Has Woke Racism Become a “New Religion”?

A Black Professor Writes About Black Extremist “Terrorists”
Book Cover

A respected Black professor recently published a book criticizing extreme Black opinions and activities by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and by other Black organizations and groups. As expected, he was faced with harsh attacks.

John McWhorter, 56-years-old, is a linguistics professor at Columbia University (New York), and is the author of many books on languages and race relations. He had obtained an MA from New York University and a PhD from Stanford University (California).

His new book, “Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America,” surprised many people, particularly the US media, because the book came out during a period of Black demonstrations, awareness campaigns and calls for a reckoning about the relations between Blacks and Whites in the US. Last year’s killing of Black George Floyd by a White policeman in Minnesota has led to the current heated debates and confrontations about race relations in the US, past and present.

But, McWhorter has been, for about 20 years, writing books and opinions that criticized what he called “Black Extremism.”

The following are the book’s chapters:

What Kind of People? The New Religion. What Attracts People to This Religion? It Hurts Black People. Beyond “Dismantling Structures.” How Do We Work Around Them?

According to the book, the problem is that antiracism has become, not a progressive ideology, but a religion – an irrational and neo-racist one. The book wondered why “Americans, on both the left and the right, are secretly asking themselves the same question: how has the conversation on race in America gone so crazy? We are told to read books and listen to music by people of color. We are told that wearing certain clothes is not appropriate. We hear that being White automatically gives you privilege and that being Black makes you a victim. We want to speak up, but fear we’ll be seen as unwoke, or worse, as racists.”

McWhorter described himself as "a cranky liberal Democrat,” a critic of “many of the tenets of the Civil Rights orthodoxy,” a supporter of former president Barack Obama, and a defender of gay marriage.

People march during the "One Year, What's Changed?" rally hosted by the George Floyd Memorial Foundation to commemorate the first anniversary of his death, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. May 23, 2021. REUTERS/Nicholas Pfosi

Twenty years before this book, McWhorter wrote that Black attitudes, rather than White racism, were “what held black people back” And that “victimology, separatism, and anti-intellectualism underlie the general Black community’s response to all race-related issues.”

He added that "it’s time for well-intentioned Whites to stop pardoning as 'understandable' the worst of human nature whenever Black people exhibit it."

A few years before he published this book, McWhorter wrote that anti-racism has become “as harmful in the United States as racism itself.” He had described anti-racism as a "religious movement,” a description that he later put in the title of this book.

Last year, during the uproar that followed Floyd’s killing, White Robin DiAngelo’s book, “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism,” received a great deal of attention, from both Blacks and Whites, because it publicized a general Black opinion that Whites, insistently and intentionally, avoid talking about racism.

McWhorter was one of a few Black intellectuals who criticized the book, and argued that it "openly infantilized Black people" and "simply dehumanized us," and "does not see fit to address why all of this agonizing soul-searching about racism by White people is necessary to forging change in society.”

He added: “One might ask just how [White] people can be poised for making change when they have been taught that pretty much anything they say or think, is racist.”

One of the book’s critics was Black Elie Mystal, a reporter with the liberal Nation magazine, writing in the Washington Post. The Post was apparently glad to publish his opinion because of its recent reckoning campaign, riding on the bandwagon of Black activists, and appointing a Black reporter as its “managing editor for diversity and inclusion.”

These are some of Mystal’s responses to McWhorter’s book:

First, “The alleged twist here is that it’s a Black man saying it this time … He just seems to believe that making culturally conservative arguments while Black is inherently thoughtful, or at least provocative. It is not.”

Second, “He sounds less like a thoughtful academic and more like a conspiracy theorist looking for hidden critical race messages in the menus at Chuck E. Cheese [children’s restaurants].”

Third, “He claims that the woke are perpetrating a ‘reign of terror’ — a phrase he uses twice — but devoted only three paragraphs (I counted) to the actual insurrectionists who attacked the Capitol and tried to overthrow the government … McWhorter downplays White domestic terror threats.”

Fourth, McWhorter’s work “fits neatly within the long history of African American assimilationist thought. There’s a tradition in this country of Black people arguing that other Black people shouldn’t be so “sensitive” to encounters with White racism. And that all that Black people need to overcome 400 years of slavery and oppression in the New World is hard work, good grammar and pants reliably secured at the waist.”

Fifth, “McWhorter … says that Black people have no pride."

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Book: “Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America

Author: John McWhorter

Publisher: Portfolio, New York

Print Pages: 224

Paper: $18.01

Electronic: $15.99

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Related articles:

“Rise Up,” Blacks “Revolution?”

“White Supremacy” vs. “Woke Superiority”

How ‘Freedom of Speech’ is Weaponized to Fight Anti-Racism


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