Father McWhorter has yet another sermon for us today. He appears to be publishing his new book, to be called The Elect: Neoracists Posing as Antiracists and their Threat to a Progressive America, in installments on his website. The first installment is here, but you have to subscribe to read it. However, what appears below, which you can read gratis, is a real excerpt from his book.
Actually, I do the man a disservice by calling him “Father McWhorter,” for religion is precisely the topic of his book. He sees “anti-racism”, as promulgated by the likes of Ibram Kendi, Robin DiAngelo, and Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates, as not a philosophy or a social movement, but as a religion. Like religion, its tenets and adherents resist disconfirmation; and its advocates see themselves as “The Elect”, acting as Inquisitors, determining what language should be used and what thoughts constitute blasphemy, consigning blasphemers (like himself!) to perdition, and showing themselves immune to reason. In fact, at the beginning of his Persuasion piece below (click on screenshot, reading is free), McWhorter lists ten internal conflicts between various tenets of modern anti-racism. In each case the Elect make two claims that are contradictory.
Further, he sees modern anti-racism as itself racist in that it infantilizes black people. As he says,
I write this viscerally driven by the fact that all of this supposed wisdom is founded in an ideology under which white people calling themselves our saviors make black people look like the dumbest, weakest, most self-indulgent human beings in the history of our species, and teach black people to revel in that status and cherish it as making us special. Talking of Antiracist Baby, I am especially dismayed at the idea of this indoctrination infecting my daughters’ sense of self. I can’t always be with them, and this anti-humanist ideology may seep into their school curriculum. I shudder at the thought: teachers with eyes shining at the prospect of showing their antiracism by teaching my daughters that they are poster children rather than individuals.
Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between the World and Me wanted to teach his son that America is set against him; I want to teach my kids the reality of their lives in the 21st rather than early-to-mid-20th century. Lord forbid my daughters internalize a pathetic—yes, absolutely pathetic in all of the resonances of that word—sense that what makes them interesting is what other people think of them, or don’t.
Though he’s passionate in his words, McWhorter is pretty calm about his intellectual opponents. He knows what he’s in for and accepts that The Elect not only won’t hear him, but will try to erase his lived experience, as they might say.
I’ll give just two excerpts. The first is how he sees the new anti-racism fitting into the history of black liberation:
One can divide antiracism into three waves. First Wave Antiracism battled slavery and segregation. Second Wave Antiracism, in the 1970s and 1980s, battled racist attitudes and taught America that being racist was a flaw. Third Wave Antiracism, becoming mainstream in the 2010s, teaches that racism is baked into the structure of society, so whites’ “complicity” in living within it constitutes racism itself, while for black people, grappling with the racism surrounding them is the totality of experience and must condition exquisite sensitivity toward them, including a suspension of standards of achievement and conduct.
Third Wave Antiracist tenets, stated clearly and placed in simple oppositions, translate into nothing whatsoever. . . .
He then lists ten pair of contradictory tenets of the movement. They add up to this:
The revelation of racism is, itself and alone, the point, the intention, of this curriculum. As such, the fact that if you think a little, the tenets cancel one another out, is considered trivial. That they serve their true purpose of revealing people as bigots is paramount—sacrosanct, as it were. Third Wave Antiracism’s needlepoint homily par excellence is the following:
Battling power relations and their discriminatory effects must be the central focus of all human endeavor, be it intellectual, moral, civic or artistic. Those who resist this focus, or even evidence insufficient adherence to it, must be sharply condemned, deprived of influence, and ostracized.
Later on, he specifies what his book is not:
- It is not an argument against protest. I am not arguing against the basic premises of Black Lives Matter, although I have had my differences with some of its offshoot developments. I am not arguing that the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s would have been better off sticking to quiet negotiations. I am not arguing against the left. I am arguing against a particular strain of the left that has come to exert a grievous influence over American institutions, to the point that we are beginning to accept as normal the kinds of language, policies and actions that Orwell wrote of as fiction.
- I am not writing this thinking of right-wing America as my audience. I will make no appearances on any Fox News program to promote it. People of that world are welcome to listen in. But I write this to two segments of the American populace. Both are what I consider to be my people, which is what worries me so much about what is going on. One segment is the New York Times-reading, National Public Radio-listening people of any color who have innocently fallen under the impression that pious, unempirical virtue-signaling about race is a form of moral enlightenment and political activism, and ever teeter upon becoming card-carrying Third Wave Antiracists themselves. The other is those black people who have innocently fallen under the misimpression that for us only, cries of weakness constitute a kind of strength, and that for us only, what makes us interesting, what makes us matter, is a curated persona as eternally victimized souls, ever carrying and defined by the memories and injuries of our people across four centuries behind us, ever “unrecognized,” ever “misunderstood,” ever unpaid.
- This is not merely a complaint. My goal is not to venture the misty statement that a diversity of opinions is crucial to a healthy society. Citing John Stuart Mill at Third Wave Antiracists serves no purpose because they are operating under the influence of a religion. Our current conversations waste massive amounts of energy in missing the futility of “dialogue” with them. Of a hundred fundamentalist Christians, how many do you suppose could be convinced via argument to become atheists? There is no reason that the number of people who can be talked out of the Third Wave Antiracism religion is any higher. As such, our concern must be how to continue with genuine progress in spite of this ideology. How do we work around it? How do we insulate people with good ideas from the influence of the Third Wave Antiracists’ liturgical concerns? How do we hold them off from influencing the education of our young people any more than they already have?
My interest is not “How do we get through to these people?” We cannot, at least not enough of them to matter. The question is “How can we can live graciously among them?” We seek change in the world, but for the duration will have to do so while encountering bearers of a gospel, itching to smoke out heretics, and ready on a moment’s notice to tar us as moral perverts.
I don’t have much to add here, since by and large I’m on McWhorter’s side. He’s much safer than I in espousing his views, however, for he’s black and I am not. Pigmentation and ethnicity shouldn’t matter, but it does. However, I’m not going to be one of the silent ones who swallow the pabulum of the Elect and regurgitate noises of virtue.
McWhorter does recognize that he’ll be denounced as a “self-hating black,” but he’s already defused that criticism:
I will be dismissed instead as self-hating by a certain crowd. But frankly, they won’t really mean it, and anyone who gets through my new book on this subject, which I am now publishing in serial, will see that whatever traits I harbor, hating myself or being ashamed of being black is not one of them. And we shall move on.
Yes, we shall move on, but we shall also be in the minority, drowned out by the megaphones of the Righteous Liberal Media. It’s not pleasant being surrounded by a society that, constituted largely of Leftists fearing to be called racists, panders to the Elect. This is especially true on college campuses like mine, where the like-minded have learned to keep their mouths shut.
Just for fun, here’s another video, created by comedian Ryan Long, that characterizes wokeness as a religion, though it correctly sees wokeness as going well beyond McWhorter’s bailiwick. The Elect police things other than race!
And it’s pretty funny. The headlines Long shows are real, too.