Table of Contents Show
This is a complete Woke Racism summary, a book by John McWhorter: Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America. Woke Racism shows the workings of a new religion, from original sin “white privileges” and the arming of abolitionist culture to the expulsion of heretics to the evangelical zeal of the “woke mob.”
About John McWhorter
John H. McWhorter is a lecturer that teaches linguistics, American studies, and music history at Columbia University. He is co-editor at Atlantic and hosts the Lexicon Valley podcast by Slate. McWhorter is the author of twenty great books, including Losing the Race: – Self Sabotage In Black America, The Power of Babel: – A Natural History of Language, and Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: – The Untold History of English.
Overview of Woke Racism
Woke Racism shows the workings of a new religion, from original sin “white privileges” and the arming of abolitionist culture to the expulsion of heretics to the evangelical zeal of the “woke mob.” Author John H. McWhorter reveals how this religion, which claims to “dismantle racial structures,” actually harms other black Americans by infantilizing blacks, failing black students, and implementing policies that destroy black societies and cause unnecessary damage. The new religion may be called “anti-racism,” but it has racist essentialism that is indistinguishable from the racist arguments of the past.
Fortunately for black America and all of us, it is not too late to act against woke racism. McWhorter shares scripts and encouragement with those who are trying to deprogram friends and family. But, most importantly, he provides a roadmap to justice that actually helps and doesn’t hurt black America.
John McWhorter, an American linguist at Columbia University, says at the beginning of this work that as a black man, it is essential for him to write this book. This is because he and several other black public intellectuals protested the growing belief in Critical Race Theory (CRT) in our cultural institutions.
This book, Woke Racism, contributes to this criticism of CRT.
In this brief piece, McWhorter mainly argues for three things:
- CRT (or Electism as he calls it, as I’ll call it later in this summary) is religion in everything but the name.
- Electism is racist towards blacks and only allows the existence of real problems that harm black society.
- As a society, we must prevent CRT advocates (he calls them Elected officials, with deliberate religious overtones) from continuing to control discussions about race because they harm black society.
Concise Summary Of Woke Racism
Woke Racism claims that Electism is a religion. McWhorter says we are seeing the third wave of anti-racism, the first being the abolition of slavery and overcoming racial segregation. The second wave is the change in social attitudes. The first wave is very concrete, with easily identifiable objectives, the achievement of which is obvious to all. After the successes of civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s (i.e., the triumph of anti-racism in the first wave), the second wave was the re-design of people who were previously oppressed as a problem of policy.
For example, obtaining the right to house and voting did not automatically lead racists to give up their racism, so mentalities must change. A lot of these changes occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. It is truly amazing how quickly attitudes changed when you think about the plight of black people in the 1960s compared to the 1990s, and it has only improved than over the next two decades.
The third wave of anti-racism, or Electism, noticed these huge advances in racial justice and panicked. This has cultivated the ardor with which the faithful insist on the truth of their sacred creed. With few beasts to kill on this front, activists had to relaunch the crusade by training their own devils out of phantoms and straw men. But, wonders McWhorter, what about that grotesque doctrine that has drawn such a flood of church members over the past decade?
McWhorter claims that white people buy into this religion for two main reasons. The first and most concrete is a direct consequence of the success of the Second Antiracism Wave: No one wants to be accused of racism. Being racist is a terrible thing, and we all know it now. This is one of the main lessons of the second wave of anti-racism.
As a result, the “racist!” yell against those who deviate from Electist orthodoxy effectively convinces people with a simple syllogism that Electism is true: racism is false, disagreeing with Electism makes you a racist; therefore, it is wrong not to believe in Electism. The second reason is a little more abstract. McWhorter says it is Durkheim’s “collective effervescence” that whites achieve by embracing the right ideals. The self-expression of these ideals (e.g., virtue signaling) contains in itself an epistemological justification. In a way, it feels good to feel the white guilt.
Electism, says McWhorter, requires acceptance of a number of conflicting principles. McWhorter calls some of these teachings, perhaps a sort of Ten Commandments of Electism, the catechism of contradictions.
See below for the table:
The fact that each of these tenets contradicts itself is not only obscured but is perhaps an element of these doctrines. The double bond that whites find themselves in when trying to obey these dicta serves to demonstrate the certainty of their innate racism.
Blacks, McWhorter claims, buy into Electism because it fills a void in the way they see themselves. “Blacks settle for Electism to feel whole,” he says in one of his subtitles. Blacks cling to victimhood, McWhorter argues, because they “have no internally generated sense of what makes them legitimate” and therefore “a helpful alternative is to imagine yourself as a survivor. If you’re insecure, a valuable strategy for emphasizing the wrong someone else is doing, especially if there is an idea, they will do it to you. ”
I find McWhorter’s argument a little confused and unconvincing on this point. He argues that this hole or incompleteness felt by blacks is related to the fact that they do not fully deserve their equal place in society but obtain it “from above” (i.e., say changes in law within government). That is not to say that his conclusion – that black people feel a sense of incompleteness – is wrong, but I don’t find the reason for this incompleteness convincing.
