The recent publication of The Thomas Sowell Reader gives Kevin D. Williamson a good excuse to write a new Commentary article explaining the important role Sowell plays in educating readers about economics and debunking popular myths:
Now 81 years old, Sowell is known as a libertarian-leaning conservative, which he is, and he has a thriving sideline in debunking racial platitudes. But he is first an economist, which means he is first an observer and reporter of facts, and if those facts take him to uncomfortable places, so be it. No, the prevalence of black men in the NBA doesn’t mean that the NBA is racist, it means that reality is racist. Yes, Barack Obama and congressional Democrats really do practice the same kind of ethnic politics that resulted in the Rwandan genocide and the Sri Lankan civil war, even if they do not practice them to the same extent. Yes, affirmative action is naked racism. No, rent-control laws don’t control rent. No, gun-control laws don’t control guns. No, standardized exams are not culturally biased—but, yes, life is culturally biased.
Because he is black, his opinions about race are controversial. If he were white, they probably would be unpublishable. This is a rare case in which we are all beneficiaries of American racial hypocrisy. That he works in the special bubble of permissiveness extended by the liberal establishment to some conservatives who are black (in exchange for their being regarded as inauthentic, self-loathing, soulless race traitors) must be maddening to Sowell, even more so than it is for other notable black conservatives. It is plain that the core of his identity, his heart of hearts, is not that of a man who is black. It is that of a man who knows a whole lot more about things than you do and is intent on setting you straight, at length if necessary, if you’d only listen.