Today I finished reading John McWhorter's terrific book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America.
McWhorter is black. He teaches linguistics, American studies, and music history at Columbia University. He's appalled at the excessive wokeness of both blacks and whites who inhabit the far left side of the political spectrum and view race relations through a biased perspective.
Many people will agree with what he writes in Woke Racism. I do. Others will disagree with him. That's fine also. My goal is sharing these excerpts from the book is to encourage people to buy the book and read it.
McWhorter makes a strong case for woke racism being a serious problem. He writes well in an engaging fashion. Enjoy these passages, understanding that a mere 1,000 words out of the entire book doesn't do justice to McWhorter's fuller arguments that are encapsulated below.
Author and essayist Joseph Bottum has found the proper term, and I will adopt it here. We will term these people the Elect.
They do think of themselves as bearers of a wisdom, granted them for any number of reasons -- empathic learning, life experience, maybe even intelligence. But they see themselves as having been chosen, as it were, by one or some of these factors, as understanding something most do not.
"The Elect" is also good in implying a certain smugness, which, sadly, is an accurate depiction.
...One response to a book like this might be to own that Electism is a religion. You might consider it a better one than, say, believing that God's son died for our sins and was reborn, waiting to envelope you in his eternal grace if you believe in him.
This new religion is about countering racism. Who could be against that?
But we must ask whether the Elect approach actually shows signs of making any difference in the lives of black people, other than by making educated white people infantilize them. While purportedly "dismantling racist structures," the Elect religion is actually harming the people living in those structures.
It is a terrifyingly damaging business. Here is how Elect ideology does not genuinely care about the welfare of black people.
You are to turn a blind eye to black kids getting jumped by other ones in school.
You are to turn a blind eye to black undergraduates cast into schools where they are in over their heads, and into law schools incapable of adjusting to their level of preparation in a way that will allow them to pass the bar exam.
You are to turn a blind eye to the willful dimness of condemning dead people for moral lapses normal in their time, as if they were still alive.
You are to turn a blind eye to the folly in the idea of black "identity" as all about what whites think rather than about what black people themselves think.
You are to turn a blind eye to lapses in black intellectuals' work, because black people lack white privilege.
You are to turn a blind eye to the fact that social history is complex, and instead pretend that those who tell you that all racial discrepancies are a result of racism are evidencing brilliance.
You are to turn a blind eye to innocent children taught to think in these ways practically before they can hold a pencil.
...Electism calls for everyone who isn't white to found their primary sense of self on not being white and knowing whites don't quite "get" me.
Electism forbids us non-whites from being individual selves, out of an idea that white racism is so onerous that our self-definition must be fashioned against it, despite that this vastly exaggerates the role of racism in most black lives -- including that police brutality, while appalling, is just one of thousands of types of experiences one goes through from cradle to grave, if at all.
Your Elect friend may claim that I am distorting what they believe. Ask them to specify just how it does so -- and the word-salad answer they craft while looking over your shoulder will show you that I am not.
...Let's pull the curtain back. Is the reason black kids often think of school as white that white people today don't like them, or that the system is somehow set against black kids learning? No. That analysis makes no sense, period.
Only a heedless, numb kind of fealty, a quiet refusal to engage the actual individuals we are talking about, would insist that "racism" is why a black kid, decades after 1966, gives a black nerd trouble for studying hard.
Racism sparked this problem originally, to be sure, but the solution today cannot be to wave a magic wand and "eliminate racism," because the teachers who exerted racism upon black kids three generations ago are now mostly dead.
...To be Elect is to insist that unequal outcomes mean unequal opportunity, which is false. The misimpression misdirects our efforts at change, by inculcating in us a blindness to how a society actually operates. The insistence on this mantra makes us dumb.
...On racism, Elect philosophy teaches black people that cries of weakness are a form of strength. It teaches us that in the richness of this thing called life, the most interesting thing about you is that the ruling class doesn't like you enough.
It teaches us that to insist that black people can achieve under less than perfect conditions is ignorant slander. It teaches us that we are the first people in the history of the species for whom it is a form of heroism to embrace the slogan "Yes, we can't!"
Elect philosophy is, in all importance, a form of racism in itself. Black America has met nothing so disempowering -- including the cops -- since Jim Crow.
...Nota bene: Don't get sidetracked by that person on the other side of the dinner table who says that the Elect are not a real threat compared with overtly racist right-wing extremists. Revolutions are always "messy," one hears, with the implication that in the grand scheme of things, the Elect's current reign is just a matter of the left working out some kinks.
Few people settling for this view would call the alt-right just "messy," and my simple answer is: Imagine the Elect mob coming after you.
If your emotion amid the "mess" of that would be terror, then it's a conclusive demonstration that this is something we need to pay serious attention to. Terror becomes a good thing neither when it comes from the left nor even when it comes from black people.
Reason must prevail. This is the heart of the Enlightenment. The abolitionists knew it; Civil Rights leaders knew it; today's liberals know it. Only the Elect propose that rationality, where it discomfits them, is mere "whiteness."
It is neither progress nor messy for people to lose their jobs and reputations for not putting the overturning of power differentials at the very core of every single thing they ever do, express, or feel.
It is neither progress nor messy for black people to be taught that our main value is not as individuals, but in how articulately we play victim in order to help whites feel good about themselves in feeling guilty about it.
The Elect is not merely some mess. The Elect is a scourge and must be treated as such.