Black people basically scratched and struggled to earn their place as equals in society. I think that’s probably the part of Woke Racism that made me frown, trying to reconcile McWhorter’s point with reality. I think there is something in his conclusion that Electism gives a sense of integrity to its black adherents, but the reason for this incompleteness would be, I bet, something other than what McWhorter is claiming here.
Woke Racism spends a lot of time drawing parallels between Third Wave anti-racism and religion. Electism has superstitions in the way of forbidden questions about why the creed is so concerned with the relatively minor police issue against black crime as it is with a black crime against black. Electism has a clergy, namely people like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Robin DiAngelo, whose works (scriptures?) Are accepted as a sermon that beautifully encompasses undeniable truths. Electism has inherited sin in the form of white privileges, which require eternal repentance but no hope of salvation.
Electism is evangelical and elevates their belief in the crowd to be naturally true and flawless. Electism is apocalyptic and predicts a racist settlement that will eventually exterminate it. Interestingly, this apocalyptic view differs from Saint Paul’s in that he believed the end would come in his life. At the same time, the Electism apocalypse would last forever at some point in the future.
There will be more and more “work” in Electism. Electism forbids heresy and considers all dissent evil; the presence of such a heretic is enough to inflict physical suffering on community members.
John McWhorter goes on to say that Electism is bad for black society. By ignoring the real issues of black people, like no father being downtown, and demanding that we forget uncomfortable truths like that black boys are more likely to disturb their peers in school (McWhorter cited statistics), it only hurts black people more. Electism is a way of racism that infantilizes blacks, encourages supporters to view blacks as less capable, and therefore demands that they be discriminated against.
We need to be more tolerant of black boys in school because, according to Electism, the difference in disciplinary action between white and black students can only be explained by racism; we have to ignore that it makes things worse for other black students around difficult students.
We need to make race a big part of college admission criteria, even if that means sending black students to universities they may not be prepared for, leading to increased dropouts among black students. McWhorter calls these lowered expectations “condescension as respect.”
McWhorter suggests a three-pronged approach as a concrete way to actually achieve the goals. Three-pronged to make it simple, achievable, and pragmatic. He says we need to end the war on drugs, teach black children to read using a different approach (the phonic method instead of the whole word method), and deny ourselves the idea that everyone should attain college to live a fulfilling life.
I totally agree with the first prong (or plank, as he calls it). He’s not arguing for it enough, but it would be a task outside of this book. The second prong seems a little strange to me. Granted, I haven’t been to primary school since the early 1990s, and I never went to school at the center, but I vividly remember learning the phonics method. We were always asked to say it out loud when we tried to read a new word.
It may be a different approach, the whole word method, which is common elsewhere or which has earned popularity over the last three decades. I also admit that I don’t know the extent of the literacy problem among inner-city black youth and what approach to learning to read is superior.
In this case, I will take the floor from a famous linguist like John McWhorter. On the third line, McWhorter argues that we shouldn’t view people who went to business school rather than college as smaller people. College is not for everyone, and many people would probably be much happier to learn a profession than to get a liberal arts degree which costs more and means less to a person.
In fact, with the internet, there are tons of free self-study resources covered in almost every degree program so that anyone learning a trade is not relegated to a life of ignorance of the “higher” disciplines (art, philosophy, science, etc.).
I don’t know if the remedy suggested by John McWhorter will be effective for the problems black people face in the United States. It really couldn’t hurt more than Electism. However, it is essential to discuss and debate the usefulness of such suggestions and to decide whether to add other points or modify existing ones.
McWhorter’s suggestion, which Electism does not do, is to make workable policy recommendations aimed at achieving specific goals. In this sense, it is already infinitely superior to Electism and is therefore almost certainly considered by Elected officials as a heretical “solutionism.”
In-Depth Analysis Of Woke Racism
I am a fan of John McWhorter. I have seen several of his chats online with Glenn Loury about race. If I see him interviewed on a show or on a platform, I’m more likely to watch him.
However, I admit that this is the first of his books that I read (linguistics is not my particular interest). So it’s essential, to be honest with my biases. I entirely agree with what he says in this book.
So, it would be pretty easy for me to read this book, nod at his criticisms of the Elect, and say to myself: “Yes, they are like that.” So, I think it’s important for me to approach his book with a critical eye.
It is important to try to understand what this book is about. I think the book is up to date and meets the current zeitgeist. It is vital to have enough voices from people of all races and backgrounds who are loud and clear and often calling out for the Elect and Electism. This book does that.
That being said, I doubt people will consider this book to be authoritative in this area anytime soon. It is unlikely that posterity will indicate that Woke Racism is the harbinger of a change in our social, cultural, political and thinking about race and Electism.
