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John McWhorter: 'The Idea That America Is All About Despising Black People? That's Fantasy.'

The Columbia linguist discusses his new book Nine Nasty Words and dismisses the ideological excesses of the 'anti-racism' movement.


If advocates of "wokeness," "critical race theory," and "anti-racism" seem to be acting like religious zealots who must crush all heretics, that's because they are, argued Columbia University linguist John McWhorter at a 2018 debate at the Soho Forum.

"Anti-racism as currently configured has gone a long way from what used to be considered intelligent and sincere civil rights activism to today [being] a religion," said McWhorter. "I don't mean that as a rhetorical thing. It actually is what any naive anthropologist would recognize as a faith."

The 55-year-old author first explored his idea of anti-racism as "Our Flawed New Religion" in a 2015 essay at The Daily Beast. He's expanding the concept into a book, due out next year, that he's serializing on Substack. Tentatively titled The Elect, it lays out his argument about the misguided fervor undergirding the anti-racist movement championed by people such as Robin DiAngelo, Ibram X. Kendi, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Meanwhile, McWhorter's latest volume to hit store shelves is Nine Nasty Words, a study of how curse words such as fuck became commonplace, unsayable, or something in between. Reason's Nick Gillespie talked with McWhorter about the shifting status of curse words and accusations of systemic racism in contemporary America.

NEXT: The Red Flags in Biden's State of the Union Address

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  1. Speaking of the excesses of anti-racism, opposing runaway inflation is now considered racist.

    Yellen called the impact on women and minorities from Covid-19 “absolutely tragic.” She has repeatedly rejected concerns that Biden’s stimulus is excessive given the economy’s signs of recovery, and that run-away inflation could damage the economy . . . .

    The unemployment rate for Blacks, who have a disproportionate share of lower-wage jobs and of union membership, was double that of Whites during much of the past 50 years in part because policy makers historically pulled back support just as the benefits of growth started reaching lower-income workers — to avoid runaway inflation.


    That's right. Opposing Biden's stimulus bills and the Democrats' overspending is now racist if you oppose it for fear of runaway inflation.

    1. Yes, you're reading that right!

      They consider it racist for the Fed to raise interest rates to combat runaway inflation.

      1. Ken, quit trying to tell the slightly less intelligent cultists what to think. Your personal take away from that article is not objective reality.

        Nowhere does it state that opposing stimulus is racist. You have to really stretch and pull and want to get there to even call it an implication. In fact, the section you quoted even says that policy makers usually pulled back stimulus not because of racism, but because they wanted to avoid inflation. You, and you alone are the only one talking about racism with regards to this article.

        1. Well you certainly got triggered snowflake.

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        2. "Nowhere does it state that opposing stimulus is racist."

          Within the context of an article about why we shouldn't worry about the Biden administration's stimulus bills causing inflation, what is this quote supposed to mean if not that opposing inflation is racist?

          "The unemployment rate for Blacks, who have a disproportionate share of lower-wage jobs and of union membership, was double that of Whites during much of the past 50 years in part because policy makers historically pulled back support just as the benefits of growth started reaching lower-income workers — to avoid runaway inflation.


          They are clearly arguing that trying to avoid runaway inflation is racist, and if you can't see that, it's either because you don't want to see it or because you're incapable of understand what you read.

          1. Even the lefty apologists can't properly identify systemic racism.

          2. They are arguing that premature halting of stimulus has disproportionately affected minorities, not that the stopping of stimulus is itself racist. But sure, take the less nuanced and bad faith interpretation, because how much better it is to get that hit of dopamine from some righteous indignation rather than actually understand something.

            1. Are you familiar with standard explanations for what causes inflation and how it's related to large amounts of government spending--like what we've engaged in since the pandemic started? Because I thought that was common knowledge around here. If that is something you don't know much about, you should probably go educate yourself. Asking a libertarian capitalist to prove that huge amounts of stimulus spending may lead to inflation is like asking someone to prove that if we jump into a swimming pool, we're likely to get wet.

        3. Nowhere does it state that opposing stimulus is racist.

          They are explicitly discussing outcomes from a race perspective and the need to have different policies explicitly because the old polices led to race discrepancies.

          But no...because they didn't come right out and "Systemic Racism", that's not what they're talking about. Sheesh

          1. Dee is not an out and proud Marxist, but she is Marxist-curious.

          2. Noting a racially disproportionate effect is quite different from calling something inherently racist.

            1. "Noting a racially disproportionate effect is quite different from calling something inherently racist."

              You're quite the niggler, aren't you?

            2. Depends who you are talking to. Yes, that should be obviously so, but a lot of people these days seem to think that any disparate outcome is evidence of racism.

