When Race Hatred Meets Class Hatred

The desire of intellectuals for some grand theory that will explain complex patterns with some solitary and simple factor has produced many ideas that do not stand up under scrutiny, but which have nevertheless had widespread acceptance — and sometimes catastrophic consequences — in countries around the world.

The theory of genetic determinism which dominated the early 20th century led to many harmful consequences, ranging from racial segregation and discrimination up to and including the Holocaust. The currently prevailing theory is that malice of one sort or another explains group differences in outcomes. Whether the lethal results of this theory would add up to as many murders as in the Holocaust is a question whose answer would require a detailed study of the history of lethal outbursts against groups hated for their success.

These would include murderous mob violence against the Jews in Europe, the Chinese in Southeast Asia, the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, and the Ibos in Nigeria, among others. Class-based mass slaughters of the successful would range from Stalin’s extermination of the kulaks in the Soviet Union to Pol Pot’s wiping out of at least a quarter of the population of Cambodia for the crime of being educated middle class people, as evidenced by even such tenuous signs as wearing glasses.

Minorities who have been more successful than the general population have been the least likely to have gotten ahead by discriminating against politically dominant majorities. Yet it is precisely such minorities who have attracted the most mass violence over the centuries and in countries around the world.

All the blacks lynched in the entire history of the United States would not add up to as many murders as those committed in one year by mobs against the Jews in Europe, the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire or the Chinese in Southeast Asia.

What is there about group success that inflames mobs in such disparate times and places, not to mention mass-murdering governments in Nazi Germany or the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia? We can speculate about the reasons but there is no escaping the reality.

Groups that lag behind have often blamed their lags on wrong-doing by groups that are more successful.

Since sainthood is not common in any branch of the human race, there is seldom a lack of sins to cite, including haughtiness by those who happen to be on top for the moment. But the real question is whether these sins — real or imagined — are actually the reason for different levels of achievement.

Intellectuals, whom we might expect to counter mass hysteria with rational analysis, have all too often been in the vanguard of those promoting envy and resentment of the successful.

This has been especially true of people with degrees but without any economically meaningful skills that would create the kinds of rewards they expected or felt entitled to.

Such people have been prominent as both leaders and followers of groups promoting anti-Semitic policies in Europe between the two World Wars, tribalism in Africa and changing Sri Lanka from a country once renowned for its intergroup harmony to a nation that descended into ethnic violence and then a decades-long civil war with unspeakable atrocities.

Such intellectuals have inflamed group against group, promoting discrimination and/or physical violence in such disparate countries as India, Hungary, Nigeria, Czechoslovakia and Canada.

Both the intellectuals’ theory of genetic determinism as the reason for group differences in outcomes and their opposite theory of discrimination as the reason have created racial and ethnic polarization. So has the idea that it must be one or the other.

The false dichotomy that it must be one or the other leaves more successful groups with a choice between arrogance and guilt. It leaves less successful groups with the choice of believing that they are inherently inferior for all time or else that they are victims of the unconscionable malice of others.

When innumerable factors make equal outcomes virtually impossible, reducing those factors to genes or malice is a formula for needless and dangerous polarization, whose consequences have often been written in blood across the pages of history.

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  • David

    Ok mr Sowell, what are the reasons then for inequality? Let's see if they hold up to scrutiny. Genetic "determinism", by the way, is a misnomer. There's a bell curve, to start with, and environment surely plays a role.

    • the reasons are

      individuality, and circumstances beyond one's control

    • Dawood

      I have seen too many minorities get ahead to believe any tripe the left puts out.

      My wife a minority was passed over for a full time job for a white guy, who was recruited out of state. He lasted less than a year. He had two main problems. He was scatterbrained & did not get along with a secretary who was black and who was friends with the human resources head who was "shock" a black female. I know what you are thinking. It is like we are in a bad 50s movie and the HR head is from central casting.

      Well beside genetics, the environment, there is persistence, values & making a plan. After two job changes my spouse is working full time and makes much more money.

      Being intelligent and thus being able to grasp a new concept 5 second or 5 hours before another person does not make one successful. How many of those type of people have you seen crash & burn?

      How many minorities have you seen succeed that were normal versus those that practiced victimology.

      Remember, David, there will always be smaller social units than the tribe and they will be relevant, forever.

