Thomas Sowell on “race-hustlers”

A reader pointed me to this recent article (last week in the Washington Times) by Thomas Sowell where he talks about “race-hustlers”.

I think that what he says can equally be said about Maori in New Zealand today.

Years ago, someone said that according to the laws of aerodynamics, bumblebees cannot fly. But the bumblebees, not knowing the laws of aerodynamics, go ahead and fly anyway.

Something like that happens among people. There have been many ponderous academic writings and dour editorials in the mainstream media lamenting that most people born poor cannot rise in American society anymore. Meanwhile, many poor immigrants arrive here from various parts of Asia, and rise on up the ladder anyway.

Can’t is a swear word in my house. You learn a lot by listening to the words of people…those who say can’t a lot, often  can’t…and they don’t like others who can and do.

Often these Asian immigrants arrive not only with very little money, but also very little knowledge of English. They start out working at low-paid jobs but working so many hours, often at more than one job, that they are able to put a little money aside.

After a few years, they have enough money to open some little shop, where they still work long hours, and still save their money so that they can afford to send their children to college. Meanwhile, these children know that their parents not only expect, but demand, that they make good grades. 

Some people try to explain why Asians and Asian-Americans succeed so well in education and in the economy by some special characteristics that they have. That may be true, but their success may also be a result of what they do not have; namely, “leaders” who tell them that the deck is so stacked against them that they cannot rise, or at least not without depending on “leaders.”

Such “leaders” are like the people who said that the laws of aerodynamics showed that the bumblebee cannot fly. Those who have believed such “leaders” have, in fact, stayed grounded, unlike the bumblebees.

Not just in America, but here too. I well remember one of my tenants…an Indian who brought his family here with virtually nothing…they begged us to rent the unit to them because they had been turned down everywhere else. I asked only one question…can you pay the rent? They could and they did…staying 18 months and then moving to their own house…they now have 3 houses and their own business.

A painful moment came for me years ago, when I was on the lecture circuit, after a talk at Marquette University, when a young black student rose and asked: “Even though I am graduating from Marquette University, what hope is there for me?”

Back in the 1950s when I was a student, I never encountered any fellow black student who expressed such hopelessness, even though there was far more racial discrimination then. We knew that there were obstacles for us to overcome, and we intended to overcome them.

The memory of that Marquette student came back to me, years later, when another black young man said that he had wanted to become a pilot, and had even planned to join the Air Force in order to do so. But then, he said, he now “realized” that “the Man” would never allow a black guy to become a pilot.

This was decades after a whole squadron of black fighter-plane pilots made a reputation for themselves in World War II as the Tuskegee Airmen. There have been black generals in the Air Force.

Thomas Sowell is black too, so just think about that student asking a successful academic such a question. Sowell has a lable for those “leaders” who brainwash people into believing they are useless.

Both these young men — and many others — have learned all too well the lessons taught by race hustlers, in their social version of the laws of aerodynamics, which said that they could not rise.

You don’t hear about racial “leaders” such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson among Asians or Asian-Americans. Here and there, you may see some irresponsible academics peddling that line in the classroom — some of whom are of Asian ancestry, since no race of human beings is completely lacking in fools.

But they do not get the same attention, or draw the same following, as race hustlers operating in black or Hispanic communities. By and large, Asian youngsters rise and fly.


I like that…we have so many of them here…blaming Europeans for poor maori or pasifika performance, despite in rising, in under 200 years from a subsistence existence in the Stone Age to a modern vibrant first world economy. Child abuse…white man’s fault. Unemployment…white men. Violence, drinking and drug addiction…whiteys again…they are race-hustlers and we should call them on it.

A poem by Carl Sandburg, back during that era, referred to a Jewish fish peddler in Chicago: “His face is that of a man terribly glad to be selling fish, terribly glad that God made fish, and customers to whom he may call his wares from a pushcart.”

This fish peddler probably had not gone to college, and so had no one to tell him that he couldn’t make it, and that his children couldn’t rise, because this was such a terrible country.

No one can claim that there was no anti-Semitism in America, any more than they can claim that there was never any anti-Asian discrimination. There was plenty of both. But that is very different from following “leaders” whose message would only keep them grounded, after the skies were open to them as never before.

Thomas Sowell is a wise, wise man.


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  • blokeintakapuna

    Attitude… It’s all about attitude.

    Just look at the difference in NCEA/test results and which cultural background groupings exceed all others… And which group fails dismally…

    • tspoon

      I would say it’s a mix of attitude and talent. The fact is that various ethnicities exhibit different levels of academic ability (on average). An education system could be perfect, and every student could give 110% effort, not everyone would come out with the same result, and differences between groups would remain. There’s no massive conspiracy or group effort to hold anyone down, contrary to the assertions some on the left make.
      A more productive conversation would be to honestly acknowledge differences and to wonder how a society can cater to those who will never be rocket scientists (most of us) by encouraging some form of productive work suited to those with ‘other’ abilities, without going too far along the path of expensively subsidising it. Unfortunately the world seems to be moving in the opposite direction, and even formerly ‘competitive’ workers are starting to lose ground.

