Woke Racism

How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America

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This book is a little masterpiece of argument. I followed John McWhorter's substack before he decamped for the New York Times; the book encapsulates many of the articles written there. (Apparently the proposed title for the book was The Elect; I guess the publisher and he decided to punch that up a little.)

McWhorter's aims are conveniently summarized up front:

  1. To argue that this new ideology ["Electism"] is actually a religion in all but name, and that this explains why something so destructive and incoherent is so attractive to so many people.
  2. To explain why so many black people are attracted to a religion that treats us as simpletons.
  3. To show that this religion is actively harmful to black people despite being intended as unprecedentedly "anti-racist."
  4. To show that a pragmatic, effective, liberal, and even Democratic-friendly agenda for rescuing black America need not be foundied on the tenets of this new religion.
  5. To suggest ways to lessen the grip of this new religion on our public culture.

Specifically, what McWhorter recommends on that fourth point: (1) end the war on drugs; (2) teach kids to read via phonics; (3) get past the idea that everybody must go to college. These seem simple, but they would do far more to mend racial disparities than the thick-headed nebulous demands from folk like Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi.

And for that last point, McWhorter recommends: "Be Spartacus". Refuse to meekly go along with the Elect religion. This requires actual bravery, especially if your professional career is on the line. But McWhorter provides a number of examples of people who have pulled it off.

I'm not one to judge whether McWhorter's arguments here would "work" to deprogram a devotee of Electism, someone steeped in the waters of Critical Race Theory. I'd like to think so, but in my case he was pushing on an open door. (Does it show?)

I should hasten to point out that McWhorter's argument isn't new; the underlying ailment is as old as humanity itself, its recent manifestations caused by its clashes with modernity and liberty. A broader take, considering issues other than race, was provided by Thomas Sowell in A Conflict of Visions (1987) and The Vision of the Anointed (1995). McWhorter's right (however) that the tight focus on race seems to be relatively new.

I also wonder if McWhorter's view of Electism as "religion" is less fitting than Sowell's less loaded term of "vision"? Anyway, if you like McWhorter, I recommend Sowell too.

Last Modified 2024-01-17 3:48 PM EDT

URLs du Jour


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  • Attaching high credibility. Specifically, when Bryan Caplan is Explaining the LGBT Explosion, I'm inclined to listen more carefully to him than anyone pushing an agenda.

    Wikipedia's article on "Acquired Homosexuality" begins:

    Acquired homosexuality is the discredited idea that homosexuality can be spread, either through sexual "seduction" or "recruitment" by homosexuals or through exposure to media depictions.

    Au contraire! As I explain in my book on human genetics, twin and adoption researchers have long credited some version of this “discredited” idea. While almost all studies find that genetics matters, virtually none asserts that the heritability of sexual orientation is even close to 100%. Ergo, homosexuality must, to some extent, be “acquired.” While that hardly implies that any specific mechanism - such "recruitment" or "media depictions" - works, the idea that homosexuality can be spread is the unheralded scientific consensus.

    This is a minefield issue, and Bryan is pretty brave to step into it. He considers the issue honestly without blinkers, as is his wont.

  • "Gun control" laws don't control guns. They control people. Specifically, law-abiding people. Jacob Sullum asks the relevant question: Does California's Latest Mass Shooting Show the Country's Strictest Gun Laws Are Not Strict Enough? (Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies.)

    A mass shooting that killed six people and injured 12 in Sacramento last weekend predictably provoked immediate agitation for stricter gun control, including policies that seem utterly irrelevant to the facts of the case. That's a familiar pattern in the gun policy debate, which consists largely of reiterating previous proposals in response to mass shootings, regardless of whether those ideas have anything to do with the most recent example.

    The Sacramento Bee described the weekend's apparently gang-related violence, which began around 2 a.m. Sunday in a downtown area where nightclubs had just closed, as "the worst mass shooting in city history." The Los Angeles Times says "the shooting was California's single deadliest in 2022," although "there have been worse in the last year." While these incidents supposedly underline the need for gun control, they simultaneously cast doubt on that argument, since California already has the strictest gun laws in the country.