      • http://www.clarespark.com clarespark

        Talents appear to run in families, but in the end, parenting skills and education that begins in the home, plus an abundance of material goods, helps the children in any given family. To evaluate advanced with less advanced societies, one must examine all the institutions and the peacefulness or warlike atmosphere in which children are raised. Different societies offer different life chances, and there is no magic bullet that predicts success and full flowering of the human personality–rather a cluster of factors beyond any one person's control. I introduced this subject here, as in many other places: http://clarespark.com/2010/04/08/racism-modernity…. "Racism, modernity, modernism.".

    • D Watson

      It is not uncommon for people with commonalities to cluster. It is part of our tribal heritage. Such clusters can often be violent to outsiders. With the third Reich and others as Dr. Sowell points out the violence was extreme. The commonalities, whether real or imagined, are the cause. Today's identity politics are a breeding ground for such clusters. The idea of equal rights before the law for people who are not equal is an idea that challenges the primitive cluster mentality and as we can see is itself under constant attack. The idea of social justice, equality of outcome etc are canards. They are just another cluster known as communism.

  • repeat after me

    nothing is equal

    • Barb

      The only thing that should be "equal" is one's right to pursue happiness. Not "happiness" itself. That takes work. Most people would rather let someone else work for them, while they wait to collect their checks each month. Which makes us all slaves to one thing or another.

  • don't ask

    actually, there are no reasons, it's just the way things are

  • don't tell

    it's a secret

  • why?


  • it ain't fair?

    too bad

  • nobody


  • that's

    all, folks

  • bye


  • thank you

    dr. sowell, for a fine article

  • Remittance Girl

    Just off the top of my head, and with no references whatsoever, I'd guess that the confluence of envy and otherness might have something to do with it. These 'Others' who have not conformed to the socio-cultural rules to which 'you' feel bound. They may appear to be benefiting unfairly from their non-conformity. It enables a sense of self-identification as victim. Once we consider ourselves victims of someone else's 'unfair advantage', there seems no end to the atrocities we will allow ourselves in the name of redress.

    But I'd also like to note that this phenomena often seems to be at its ugliest during deep economic recessions or during times of dramatic political instability.

  • Mary Sue

    There's a segment of the population that abhors personal responsibility. For such people, scapegoats are useful. These are the people that end up hating successful Jews and think they must have done dirty to get ahead. (Similarly, poor blacks look at more successful Whitey and think they got ahead by doing a dirty, while ignoring all the poor "white trash" that couldn't get ahead any more than the poor black for whatever reason–yet Whitey AS A WHOLE is the scapegoat for them!). People usually prefer to believe someone's keeping them away from their due, especially if they have or have been fed a victim complex. And we all know where that leads.



    Según el presidente israelí, Hezbolá está interviniendo en la guerra en Siria sin la aprobación del gobierno libanés y nadie puede aceptar que ciudadanos libaneses sean forzados a ir a ayudar a un terrible dictador que mata a su propia gente.
    El presidente de Israel, Shimón Peres, urgió a la Unión Europea (UE) a sancionar a la organización fundamentalista libanesa Hezbolá por sus acciones terroristas y por intervenir en Siria en apoyo del régimen de Bashar al-Assad.
    Si no se toman medidas contra Hezbolá, pueden pensar que se les permite hacer eso», advirtió Peres en una rueda de prensa en Bruselas junto al presidente de la Comisión Europea, José Manuel Durão Barroso.
    Ya no es sólo terror, es una increíble intervención en una gran tragedia, insistió Peres, quien aseguró que las únicas opciones son sancionar al grupo o permitir sus acciones.
    El líder hebreo se mostró confiado en que la organización terrorista «sea llamada al orden y pague por sus acciones.
    Sé que no es la intención de Europa permitir que los terroristas aterroricen, añadió.
    No es la primera vez que Israel y EE.UU llaman a la UE a sancionar a Hezbolá, un paso que por ahora divide a los Veintisiete, con países como Reino Unido que defienden la medida y otros como Francia que hasta ahora no la consideró adecuada.
    Por suparte, Durão Barroso recordó que la inclusión de una organización en la lista europea de organizaciones terroristas requiere la «unanimidad de los Estados miembros», y defendió la necesidad de una «reflexión muy cuidadosa sobre este tipo de casos por los asuntos legales, de seguridad y políticos que implican.
    Durão Barroso recordó que Bulgaria está trabajando con las autoridades libanesas para esclarecer totalmente el caso y aseguró que, una vez que se conozcan los responsables, se estudiarán las medidas adecuadas a escala europea.
    La UE volvió a poner sobre la mesa este año la posibilidad de declarar a Hezbolá como organización terrorista, después de que la investigación de un atentado perpetrado el pasado julio en la ciudad búlgara de Burgas apuntase a la responsabilidad del grupo libanés.
    El presidente israelí se mostró confiado en que las negociaciones de paz se puedan retomar pronto y tengan éxito, «a pesar del pesimismo generalizado.
    Peres aseguró que Europa e Israel «tienen la misma estrategia general de la solución de dos Estados, pese a que puedan tener algunas diferencias sobre las tácticas.
    Respecto a la situación de la región, Peres destacó el peligro que supone el programa nuclear iraní y aseguró que «todas las opciones están sobre la mesa para responder a esa amenaza», aunque subrayó que la política de sanciones está teniendo éxito.
    Las sanciones están haciendo más de lo esperado», dijo Peres, quien consideró sin embargo que «no son suficientes para lograr los objetivos», por lo que instó a la comunidad internacional a insistir.
    El presidente israelí se reunió también con el secretario general de la OTAN, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, quien en una declaración conjunta ante la prensa ofreció a Israel una cooperación más estrecha ante las amenazas de seguridad del siglo XXI.
    Peres, por su parte, aseguró que la Alianza Atlántica se convirtió en el mejor instrumento para acabar con el terrorismo y hacer posible la paz en el mundo.

