John McWhorter’s latest article on his Substack platform may seem a bit hyperbolic, comparing as he does the antiscientific beliefs of “the Elect”—the name he gives to Woke, ineffectual, performative anti-racists—with Trofim Lysenko, the Russian agricultural charlatan who caught Stalin’s ear and subverted Soviet agriculture for decades. As a result, there were famines, and millions died.
Well, nobody dies from adhering to the tenets of Ibram Kendi or Robin DiAngelo, but, argues McWhorter, the Elect’s disregard of the facts is just as blatant as Lysenko’s disregard of the facts of genetics. Click on the screenshot to read:
Here are the areas that, claims McWhorter, are touted as incontrovertable truths by The Elect but have little or no empirical backing.
a.) Microaggressions (I’ve indented McWhorter’s words); they are not, claims McWhorter, defined as easily as their adherents assert, nor do they correlate so clearly with real racist sentiments.
Take the idea that microaggressions are a grinding problem for black Americans, exerting significant psychological damage upon us, and motivating claims that black students ought be exempt from certain scholastic demands as well as that entire programs and schools should be transformed into Antiracism Academies. A prime motivation of this, reported endlessly, is to relieve black people of the eternal harm that microaggressions condition.
But Edward Cantu and Lee Jussim have patiently demonstrated that the academic “literature” undergirding this depiction is too full of holes to even begin to serve as the basis for societal reform. This is frankly obvious from reading almost any of the work in question – I recommend taking up just one such article and noting the hopeless circularity of argumentation – but Cantu and Jussim have done a useful job in summarizing the lot of it. The literature ignores legions of black people it surveys who deny that acts are microaggressions, does not show that supposed microaggressions correlate with racist sentiment of any kind, is based on tiny sample sizes, is never replicated, and explains away discrepancies with glum little speculations that would not pass as scientific reasoning among any evaluators not cowed by The Elect.
I’ll let the authors speak for themselves:
“Microaggression research provides a veneer of scientific credibility to vested critical premises, as those studies have statistics, p-values, and reliability coefficients, all useful for creating the appearance of scientific foundations for assumptions, so long as one does not examine the methodological details too closely. But the undertone of much microaggression research is not one of caution commensurate with the guardrails normally imposed by the scientific method.”
b.) DEI training programs. I think we’ve all read about the studies showing that DEI training is ineffectual at both diversifying the workplace and promoting inter-racial harmony. In fact, these programs seem to increase tribalism.
Another example – the jury has long been in: “diversity, equity and inclusion” training programs simply do not work. This has been proven by many scientific surveys. These programs neither further diversify the workplace nor foster interethnic harmony (and in fact, if anything, increase it).
This literature has no effect on the flowering of these programs nationwide.
c.) Racism-based killing of African-Americans by cops. I think the data are pretty unequivocal that there is indeed a pattern of racism in encounters between cops and citizens: we know from several studies, for example, that cops tend to stop black people more often than white, a disparity that decreases during twilight when you can’t see who’s being stopped. And we also know that cops kill black people at a higher rate than the proportion of African-Americans in the population: in fact 2.5-fold higher. But data also show that when you account for the rate of encounters that could lead to violence, this disparity disappears, for African-Americans are disproportionately involved in such encounters.
Unfortunately, McWhorter appears to defuse the “cop-racism” accusation by claiming that many more whites than blacks are murdered by cops each year. But that is not the point at issue. The point is whether the murders are disproportional to the existing demographic proportions, which is undeniable, and whether those murders reflect racial animus or encounter rates (the latter seems to be the case). This is how McWhorter attacks the “nonscientific” claim of police racism:
As I mentioned in this space, it is an article of faith among The Elect that the cops murder black men out of racist bias. Arguments that the data do not demonstrate this are ignored as serenely as evidence against The Big Lie. Never mind that Roland Fryer has shown that when push comes to shove, it’s whites who are more likely to be murdered by cops; never mind calm, authoritative reports on these issues by black writers like Coleman Hughes; never mind that the numbers alone show that the cops murder many, many more whites a year than blacks.
