cover image Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America

Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America

John McWhorter. Portfolio, $28 (224p) ISBN 978-0-593-42306-6

Contemporary anti-racism is a “religion in all but name” that indoctrinates Black people into believing they are “eternally victimized,” according to this blunt and provocative takedown. Columbia University linguistics professor McWhorter (Nine Nasty Words), who is Black, contends that the anti-racism of the civil rights era and the 1970s and ’80s has evolved into a militant “Third Wave” that condemns white people whether they’re leaving Black neighborhoods (“white flight”) or moving into them (“gentrification”), among other contradictions, and demands the “suspension of standards of achievement and conduct” for Blacks. Drawing an extended analogy to fundamentalist religion, McWhorter alleges that anti-racist advocates (“the Elect”) believe in the “original sin” of white privilege, cherish “sermons” by Ta-Nehisi Coates and other members of the “clergy,” and ban “heretics” for being insufficiently anti-racist. He traces the roots of this thinking to critical race theory and contends that it ignores the considerable progress America has made against racism, prioritizes “performance art” over actual change, and “forbids us non-whites from being individual selves.” McWhorter scores many rhetorical points, but he exaggerates the political and cultural power of anti-racism and misrepresents counterarguments, alleging, for instance, that anti-racists insist “bigotry is the only possible reason” Black boys are disproportionately suspended and expelled from public schools. Still, this polished diatribe is sure to spark discussion. (Oct.)