    TEL .505. 2249 3460
    MOVIL .505 .8882 7758

    • wsk

      Is this guy related to the Nigerian prince who needs my money to get his out of the bank. Or is it a way to make mopney from my home? My Spanglish is a little rusty.

    • Mary Sue

      no comprende senor.

  • Alex Kovnat

    Would like to see a translation of the above letter, to English.

  • EdAtHome

    Two sentences stand out:
    "Intellectuals, whom we might expect to counter mass hysteria with rational analysis, have all too often been in the vanguard of those promoting envy and resentment of the successful.

    This has been especially true of people with degrees but without any economically meaningful skills that would create the kinds of rewards they expected or felt entitled to."

    Mr Sowell you have defined "Progressivism". It is organized envy. Thank You.

  • Jack

    <<Ok mr Sowell, what are the reasons then for inequality? Let's see if they hold up to scrutiny. Genetic "determinism", by the way, is a misnomer. There's a bell curve, to start with, and environment surely plays a role. >> If you bothered to read Dr. Sowell's books on this very subject, on which he has written extensively, you would already know the answer. Dr. Sowell believes that different cultural values, such as those prizing education, hard work and self reliance and something as simple as saving, are what ultimately make for the difference between cultural groups.

  • PAthena

    It was an "intellectual," a sociologist named Verwoerd, who invented the policy of apartheid in South Africa.

  • Cat K

    What on earth is going on with these comments. I think the site is being trolled or spammed. I think the comments need a moderator. Especially annoing when a great mind like that of Thomas Sowell takes the time to share his wisdom with us.

  • E Morrison

    Unfornately hatred, envy, and destruction of man by man has very little basis in economics, race, or gender, we as humans, have had a pshological history of self rejection, no mater what the economic, social, or racial climate is. It is a case for amnesia, not remembering the beginning parts of our history on this earth. That is certainly a conscious issue for us all. When a people forget their history, they are doomed to repeat it.

  • E Morrison

    For example my Caucasian brother's indentity begins with him coming out of the caves, never knowing that is was his former African self who went into the caves to prevent death during the ice ages, or for example my Hebrew brother rejected that they belong to the dominant racial gene pool, the orginal Hebrew child was of African descent, and in the 20th century financially supported he who would bring destruction to over 6 million Jews, elsewhere, the Asian brother forgot his home land was on the continent, that we now call Africa, the African man forgot that he was firstly made in the spirital likeness of The Creator and slew, and continues to slay, his own brother.

    When will we realize, those that are fighting and killing their brother is doing so that he may create his history and not the history of him that he destroys. Finally, I challange you to see the earth not as your final destination, but only a way station in your spiritual love consciousness, that is our true destination, all of this self hatred will not be even a memory.

  • E Morrison

    To torture, rob, and kill your brother means you forgot that he is you and you are him. Thereby killing the part of you you hate the most. To divide ourselves on any side other than as loving human beings is mankind's/our greatest atrocity. No one says a word until it happens to you.