Has the Antiracist Movement Become a Counter-productive Religion? John McWhorter takes aim at the fundamentalists on the far left--who are scaring away allies Democrats desperately need.

AuthorBurke, David Edward
PositionWoke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America

Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America

by James McWhorter

Portfolio, 220 pp.

During America's racial reckoning in the summer of 2020, I was tom, like millions of left-leaning Americans. On the one hand, I was appalled by the murder of George Floyd, and supported reforms to police departments and a criminal justice system that is unfairly skewed against people of color. On the other hand, I was deeply concerned by what I saw as irrational and mob-driven behavior happening in the name of "antiracism."

Self-proclaimed antiracists were telling us that both words and silence equaled violence. Professors, writers, and even data analysts were fired in droves after Twitter mobs took offense at relatively innocuous statements. Civis Analytics, for example, fired David Shor after angry Twitter users accused Shor of "anti-blackness." Shor's crime? He tweeted out a summary of a study by a Black professor, Omar Wasow, showing that nonviolent protests in the late 1960s were more politically beneficial to Democrats than violent ones.

This problem wasn't confined to a lively corner of the internet. New York City's then schools chancellor Richard Carranza taught staff that such virtues as objectivity and individualism were part of "white supremacy culture." Well-educated professionals made best sellers out of books like Ibram X. Kendi's How to Be an Antiracist and Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility that seemed to teach the opposite of judging people by the content of their character.

Many Democrats were concerned on two fronts: First, on the direction of antiracist activism, period. And second, on the possibility of political fallout. Extremists on the left made it easy for Republicans to tar Democrats as opponents of free speech who were trying to inject controversial views on race into our children's curriculum. Of course, much of the right's rhetoric was classic fearmongering. But many progressives gave them plenty to work with; examples like Carranza's presentation, after all, do not require embellishment.

Those concerns, it turns out, were not in vain. In November, Republicans swept three statewide races in Virginia, including the governor's office, and nearly unseated New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. Political analysts and pollsters believe that the GOP victories were due, in part, to suburban parents' frustrations over the way racial issues are taught in schools. Now, according to The Wall Street Journal, Republican Party leaders...

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