Instead, we are demanded to assent to an idea that the United States is occupied by a murderously racist police force, as the media scrupulously neglect the myriad killings of whites by cops, leaving black people under the understandable impression that it’s only black people who the cops come after. (Remember, the fact that black people are 2.5 times more likely to be killed than our proportion in the population would predict is a statistic known mostly to policy wonks – what primarily moves people to protest is the news, not this statistic.)
However, the Big Lie is hidden in the sentence below, but isn’t so clear in the above:
Never mind that Roland Fryer has shown that when push comes to shove, it’s whites who are more likely to be murdered by cops. . . .
A world of nuance is hidden in that link there, so have a look at it. Context is everything.
d.) “Systemic racism.” This has long been a beef of mine because I always thought of “systemic racism” as “racism codified within a system,” like legal segregation or policies concocted to promote racism (like voting laws). Now, however, it seems to have become synonymous with “racism” in general, or, in a way I’d rather construe it, as “a systematic pattern of racism within an institution, even if it’s not codified.” Yes, the idea of pervasive systemic racism in nearly every institution is presented as an unassailable truth, which I guess you could claim is a “scientific assertion.” And in that sense it doesn’t hold water, for part of the claim is that if there is a pattern of “unequal representation”, or “inequity”, it MUST perforce reflect racism in the institution at hand and at the present time. That idea comes straight from Ibram X. Kendi, and it’s an unexamined assertion in his book How to be an Antiracist.
This even goes for academic departments in my University, despite the palpable lack of racism in the hiring process and desperate attempts to achieve diversity and equity (I’m not talking about “pipeline” problems tracing back to centuries-old racism). The assumption that unequal representation unquestionably reflects bigotry is clearly unscientific, and can be dispelled by data from the American Medical Association on the proportion of men vs. women in various medical specialities:
Based on key findings, women make up a larger percentage of residents in:
- Family medicine (about 58 percent)
- Psychiatry (about 57 percent)
- Pediatrics (about 75 percent)
- Obstetrics/gynecology (about 85 percent)
The data show male residents prefer to specialize in:
- Surgery (about 59 percent)
- Emergency medicine (about 62 percent)
- Anesthesiology (about 63 percent)
- Radiology (about 73 percent)
- Internal medicine (about 54 percent)
Note that the AMA uses the word “prefer to specialize”, emphasizing that these data must reflect some element of preference rather than purely bigotry (though there may be some bigotry involved). But I’ve never heard anybody say that there are fewer male pediatricians because they are the victims of a bigoted medical system. These data may largely reflect preferences held, either culturally or genetically, by the two sexes.
McWhorter closes saying something he’s said before: it’s useless to argue with The Elect about these issues—just as useless as it would have been to argue with Lysenko about genetics. McWhorter goes after the open-minded and those on the fence, just as people like Richard Dawkins aim their anti-theism not at staunch theists, but at the young and those with doubts.
Be that as it may, you may think that McWhorter is exaggerating when he says stuff like this:
Of course, The Elect are not exerting the physical violence and assassinations that Stalinists exerted. My comparison is of the relevant frames of mind. However, The Elect are indeed doing great harm to our society. Anyone who thinks the transformation of our educational establishment is not a real problem is someone I’m not sure I quite understand. And it may be only me who is chilled, disgusted and frightened to see an enlightened Establishment being transformed not by suasion but by simple fear. However, I doubt it, and simply cannot see that what happened in Washington, DC last January means that my concerns are trivial.
The mask-resistant person who sits soberly insisting that Joe Biden stole the election should mystify and appall us no more than the people soberly insisting that microaggressions saddle black people with ongoing PTSD, that organizations will benefit from DEI programs, that any claim of victimization from a descendant of an African slave is automatically valid, that black people should walk in eternal fear of being iced by a cop, that any way that whites and blacks are not equal is due to bigotry “somehow,” and that to disagree with these claims is to be a backwards, heartless pig.
He’s got a point here, but we’re become inured to the unscientific and often non-rational claims of The Woke simply because it costs too much, psychically and reputationally, to oppose them.
Lysenko and his big buddy, Stalin: