Kendied and Di Angeloed out? John McWhorter recommends some books as palliatives

August 3, 2021 • 10:15 am

John McWhorter is getting us revved up for his upcoming book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion has Betrayed Black America, to be published on October 26 (click on screenshot to go to Amazon link).

To prepare us for his views (many of which we know from reading preliminary chapters on his Substack site, McWhorter has a short post this week highlighting some books that align with his ideas and are counter to those of the most famous “anti-racist” authors (McWhorter would call them “racist authors”): Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo.

Click on the screenshot to see his recommendations:

I have in fact read two of the four books McWhorter recommends.

The first is Greg Lukianoff’s and Jonathan Haidt’s The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, an explanation of why college students and other young folk are acting the way they are (i.e., being woke). It’s a very good book, and sets out three rules that young people have absorbed that, claim the authors, explain much of their behavior with respect to politics. (McWhorter repeats them).

1. What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.

2. Always trust your feelings.

3. Life is a battle between good and bad people.

McWhorter sees these not only as rules absorbed by young people, but in particular as “tenets of wisdom” seen by the Woke, including many black people as well as whites like Di Angelo who write about anti-racism. As McWhorter notes, these homilies don’t provide us with any “new frontiers of psychotherapy” and are clearly maladaptive, divisive, and defy rationality.

Click on the screenshot to go to the Amazon link for this book. It’s well worth reading.

McWhorter then recommends three other books (I’ll give the covers and Amazon links), one of which I’ve read. I’ve indented McWhorter’s take:

1.) Touré Reed teaches us that solving black America’s problems will require a focus on class rather than race. Note: he says that this will solve black problems, not just that “It’s all about class.” Reed knows what racism is; he just understands that it isn’t the everything we are taught it is. His book is called Toward Freedom: The Case Against Race Reductionism.

2.) Wilfred Reilly teaches us an invaluable lesson about that Victimization Mindset I wrote about here that bedevils black Americans unduly. Specifically, we must beware this “impact matters more than intent” thing, because sadly often, black people, gripped by this victimization mindset, exaggerate or lie about racist acts and even attacks. His book is called Hate Crime Hoax. Don’t be misled by the fact that the subtitle and cover feel a touch “headline-y – cablenewsy” – publishers must sell their books. The issue is the content, and this book teaches lessons that are 1) sad, 2) understandable (again, see my post), and 3) urgent.

This one I’ve read, and while it’s a bit repetitive it’s the only book in its genre. Reilly goes through a number of “hate crimes” actually committed by members of the minorities that were supposedly under attack. These hoaxes are committed for a number of reasons: mental illness, to bring attention to the perpetrator as a member of an oppressed minority group, and, very often, to garner sentiment for minorities by fabricating instances in which they were attacked. Reilly estimates that a large proportion of “hate crimes” committed on campus are actually hoaxes. What’s distressing beyond that is the way college administrators usually react when they discover the hoax: “Well, yes, it was a hoax, but it still underlines a very real problem—so it’s not so bad after all.”

3.) Jason Riley has written a biography of the great black conservative thinker Thomas Sowell. Anyone under the impression that to be a card-carrying conservative and a black person at the same time guarantees that one is caught somewhere between naïve and cynical knows little of Sowell’s lucid work and unforgivably underacknowledged volume of achievement. The book is called Maverick.

Many people ask which “other” black thinkers they should listen to besides what I have called the People With Three Names, who I need not list. If it’s books you’re looking for, skip “Black Fragility” (you probably already read it, basically) and start with these. [JAC: “Black Fragility is McWhorter’s snarky alternative title for Di Angelo’s first book.

I haven’t read this one yet though I have read some Sowell. In general, I find him extremely thoughtful though his writing is a bit dry. I see that Maverick has five stars on Amazon from 570 ratings, so it’s certainly found some fans. I may have to read it, especially because the writing is Jason Riley’s, not Sowell’s.

6 thoughts on “Kendied and Di Angeloed out? John McWhorter recommends some books as palliatives

  1. I just finished reading Theodore Draper’s The Re-Discovery of Black Nationalism (1970). It looks at attempts to meet the race issue in America since the 18th century (they all come down to separation, emigration, or integration). His chapters on Black Power and Black Studies are particularly interesting from the standpoint of everything old is new again.

  2. What’s distressing beyond that is the way college administrators usually react when they discover the hoax: “Well, yes, it was a hoax, but it still underlines a very real problem—so it’s not so bad after all.”

    This seems to me a commonly used tool of the right too, and is just the extremist version of the standard guilt by association/’fling mud and something will stick’ approach. Create enough fake anecdotes and people start treating them as if they are meaningful data. Sure, none of Trump’s 50+ election lawsuits held water, but 50+ lawsuits means some fraud must have occurred!!!!111!!

    I have no suggestions for further reading on the specific intersection of race and wokeism. But I will give a thumbs up for Lukianoff’s earlier book Unlearning Liberty, and provide this tie in: if the woke think that recruiting University administrations as censors in their fight to against racism is a good idea, they’d better think again. The book details how administrations wield censorious power overwhelmingly for their self-interest, not idealistically in service of any good cause.

  3. This Touré Reed book looks interesting; here’s a quotation from it in this review:

    Ironically, what liberal policymakers have not done, then, is advocate agendas intended to counter the effects of issues like deindustrialization, the decline of the union movement, public sector retrenchment, and wage stagnation that have characterized the last 40 or more years of American life—all of which have impacted Blacks disproportionately.

    I hope some influential Democrats get clued in. I mean, more influential than Bernie Sanders and Jesse Jackson.

  4. I endorse Lukianoff and Haidt’s book also. While I found a couple of weak arguements that were unsupported by data or references, about 90% of it was well supported and provides the reader with some nice clean thinking. To get a bit of background and context for our history of race relations, i recommend “Until Justice Be Done: America’s First Civil Rights Movement from the Revolution to Reconstruction” by Kate Masur. This book details the politics of that period in slave and free states and territories with a focus on, but not limited to, Virginia, Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, Georgia, New Orleans, and Washington, DC.

  5. Jason Riley, Glenn Loury and John McWhorter had a rousing discussion about Thomas Sowell. It is worth watching if only for Professor Loury’s defense of equations in economic textbooks. McWhorter smiles when Glenn launches this powerful statement about a choice of a word he makes. Another reason is for the sheer joy of a decent, respectful conversation.

    The Glenn Show on Bloggingheads TV was the venue and it is divided into segments so it makes it easier to skip around to intervals that catch your eye and possible interest.

Leave a Reply