I picked up this 2003 book by John McWhorter a few years back, and (like way too many of the books I buy) it took awhile for it to make it to the top of my to-be-read list. But most of the topics McWhorter addresses are still fresh.
That's good because it made an interesting read; but also not so good, because the topics revolve around race relations in America. And the controversies then are approximately the same ones today. Progress? Not much.
Perspective: In 2003, Barack Obama was a relatively obscure Illinois State Senator (and unmentioned in this book).
McWhorter is a linguistics professor at Columbia. Politically, he self-identifies as a cranky liberal Democrat, and (indeed) is liberal enough to write for The New Republic on (most recently) the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case. In 2000, he wrote Losing the Race, subtitled "Self-Sabotage in Black America". It was controversial, as McWhorter dissented from the standard racial victimology. Some of this book is largely a response to critics of that previous work. So at a number of points, I felt like I was coming in on the middle of an argument. No matter.
McWhorter is an independent thinker, refusing to be pigeonholed. His views are thoughtful and worth reading even if you don't wind up agreeing. As indicated, he maintains that the portrayal of African-Americans mostly as victims of white racism is the wrong thing to emphasize; it ignores history and breeds despair. He has no patience with the "reparations" movement (which was a bigger thing in 2003 than it is today). He views race hustlers like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson with contempt; on the other hand, he musters a good argument for respecting W.E.B. DuBois and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. He recommends that big cities get rid of "racial profiling" (but I think even at the time the book was written, "profiling" complaints mainly those who came under the "terrorism" profile rather than the "driving while black" profile.)
He has some good suggestions for Black History Month. He argues that if you're going to teach an African language to Americans, it shouldn't be Swahili; it should be Mende, a language which a lot of Africans brought to America as slaves actually spoke, traces of which still survive today.
Bottom line: McWhorter is an independent thinker, well worth reading.