John McWhorter: The Neoracists

Persuasion:

A new religion is preached across America. It’s nonsense posing as wisdom.

One can divide antiracism into three waves. First Wave Antiracism battled slavery and segregation. Second Wave Antiracism, in the 1970s and 1980s, battled racist attitudes and taught America that being racist was a flaw. Third Wave Antiracism, becoming mainstream in the 2010s, teaches that racism is baked into the structure of society, so whites’ “complicity” in living within it constitutes racism itself, while for black people, grappling with the racism surrounding them is the totality of experience and must condition exquisite sensitivity toward them, including a suspension of standards of achievement and conduct.

Third Wave Antiracist tenets, stated clearly and placed in simple oppositions, translate into nothing whatsoever:

  1. When black people say you have insulted them, apologize with profound sincerity and guilt. But don’t put black people in a position where you expect them to forgive you. They have dealt with too much to be expected to.
  2. Black people are a conglomeration of disparate individuals. “Black culture” is code for “pathological, primitive ghetto people.” But don’t expect black people to assimilate to “white” social norms because black people have a culture of their own.
  3. Silence about racism is violence. But elevate the voices of the oppressed over your own.
  4. You must strive eternally to understand the experiences of black people. But you can never understand what it is to be black, and if you think you do you’re a racist.
  5. Show interest in multiculturalism. But do not culturally appropriate. What is not your culture is not for you, and you may not try it or do it. But—if you aren’t nevertheless interested in it, you are a racist.
  6. Support black people in creating their own spaces and stay out of them. But seek to have black friends. If you don’t have any, you’re a racist. And if you claim any, they’d better be good friends—in their private spaces, you aren’t allowed in.
  7. When whites move away from black neighborhoods, it’s white flight. But when whites move into black neighborhoods, it’s gentrification, even when they pay black residents generously for their houses.
  8. If you’re white and only date white people, you’re a racist. But if you’re white and date a black person you are, if only deep down, exotifying an “other.”
  9. Black people cannot be held accountable for everything every black person does. But all whites must acknowledge their personal complicity in the perfidy throughout history of “whiteness.”
  10. Black students must be admitted to schools via adjusted grade and test score standards to ensure a representative number of them and foster a diversity of views in classrooms. But it is racist to assume a black student was admitted to a school via racial preferences, and racist to expect them to represent the “diverse” view in classroom discussions.

I suspect that deep down, most know that none of this catechism makes any sense. Less obvious is that it was not even composed with logic in mind. The self-contradiction of these tenets is crucial, in revealing that Third Wave Antiracism is not a philosophy but a religion.

The revelation of racism is, itself and alone, the point, the intention, of this curriculum. As such, the fact that if you think a little, the tenets cancel one another out, is considered trivial. That they serve their true purpose of revealing people as bigots is paramount—sacrosanct, as it were. Third Wave Antiracism’s needlepoint homily par excellence is the following:

Battling power relations and their discriminatory effects must be the central focus of all human endeavor, be it intellectual, moral, civic or artistic. Those who resist this focus, or even evidence insufficient adherence to it, must be sharply condemned, deprived of influence, and ostracized.

Third Wave Antiracism is losing innocent people jobs. It is coloring, detouring and sometimes strangling academic inquiry. It forces us to render a great deal of our public discussion of urgent issues in doubletalk any 10-year-old can see through. It forces us to start teaching our actual 10-year-olds, in order to hold them off from spoiling the show in that way, to believe in sophistry in the name of enlightenment. On that, Third Wave Antiracism guru Ibram X. Kendi has written a book on how to raise antiracist children called Antiracist Baby. You couldn’t imagine it better: Are we in a Christopher Guest movie? This and so much else is a sign that Third Wave Antiracism forces us to pretend that performance art is politics. It forces us to spend endless amounts of time listening to nonsense presented as wisdom, and pretend to like it.

I write this viscerally driven by the fact that all of this supposed wisdom is founded in an ideology under which white people calling themselves our saviors make black people look like the dumbest, weakest, most self-indulgent human beings in the history of our species, and teach black people to revel in that status and cherish it as making us special. Talking of Antiracist Baby, I am especially dismayed at the idea of this indoctrination infecting my daughters’ sense of self. I can’t always be with them, and this anti-humanist ideology may seep into their school curriculum. I shudder at the thought: teachers with eyes shining at the prospect of showing their antiracism by teaching my daughters that they are poster children rather than individuals.

Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between the World and Me wanted to teach his son that America is set against him; I want to teach my kids the reality of their lives in the 21st rather than early-to-mid-20th century. Lord forbid my daughters internalize a pathetic—yes, absolutely pathetic in all of the resonances of that word—sense that what makes them interesting is what other people think of them, or don’t.

Many will see me as traitorous in writing this as a black person….

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