    • WABloke

      Couldn’t agree more and it doesn’t even need to be NCEA tests. Having worked in primary and secondary schools in NZ and Australia I can say that you only have to mingle for a short period of time to observe differing attitudes. Point out what your feelings/observations are and you’ll be labelled a racist quicker than you can say “poor, under-privileged, hard done-by, down-trodden second-class citizen”. Hard times and tough upbringings come in many colours but the ‘gimme’ mentality appears to be dominated by one hue,

  • Steve R

    2 quick thing jumped to mind as I read this
    I read those articles a few days ago on the town hall web site , and I remembered something Leighton Smith said right at the end of his show , must have been 15-20 years back . Words to the effect that ” Maori arnt dumb or useless infact what city are Maori more successful than any city in the world ? ” his answer was ” Sydney because there’s no hand outs and they just have to get on with it ” I’ve never forgotten that comment .
    And as for thomas Sowell his book basic economics should be required reading for all . Every time Norman or cunlief come out with another little beauty I look I yup in his book and the end result along with other examples are right there .

    • Cremster

      I remember a few days after starting work in Sydney my boss saying how lucky they were there that so many of those hard-working Maori chose to come over from NZ. I’m embarrassed to say I asked him if he was serious but after another week or so there I realised there was no sarcasm in his comment and that the Aussie perception of Maori was of friendly, hard-working people. As you say, no-one making excuses for them so they just get on with it.

  • Col

    I think the lesson learnt with the Asians; son help me in the shop please, son works in shop, Dad say you get good education no have to work long hours in shop, son understands why he wants good education, they can see the end of the tunnel.
    I take my hat of to them.

    • Steve R

      Plus the son learns business. Don’t forget that.

  • Toryboy

    Yes, and were anyone to ask the question “How come Indians and Chinamen can ‘make it’ in New Zealand quite easily, but the Maoris can’t? what’s wrong with them?” you will be attacked as racist (colonialist, imperialist etc)

    • Cowgirl

      I think immigrants have a much better sense of how much opportunity there is here because they have the benefit of coming from places where real poverty and huge competition for resources exists. They then come here, grab all the existing opportunities with both hands and work their way up. If you’ve always had it pretty ok in your life and never had to work really hard for anything, then why would you? People just expect things to come easily to them all the time and when they don’t, they cry about it and say the opportunities aren’t there for them, which is a total crock.

      • tspoon

        People who are motivated enough to emigrate are generally very motivated people indeed. It’s not a small thing to uproot yourself from the place you’ve always been and go somewhere where you know no one, and which has a way of life completely different to your own.

        • Cowgirl

          Agreed – it is no small thing indeed. I take my hat off to anyone who can up sticks and leave a country with little more than the clothes on their back for some other unknown land to make a new life. I’m in the process myself and it’s a mission and really nerve-wracking. If people want to come here and become citizens and make a productive life here, then more power to them. I just wish more NZers would appreciate how good they have it here and stop bloody moaning about how hard done by they are – it could be a lot worse!

          • Toryboy

            Yes, I agree entirely!

  • LabTested

    I was born in south Auckland. Mum was a solo mum, 5 kids. She had left school at 14 yrs old. We were white so had no one to blame. Mum taught us the only way out was up & that required hard work

    • Cowgirl

      Same here – myself and brother are a product of working solo mum and social welfare. We are both university educated and gainfully employed now – it was never presented as an option by our mum that we wouldn’t get an education or job.

      • LabTested

        Mum couldn’t always afford birthday presents & I remember siblings birthdays where we had to hand over one of our favourite toys as a gift. But every Xmas we all got a book.

        Even though she had left school at 14 she wanted us to love books & knowledge

        • Cowgirl

          Sounds like you have a great mum who knew what was important in life. I also have one of those and share your love of books and knowledge – and my mum had left school at 15. If I’m ever able to have kids of my own, books and music will be a daily necessity :)

  • Dick Brown

    Let’s just say that I could dismantle his contentions over a post requiring several hundred words complete with sources, resulting in a million downvotes and a descension into comments hell.

    But I won’t. You all know my position on all of the matters in the above and suffice to say a ‘I don’t agree with the bulk of the article’ WON’T be a big surprise to you all


    • tspoon

      Just pick one and go. People might surprise you. (or not – lol)

      • Dick Brown

        Ok, then; just one, an easy one.

        Last paragraph. The Jews and Chinese arrived in America willingly (blacks) and were not subject to indigenous genocide (native americans).

        That in of itself opens up a chinese puzzle box of intertwined societal factors that exist to this day.

        • tspoon

          To relate back to our local situation DB, Maori were neither slaves nor victims of genocide, yet seem to exhibit similar symptoms to blacks in the US. Despite what some academics say, there was no ‘holocaust’ in this country, well not one dispensed by Europeans at any rate.

