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Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  1,030 ratings  ·  172 reviews
Acclaimed linguist and award-winning writer John McWhorter argues that an illiberal neoracism, disguised as antiracism, is hurting Black communities and weakening the American social fabric.

Americans of good will on both the left and the right are secretly asking themselves the same question: how has the conversation on race in America gone so crazy? We're told read books
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Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 26th 2021 by Portfolio
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Ash It's even more telling when you simply ask why they gave a 1-star review and then get accused of being a racist just for asking. …moreIt's even more telling when you simply ask why they gave a 1-star review and then get accused of being a racist just for asking. (less)

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Petra X is very happy & even more confused
"This book is dedicated to each who find it within themselves to take a stand against this detour in humanity's intellectual, cultural and moral development." That dedication alone would have sold me on this book even if it hadn't been written by one of my favourite authors, a professor of linguistics. ...more
mark monday
Nov 06, 2021 rated it liked it
McWhorter is that guy who goes on & on about something that is of interest to you but maybe not to the same very heated, over the top degree. He's an excitable fellow and while I love that about him, it's also at the heart of my big challenge with this book. Namely, he's guilty of engaging in the same thing that those infernal Woke do: binary thinking! These True Believers are often obnoxious and many of their ideas are deeply offensive, but there are a lot of good points in there too (says the ...more
Chris Boutté
Sep 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I could honestly write an entire blog post about this book (and maybe I will), but this book completely changed my opinion of John McWhorter. I got into John’s books on linguistics, and then I found out he’s a very vocal person when it comes to issues with wokeness. I’ve listened to many of his podcasts and conversations with people, and while he has no problem admitting racism exists, it was hard to get a read on him. I couldn’t quite tell if he was just against the woke stuff as a way to pande ...more
Lois
Meh, there's not really much here.
Its mostly an angry rant at so-called 'woke' Black folks though he writes this book to 'save' white people and because he's aware that racist white folks will wield this as a weapon. He states its his 'duty' to be used as a weapon by white supremacists🤣😭
This man is a whole ass-clown.

The author is deeply antiblack which is sad for him and his kids.
I guess.
I mean I don't really care.
Black folks aren't a monolith and so self-hating Black folks exist.
They always h
...more
Joseph Stieb
Oct 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
I've read a decent number of books on the debates about critical race theory, race in the modern US, etc, and this is one of the stronger offerings. I was familiar with a lot of McWhorter's thinking from watching Bill Maher and reading the NYT, but he presents a strong case against what he calls "woke racism," exemplified in the work of Kendi, DiAngelo, and Coates. This is a good argument although not a perfect one.

JM's most interesting argument is that the modern racial ideology of the Left (or
...more
Brad
Oct 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I rarely buy books on their release date, but as a liberal who despises CRT/wokeness this book was a big deal. And it did not disappoint! The woke mob has been beyond criticism for far too long. They lash out at anyone who engages with them. They are infantilizing Black people and demonizing White people, and they are getting away with it because they immediately brand critics as racists unfit for polite society. Americans, left and right, need to recognize the very real threat posed by woke neo ...more
Ash
Oct 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
McWhorter's book is committed to the concept of racial justice while persuasively arguing that the current quasi-religion of Third Wave Antiracism (a la Coates, DiAngelo, and Kendi) is not only counterproductive to that project, but harmful to black Americans. It is a book written by a liberal for liberals, to help them parse the tenets of this religious ideology and to offer alternative solutions based on reason and fact.

I found this book to be wonderfully refreshing and a vital alternative to
...more
Angie Boyter
Aug 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
A different roadmap to justice
In Woke Racism, black Columbia University professor John McWhorter describes the current-day social-justice antiracist movement, which he calls Third Wave Antiracism, as one that actually “harms black people in the name of its guiding impulses.”He says its followers see themselves as “chosen” “bearers of wisdom” and calls them the Elect , and he considers their beliefs equivalent to a religion. An interesting premise.
I have enjoyed several of McWhorter’s books on l
...more
Max Driffill
Oct 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
There will be a certain mind that will dismiss this book as a right wing cash grab. That would be unfair, wrong, and deeply counterproductive. McWhorter is probably as liberal a person as you are likely to find among our public intellectuals. He is not a performative contrarian. He is making serious arguments against the case (coming largely from the far , hard left) make about race and disparities in US life early decades of the 21st century. His case is reasonable and well made. It’s worth exa ...more
Murtaza
As the title suggests this is a polemic against what might be called Third Wave Antiracism, coming from a conservative African-American writer. McWhorter makes the case that this new movement that has crystallized over the past decade is a religion. As someone averse to religion he means this as a term of derision, but I'd argue that it is just descriptive. The religion in question in fact is not a mystery, but is identifiably a secularized form of Protestant Christianity that is unique to the U ...more
Sam Helms
Oct 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Con:
In one or two places, McWhorter strawmans the tenets of antiracism. (He presents slightly less sturdy versions of its ideas, or exaggerates them a bit so that they seem more irrational, easier to take down.)

