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Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America

Book Review by Dr Anthony Lewis

Associate Professor John McWhorter is a prolific Black-American author. He writes regularly for all the major US publications such as Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Politico, Forbes, and The New Yorker. Since 2008, he has taught linguistics and the history of language at Cornell University.

McWhorter is an outspoken advocate for a reality-based conversation about the future of Black America. He considers that the rise of Woke Culture and especially the uncompromising ideological stance promoted by Critical Race Theory and the Black Lives Matter movement are a threat to improving race relations in the USA. McWhorter has written this provocatively-titled book Woke Racism as a polemic to try to inject some sanity into what he considers to be an increasingly unhinged debate.

In the book, he challenges the notion that America is hopelessly prejudiced, suggesting that today's anti-racist campaigners have adopted an almost quasi-religious mindset which rejects any dissent or rational challenge. He argues that headline-grabbing campaigns will not improve the lives of economically-disadvantaged black communities, as the approach diverts everyone away from the root causes of economic disadvantage – which are not always due to the historic or continuing presence of structural and systemic racism.

Black Lives Matter protest in New York, 2020

McWhorter reviews the progress made in the US over the past six decades in race relations. He highlights how the current anti-racist movements, which he calls a self-appointed ‘Elect’, prioritise symbolism and slogans over the hard work required to achieve real and lasting beneficial political change. He writes that left-leaning dogmas that dominate current race discussions do not address the glaring disparities, and remaining structural inequalities, for Black Americans. He highlights how the charge to ‘Defund the Police’ actually harms black communities because they are the main victims of gun- and drug-related crime in America. Instead, he advocates alternative, pragmatic, non-ideological policies that would truly empower Black communities. These include:

  • the decriminalisation of drugs;

  • a refocus of education towards vocational training and away from the 'affirmative funnelling' of underprepared black students into elite academic institutions; and

  • reforming a welfare system which traps many single parent poorer Black families into long-term dependence.

John McWhorter

McWhorter's wit and humour delivers a powerful riposte to what he considers to be the misguided fervour of woke culture. He demonstrates how this new religion of ‘antiracism’ actually encourages and re-introduces racialised discourse and thinking back into American society. He concludes that the deprogramming of ‘white people’ through unconscious bias training for the original sin of their ‘whiteness’ is barely indistinguishable from the racism of the past. Finally, he raises a disconcerting question: where are the nonfiction books by black American writers that don't revolve around race?

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