    Our local TV news station covered the Sacramento shooting with a "story" that seemed to spend most of its time talking about "gun violence", and presenting various folks (including President Wheezy) demanding various "common sense" measures, none of which (as Sullum goes on to point out) would deal with the actual problem: people wanting to kill other people.

  • Stop making up "rights". There are only a few of them, and we had them figured out in 1776. Charles C. W. Cooke is not taking any prisoners: To Protect Its Reputation, the Court Must Overturn Roe in Full

    During the lengthy oral arguments in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the always loquacious Justice Breyer suggested that Roe v. Wade could be considered legitimate on the grounds that, back in 1973, “the country, for better or for worse, decided to resolve their differences by this Court laying down a constitutional principle, in this case, women’s choice.” If the Supreme Court is to avoid damaging its reputation with its impending decision in Dobbs, it must assiduously reject Breyer’s line.

    Every part of Breyer’s claim is wrong. In no manner did the “country” ask the Court to “resolve” its differences on abortion; the Court did that on its own. In no sense were any of those “differences” actually “resolved” by the Court; as evidence, witness the last 50 years of American politics. And there was no real “constitutional principle” at stake, because Roe was invented from whole cloth.

    Shortly after the decision was handed down, the pro-choice legal scholar John Hart Ely explained in no uncertain terms that Roe was “bad constitutional law” on the grounds that it was “not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.” He was correct. Roe was not the result of an unfortunate misinterpretation. It was not the product of a thorny argument over the practical application of the Constitution’s plain text. It was not the sour fruit of a scrivener’s error. It was a contrivance, a fiction, a lie. As Ely noted in the same essay, Roe’s finding was “not inferable from the language of the Constitution, the framers’ thinking respecting the specific problem in issue, any general value derivable from the provisions they included, or the nation’s governmental structure.” Instead, a majority of the justices wanted it, so they just . . . made it up. Since then, the Court has been faced with a choice: either keep making it up, or at long last admit error.

    There are (as I type) 254 comments on Charlie's article. I didn't even try to look at them.

  • Hicks in sticks nix glitch fix. But also in the august opinion pages of the WSJ. Brian Blase notes: To ‘Fix’ the ObamaCare ‘Family Glitch,’ Biden Politicizes the IRS

    President Obama visited the White House Tuesday to support his successor’s attempts to expand ObamaCare. The big news is that the Biden White House has succeeded in convincing the Internal Revenue Service to propose a rule that would illegally extend insurance subsidies to people who are ineligible for them.

    Mr. Obama’s presence at the White House was ironic given that the IRS’s proposed policy reverses its decision from a decade ago, when he was president. At that time, the IRS believed it had to follow the law as written. The reversal shows that the enforcement of the tax code has become deeply politicized. Through this rule, if finalized, the IRS will expand ObamaCare subsidies by billions of dollars a year beyond what Congress authorized.

    Of course, Democrats have a history of politicizing the IRS.

  • But does the Chinese Room think it thinks? Alex Tabarrok reports on the latest revelation from Google: The Chinese Room Thinks. The "Chinese Room" is a philosophical thought experiment proposed by John Searle: imagine someone who doesn't know Chinese sitting in a room with an "input" and an "output" slot. He has a large book (or "algorithm") that contains a lot of rules about which Chinese symbol should be converted to which English words. When a paper with Chinese text is slipped into the input, our man consults his book mechanically, writes down the English, and shoves it out the output slot.

    The "room" appears to do Chinese-to-English translation. But does it "understand Chinese"?

    Here's what the Googlers have gotten their "box" to do:


    Here's Alex's comment:

    It seems obvious that the computer is reasoning. It certainly isn’t simply remembering. It is reasoning and at a pretty high level! To say that the computer doesn’t “understand” seems little better than a statement of religious faith or speciesism. Silicon can never have a soul! Biology transcends physics! Wetware is miraculous!

    As Richard Feynman used to say: INT-eresting!

Last Modified 2024-01-30 4:00 PM EDT