Those who already agree with McWhorter will enjoy reading this book and are unlikely to stumble upon anything they didn’t already know. Defamers will dismiss it as incomplete or right-wing propaganda aimed at encouraging and comforting white supremacist ideas: “Look, that black guy agrees with us too.”
In some cases, this last criticism will, unfortunately, be correct. However, it would be unfair to accuse John McWhorter of being motivated by this unfortunate misinterpretation of his work, and this criticism is certainly not convincing enough to categorically dismiss what he has to say.
In fact, I would say that much of the literature unearthed by Elects have done more to divide people and push them further towards right-wing sympathies than McWhorter’s book ever will. Of course, a lot can be said about whites who react to Electism with ridiculous right-wing views, and the guilty parties certainly have a lot to answer by fighting the lie of Electism with another pernicious lie. But John McWhorter can hardly be faulted for how his message can possibly (but certainly not necessarily) be twisted and distorted by the tangled mess of nightmarish logic used by extremists of another ilk.
McWhorter’s book is quite short. As such, it is both controversy and an argument. Many lines of text are devoted to branding Electists as religious fundamentalists who can be widely dismissed as inaccessible. However, using a linguist’s vocabulary and word art, McWhorter does a phenomenal job of portraying the Elect as an isolated religious sect that should be treated as such.
There are certainly some compelling arguments in the book, although I think a lot of them could have been more specific. Unfortunately, there are few actual references in his bibliography. In some various places, the reader is encouraged to research it for themselves.
Other places use rhetorical devices similar to “ask any black person…” without providing statistics or references as to what most blacks really think about the issue in question.
Giving the last blow to the principles of Electism was probably not the point of this book, as McWhorter himself says in many passages that trying to convince the Elect is a fools’ errand.
This book is not intended to convince Elect of the flaws and contradictions of their belief system. It’s a book for what he calls a fence-sitters audience. This is a book for whites who know they are not racist but who are so confused by the beliefs of a few Elected officials that they may question their commitment to equality and inclusion (in the broad, common-sense version of ‘inclusion,’ not the bizarre doctrinal Elect version).
It is a book for blacks who do not know much about Electism or know about it but see its flaws and contradictions but are told to accept their status as permanent victims. In short, it is not for those who are already fully engaged in Electism disavowal, nor for those who are rooted in religion. Woke Racism works well as a starting point for further studies on the subject.
It’s a coincidence that McWhorter’s book came out as comedian Dave Chappelle embroiled in a controversy over violations of another branch of Electism. Namely, critical gender theory or queer theory. McWhorter’s book is not about gender ideology.
Still, much of the same analysis applies: Critical Gender Theory is a religion full of performative rituals and sacred totems. It harms more than supporting those it claims to advocate. Chappelle’s specialty – which, if one watches the whole thing through, will found out that it is remarkably pro-transgender for something as stubbornly charged as being transphobic – has been ridiculed by the radical gender wing of the Elect.
Instead of watching the special, seeing some places they don’t agree and writing calm, down-to-earth thoughts or inviting a dialogue with Chappelle or an attorney to add clarity and nuances, they quickly seek revenge for Chappelle’s immediate conviction. This display of vitriol by the Elect can only serve to push the fence-sitters and other potential allies into the arms of the opposition.
From the perspective of the Elect, at best, it will terrify some people to suppress their heretical thoughts, which does not make them any less ignorant and likely to harbor greater resentments.
I address this because, although Chappelle’s treatment, although not being waged by the racially race-obsessed Elect that McWhorter condemns in his book, still symbolizes the kind of religious fanaticism among Elect. Fanaticism in which logic and reason are thrown overboard to make room for enthusiastic expressions of piety and any attempt to formulate and adhere to an effective strategy to promote their own project.
That is if their real goal was to convince the people of their rightness instead of terrorizing and browbeating the infidels into pliable acquiescence.
READ ALSO Summary of Think Again
As McWhorter repeatedly points out in the book, Electism is not about accomplishing something concrete. It’s about vociferously testifying and virtue signaling where the apotheosis of this confused religion lies in passionate submission to the entire belief as your one true Lord and Savior. In fact, trying to do things right in the real world is a sign that you have a bad desire to start destroying this sacred evangel through obsolescence.
Doing the real work of protecting civil rights, dealing with ignorance and misunderstanding, and taking concrete steps to solve problems is counterproductive to the ultimate goal of self-realization through purity of belief. It reminds me of Sartre’s quote: “The poor do not know that their function in life is to exercise our generosity.
People of color, LGBT people, “neurodiverse” people and all other intersectional people do not know that their function in life is to anoint and exalt the Elect in their eternal quest for self-fulfilment.
We’re just scratching the surface here. If you don’t already have the original book, “Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America by John McWhorter,” order it here now on Amazon to learn the juicy details.