In "Woke Racism," John McWhorter takes aim at anti-racist ideologies
Today, a conversation with Dr. John McWhorter, one of America’s foremost Black public intellectuals. He’s a linguist and historian who teaches at Columbia University and writes a column and newsletter for the New York Times. He hosts a podcast about language called Lexicon Valley, and is the author of more than 20 books. In his latest, he writes: “America’s sense of what it is to be intellectual, moral or artistic, what it is to educate a child, what it is to foster justice, what it is to express oneself properly, and what it is to be a nation is being re-founded upon a religion.”
That "religion," McWhorter suggests, is the philosophy of those he labels “The Elect,” by whom he means writers such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ibram X. Kendi, Robin DiAngelo and Nikole Hannah Jones, who have written extensively about how White Supremacy and structural racism are the root cause of racial inequity in America today. John McWhorter rejects this argument, finding it damaging and demeaning to Black people, and he dismisses the Elect as, quote, "charismatic but self-directed, and socio-politically futile.”
He argues that Critical Race Theory is a “fragile, performative ideology that rejects linear reasoning,” and he asserts that what is needed to address inequity is “complexity, abstraction and forgiveness.”
This is a book that fascinates and infuriates. Professor McWhorter asks difficult and important questions, and he does not shy away from offering controversial answers.
John McWhorter joins us on Zoom from New York City.