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Ivy League Professor Dismantles The Destructive ‘Antiracist’ Movement

February 25, 2021

Over the past year, millions of Americans have watched with impotent confusion as woke social justice ideology has consumed virtually every aspect of American cultural life. Unable to find the right words to express their concerns, and paralyzed by the specter of “cancelation,” most have witnessed this trend in dismayed silence. Fortunately, we may have some assistance in finding the words to express our collective alarm. 

Last week, Columbia linguist, author, and self-described liberal John McWhorter published a masterful second installment of his most recent work “The Elect: Neoracists Posing As Antiracists And Their Threat To A Progressive America.” This most recent book, which is set to be released in 10 installments on Substack, parlays the silent concerns of millions of Americans (from both sides of the aisle) into a bold and cutting critique of the modern “antiracism” agenda. Beyond merely an elegant articulation of broadly felt concerns, McWhorter expertly illuminates the internal contradictions within the ideology. His central thesis: that the “antiracist” ideology is itself a religious movement, requiring a suspension of logical thought and characterized by the same unthinking and unreasoned fervor that inspired medieval Christians to persecute Jews and Muslims. 

As fans (and critics) well know, McWhorter does not pull punches. In the first installment of the work, he lays bare the litany of contradictions that one must accept unquestioningly, suspending one’s rational faculties to do so, in order to be properly “antiracist” (which one can never truly be, as another tenet of the faith asserts). 

“Black people cannot be held accountable for everything every black person does, BUT, all whites must acknowledge their personal complicitness in the perfidy throughout the history of whiteness,” writes McWhorter. 

Writing as a black author and top-tier academic, McWhorter is able to evade the standard shut-down criticisms that would likely silence a less equipped message-bearer. His arguments are cogent, his aim is precise, and his sharp wit hints at his apparent delight in dragging his squirming subject out of the intellectual shadows and pinning it under the harsh spotlight of reason.

I suggested at the outset that McWhorter might help us find words to push back against the woke bullying. Indeed he serves up hundreds of pithy passages that slice through the woke nonsense like a hot knife through butter. Perhaps his most pragmatic contribution is the term “The Elect,” used to describe individuals convinced of their elevated moral wisdom. A linguist, McWhorter understands the power of words to frame, shame, and steer popular sentiment. More so than the too-dismissive “SJW” or “Woke Mob,” the term “The Elect” connotes both the moral smugness as well as the genuine earnest religiosity of that self-appointed, self-righteous group. Best of all, it immediately conjures the medieval crusaders of the past that The Elect so closely resemble. Like the best rhetorical barbs, it is mild enough to be used in gentle jest, yet potent enough to inspire some much needed reflection among those of The Elect who remain at all tethered to self-awareness and reason. It’s a term well worth adopting. 

If you’re a conservative, it should be noted that you are not the intended audience for this book. McWhorter correctly identifies this ideological battle between rationality and wokeness as one which must ultimately be fought and won among the Left. Though conservatives may wholeheartedly agree with every claim he makes — almost certainly more than the author himself would expect — McWhorter is explicitly appealing to liberals who share conservatives’ concerns but cannot fathom making common cause with us. Strategically he is smart to relegate conservatives to the peanut gallery, as it would only fuel his critics if the Right was seen to be seizing upon his work too gleefully. As stakeholders in his success, we must walk that line with caution. 

That said, McWhorter’s dissection of the “antiracist” movement is a masterpiece that shouldn’t be missed. In my opinion, it is the best critique of progressive bigotry since Shelby Steele’s “White Guilt.” As much as he is a champion for the millions of silenced liberals who feel politically homeless, he is a champion for everyone who values rationality, truth, and (small-L) liberal values. Most importantly, and most central to his mission, he is a champion for black Americans whose dignity has been targeted most ruthlessly and most perniciously over recent decades by the rise of regressive woke ideology.  

You can access the first two chapters of McWhorters book for free on Substack. It deserves to be read and shared widely. 

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