What’s a ‘Woke Racist’? – The Chronicle of Higher Education – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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The Columbia University linguist John McWhorter is the kind of thinker who is difficult to pigeonhole. A critic of applying contemporary values to historical figures, he nonetheless endorses renaming buildings and schools honoring Woodrow Wilson because of Wilson’s exceptional racism (even by the standards of his own time).

McWhorter is nothing if not an independent thinker. Progressives will be tempted to ignore his newest book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America, not least for its intentionally provocative title and slapdash style of argument. But the attention the book is receiving in venues like

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The C olumbia University linguist John McWhorter is the kind of thinker who is difficult to pigeonhole. A critic of applying contemporary values to historical figures, he nonetheless endorses renaming buildings and schools honoring Woodrow Wilson because of Wilson’s exceptional racism (even by the standards of his own time).

McWhorter is nothing if not an independent thinker. Progressives will be tempted to ignore his newest book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America, not least for its intentionally provocative title and slapdash style of argument. But the attention the book is receiving in venues like NPR and The New York Times (where McWhorter writes opinion pieces) suggests a growing uneasiness with the prevailing state of discourse on race and structural racism in left-leaning circles.

Specifically, heeding McWhorter’s call for an approach to those topics that moves beyond judgment and condemnation, one that makes room for grace and forgiveness, could do much to lower the temperature and allow for more productive conversations about where we go from here. Unfortunately, the book itself does little to model the kind of intellectually charitable engagement that our society urgently needs.

‘Woke Racism’ reads like an extended Twitter rant.

Woke Racism begins by identifying a group of people McWhorter calls the “Elect,” whom he identifies as people with a zealous, quasi-religious (or, in his view, simply religious) commitment to a set of beliefs about the nature of racism and the role of race in American life. McWhorter is especially critical of the Elect’s commitment to the notion that unequal outcomes for Black and Brown people are the result of unequal opportunity. But McWhorte


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