akbar’s “Breaking the Psychological Chains of Slavery,” I wonder how much weight Sowell places on the psychological damage that slavery and Jim Crow did to African Americans and if he thinks that the majority of African Americans rejecting the “Black Power” and “Black Arts Movement” contribute to what he sees as the economic retrogression of African Americans.

 In their haste to embrace the fallacy of integration, most African Americans never embraced or crafted a plan to address the self-hatred that was systematically ingrained into a vast majority of the people. Or, does Sowell discount the empirical nature of the Clarks’ Baby Doll test

While I agree with the findings of the Baby Doll Test, I don’t agree that integration is the answer to teach Black folks how to love themselves. In fact, empirical evidence shows that integration at any degree or level often exasperates Black self-hatred rather than lessening it.

The Freedman's Savings and Trust Company on Lafayette Square where the Treasury Annex stands today.
Pictured is the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., where the Treasury Annex stands today. Photo courtesy U.S. Office of Comptroller of the Currency

While Sowell’s argument is fact-based, per se, he does not address specific times that the U.S. government explicitly took or stole wealth from African Americans, such as the U.S. government taking Frederick Douglass’ contribution to the Freedmen Bank, then closing the bank and never returning Douglass’ funds or the funds of other contributors. Nor did they redirect those seized funds into other efforts to aid newly freed African Americans. The same can be said of the destruction of Black Wall Street in Tulsa.

So, yes—white supremacy only succeeds because of Negro ineptitude. But we cannot ignore the U.S. government’s rooted history of actively destroying or stealing Black wealth. 

Thus, I’d like Thomas Sowell to be more balanced in his factual presentation of why African Americans continue to be second-class citizens. It’s a combination of white supremacy and Negro ineptitude. To highlight one without the other is unempirical and can be malicious.  

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and factcheck information to [email protected] We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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