          • Dick Brown

            Yes, and that’s where we differ greatly and was the catalyst for much robust debate a few days ago resulting in mod interest and a general consensus to agree to disagree on certain historical events.

          • onelaw4all

            Yep, the facts and you differ.

            Roger that.

          • drummerboy

            Nah, Maori did suffer slavery…. at the hands of other Maori. Maori used to enslave, rape, pillage, and eat each other all the time. it’s a fact.

    • Cremster

      Is descension related to descent?

      • Dick Brown

        Fair call; it had the red squiggly line underneath it so it’s a reasonable assumption I may have created a new word.

  • fastcompany
    disagree (on behalf of minorities)
    the psychological experiments on prejudice show it is more significant than a non-minority would expect.
    I believe roald dahls “star belly sneaches” is a more reliable reference than thomas sowell on this topic.

    • tspoon

      I don’t understand – if those horrible racist whites are really so horrible and racist, why is the rest of the world trying to go and live with them.

      • fastcompany

        they accept this is a cost that is outweighed by other benefits in the relocation decision

        • tspoon

          Do you think they would do that if they really thought they would be disadvantaged and shut out and persecuted at every turn? That doesn’t make all that much sense. According to the approved line, the place where they are should be much better for them, what with no shadowy majority groups all working in unison to keep them down.
          Unless, of course, in a major departure from the approved ‘reality’, the societies built by westerners actually turned out to be fairer, more open, more peaceful places where people could in fact prosper (and had little excuse if they did not).

          • fastcompany

            yes a minority would if on balance it was the best option. it not only makes sense it is obvious. the majority also tends to play down the severity of prejudice, primarily because they are not personally aware of it as a problem. western society is what most people seek, not to live with a particular ethnicity

  • Statehousekid

    When are New Zealanders going to realise that continual reference to race is evil, evil, evil. We are continually bombarded with Maori say this and Maori say that as if there are two types of people in this country. The fact that we have separate Maori electorates is evil and only emphasises this two race division that is blighting this wonderful country. Continuation down this path will only lead to trouble. Although I am a great admirer of John Key one thing i do not admire him for is promoting this division by not abolishing the Maori electorates as he said he would do.

  • thor42

    Sowell is *excellent*. He writes some outstanding articles.

  • middleagedwhiteguy

    I have said to many people, at many times, including Maori, that young maori will continue to fail as long as maori elect and promote leaders who got to a leadership role by telling young maori that they are a disadvantaged people.

    Young people of all backgrounds need to hear what they can do, not what they can’t.

    • Col

      You hit that one on the head, that W Jackson on Radio Live every second word is us poor old Maori who got the land stolen, we don’t have this or that the white fellow took it or we can’t do this or that.
      Why the F&&^ would you want to be born a Maori and the first words you hear poor Maori you will never get anywhere in life, if you keep telling someone the same thing time and time again they will believe it.
      I feel bloody sorry for the young Maori, not there fault but as you said the idiot so called leaders who keep putting them down.
      Thinking about this, bit like the Taliban putting down there woman.

  • OhopeBeachBugger

    Labour has the same approach – it tells people they are useless and have to have a benny state to help them out.

  • Ronnie Chow

    Most ‘Maori’ would not have a voice if they became mainstream New Zealanders . The attraction of being and advertising being Maori is economic , social and political . However it is also meaningless , as no ‘Maori’ are left . Combining your genes with those from other cultures doesn’t allow deletion or denial of part of your anatomy as an afterthought , however appealing this may be to those who seek power .
    The Maori culture has given the human species nothing of value as a contribution to it’s progress .

  • Eiselmann

    Interesting. South Auckland bred only child to a single English born immigrant working father , who worked 100 hour weeks in order to keep a roof over my head. He could have reduced his hours down to forty but he worked a very dangerous job if he died with a mortgage , I got the house, if he died renting I got nothing. That was how he rationalised things to me when my mother died when I was 7. And so I lived in one of the most crime invested neighbourhoods as a latchkey kid going days without seeing my father. We got zero state help…the official reason ‘the wrong parent died’. I kid you not , I’ve seen the file as an adult.
    Now when I was ten my father decided to bring his girlfriend into the house because he knew I needed someone who would be their for me when I got home. Without going into too much detail because theres loads of other stuff, this bitch berated me every day telling me what a failure I was how my father hated me ,how I was going to achieve nothing in life, it was relentless.
    …Oh she was Maori , she had three sons …lets see , eldest went on to become a gang leader now permanently on a benefit due to injuries sustained while committing a crime, one is a drugged out idiot who’s got ten kids and hasn’t worked in fifteen years and the other has turned Rastafarian …
    You could argue my fathers choices but he showed me the way , without that I would easily have become like my Maori caregivers kids who did such a sterling job with her own…and the funny thing is , her family are one of the most respected Maori families out there.
    That felt better