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John McWhorter Response

'Losing the Race'

To the Editor:

I highly suspect that most readers of ''Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America'' would be surprised to hear that my book ''remains captive in a closet of his own experiences,'' as David J. Dent claims in his review (Nov. 26). Dent asserts that I found my conclusions almost exclusively upon personal anecdotes, when in fact I refer to no fewer than 96 articles, books and academic studies. My anecdotes serve as illustrations, not as the core of my arguments. There are dozens of books by black writers supporting the victimhood-centered ideology I argue against that make no pretense of being based on anything but anecdote. Such works are feted by the black intelligentsia as ''vivid memoirs'' and ''reportage from the front lines.''

Is it possible that Dent's discomfort with my anecdotes, and resultant dismissal of the book, is based more on ideology than engagement? This is particularly suggested by his charge that I have had ''limited exposure to African-American culture'': this is a decidedly creative conclusion to draw from my book, and is essentially a variation on the typical charge that black people taking controversial positions are ''not black.'' To dismiss the weight of my data as ''scant'' and misrepresent the book as a personal narrative, rather than an empirically based study in which recollections serve as bolstering illustration, only demonstrates the very problems I spend ''Losing the Race'' addressing.

John McWhorter
Berkeley, Calif.

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