    2. Does the same logic apply to ending the lockdowns?

      1. I'm not sure, but if opposing anything that helps the labor participation rate among minorities is racist, then we should be able to count on the progressives to cut taxes and deregulate like Trump did--when the labor participation rate was hitting new highs.

        "There have never been more Black and Hispanic Americans in the workforce, Friday’s Labor Department job report showed.

        The jobless rate for Hispanics hit a record low of 3.9% in September, while African Americans maintained its lowest rate ever, 5.5%.

        ----CNBC, October 4, 2019

    3. Oh, and what of the effects of the runaway inflation itself? That affects minorities disproportionately, too. Doesn't that make printing-press leftists like Yellen racist?

      1. That disproportionately hurts white and wealthy savers and consumers, presumably. Meanwhile, the unskilled workers who are being hired because companies can't grow fast enough are disproportionately minority and coming off the doll--and they aren't big consumers or savers.

        1. It erodes the purchasing power of everyone whose income isn't decoupled from inflation, and those least able to shelter their savings in yielding assets (because they need a greater proportion of their wealth in liquid form) or are least likely to get a raise commensurate with the rate of inflation (because they're earning an already inflated minimum wage in a workforce flooded by low-cost illegal immigrants) are hit hardest.

          1. I appreciate what you're saying about how this will hurt everyone with assets in U.S. dollars and everyone whose livelihood is hurt by inflation, but I think they really are convinced that inflation helps marginalized groups even if it does so at the expense of everyone else--even if they're wrong about that.

            The whole point of progressivism is to use the power of government to force us to make sacrifices for the greater good as they see it, and this looks like another example of that. They want us to sacrifice the economy we would have with low inflation for the benefit of marginalized groups.

            And that isn't even the worst possible interpretation of their motives. The worst possible interpretation is that Biden and the Democrats are trying to silence the critics of their stimulus bills by smearing them as racists--just to enrich their favorite crony capitalists and unions.

    4. 80 million people voted for Biden so that's what they want.

      1. We've been discussing this over the past week. Were you in those discussions? Voting isn't a great indication of what people want--because it doesn't really take costs into consideration like when people make choices in a market.

        Lots of people say they want a Tesla. Far fewer will plunk down $35,000 to buy one, and if they aren't willing to put their money down, do they really want a Tesla? Voting doesn't cost anything like saying you want a Tesla doesn't cost anything.

        Because the swing vote didn't want to reelect Trump in the aftermath of an economic collapse and in the middle of a pandemic, certainly doesn't mean they wanted Biden to squander their future paychecks on stimulus, infrastructure, and the Green New Deal.

        1. My comment was pure sarcasm Ken.

    5. Yeah, because runaway inflation is so helpful to the lower classes...they thrive in it.

  2. Has anyone called him "Uncle John" yet? I mean you don't mess with a religion without consequences from the faithful.

    1. American Socia1ist
      May.4.2021 at 8:34 pm
      Flag Comment Mute User
      This guy has taken his role of house negro a little too seriously.

      1. No surprise there. Our resident trolls must be aghast at the new "mute button"

    2. Well they've called him a Columbia linguist but this lady doesn't appear too impressed.

  3. Americans don't despise black people. But you know Democrats resent them for voting for Trump in record numbers.

    1. Probably why they sent their thugs to burn down black neighborhoods.

    2. Democrats don’t discriminate against Blacks, they just know that Blacks are unable to take care of themselves without guidance.

  4. >>a study of how curse words such as fuck became commonplace, unsayable, or something

    was naggers edited out of this sentence from yesterday's almost-exact-same piece?

  5. Race baiters and socialists have acted like religious zealots (i.e. lying and trying to impose their ideological obsessions on everyone else) for many decades.

  6. McWhorter is awesome.

  7. Equating anti-racism with religion does nothing for the integrity of the argument against anti-racism.

    The argument against anti-racism does not need comparisons. It is perfectly logical and reasonable on its own merits. Making comparisons with religion is demeaning to the argument.

    The aim of the comparison is to belittle the opposition by equating their zeal with that of religious people in a pejorative way. Whether or not zealous religious people behave in unreasonable ways is an argument for another day but it is totally irrelevant to the argument against anti-racist behaviour. Trying to get anti-racist supporters to change their ways for fear of being labelled as religious zealots is counter productive. Insults and name calling should be beneath the behaviour of those who would counter the anti-racist movement.

    People resort to derision when they do not have a secure argument. It is uncalled for in this case since good arguments exist to support the fight against ant-racism.

  8. Kenny, quit trying to preach what the considerably less bright cultists should think. Your subjective opinion of the subject is not physical truth.
    It is not stated anywhere that blocking boost is racist. To even call it an insinuation, you really have to push and strain and desire to get there. In reality, the passage you cited states that authorities typically reduced stimulus not because of racism, but to avoid inflation. With reference to this piece, you and only you are putting up the subject of racism.
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