*edit: this is because he is not really trying to rebut them, but to prove that they fit into the mold of a religion.*

Pros:
This book is short, simple, clear, well-argued and well written. It’s clear that McWhorter is committed to racial justice, but believes that the current vogue of an
...more
Charly
Oct 26, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As someone who grew up Mormon — an evangelizing religion McWhorter points to by way of analogy — I would point out that Mormons can, in fact, be reasoned out of their views. He is quick to assume that religion forms a sort of philosophical miasma one can never quite be free of. I disagree.

Rebecca Solnit spoke in a Harper's (Harper's, a publication so urbane and left leaning I doubt I could have tried grokking it til age 30, now "tainted" in the circles he targets because of the Letter™️) column
...more
Sharad Pandian
Nov 07, 2021 rated it did not like it
The terrible rating is not because I think he's completely wrong - to be fair to him, he has two chapters in the middle on policy that are somewhat interesting, even if deeply unambitious and not novel (he thinks the left should support a platform consisting of only ending the war on drugs by legalizing all drugs, promote reading through phonics, and provide vocational training).

The real problem with centrist types like McWhorter is their stunning inability to reflect honestly about themselves.
...more
João
Oct 31, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m conflicted about this book. While I don’t agree with everything he wrote, I think the author has some ideas that are worthy of a hearing. On the other hand, this book is not a good vehicle for those ideas. It reads like a social media feud that grew up to be a book. The author says in the acknowledgments that the book “leap out of” him, and it does read like it was written with the sort of feverish anger one associates with internet trolls. I also got the feeling that he wrote this with much ...more
Jay
Oct 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sociology
You're either going to like this book, or hate it. If you hate it, you probably have a very strong (religious) belief system, according to McWhorter. I'd like to think that people who disagree with him, or think he's gone too far, would at least give the book 2-3 stars for being funny. ...more
Harry Johnston
Nov 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The most coherent, most sorely-needed opposition to the religious race-essentialism gripping the Western -- not just American -- political left. I tried to be generous whilst reading White Fragility and How to be an Antiracist, but my heart was not really in it. It felt like grasping at every brief display of reason in order to excuse the dogmatism, doublethink, and neo-racist generalisation. It felt like a relentless, paternalistic shaming, with the goal to repudiate what we learned as children ...more
Nick
Nov 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Great read with delicious, McWhorter-esque prose that inspires confidence to recapture logic and reason as legitimate tools to evaluate anti-racism’s agenda and methods. He shines a bright light on the elephant in the room to ask (and answer) the uncomfortable questions that arise when “Elect” ideology is professed in the name of social progress. (“Elect” is his word for the class of people who subscribe to critical social justice scholarship and activism, aka “the woke mob,” but whom he sees as ...more
Kim
Nov 13, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-star
"I am arguing against a particular strain of the left that has come to exert a grievous amount of influence over American institutions, to the point that we are beginning to accept as normal the kinds of language, policies, and actions that Orwell wrote of as fiction."

John McWhorter is a professor of linguistics, American studies and music history at Columbia University. This is a serious subject and he is passionate about it. His ideas are worth consideration whether you agree with him or not.
...more
Steve
Oct 28, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Courageous, smart, witty, and necessary. And I can bet on how this will be received.
Andrew
Nov 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
We must become more comfortable keeping our own counsel, and letting our own rationality decide whether we are racist, rather than entertaining the eccentric and self-serving renovated definitions of racism forced upon us by religionists.
-p173


I find John McWhorter’s hot takes on “woke racism” to be provocative and convincing.

In a calm and articulate fashion, he explains why this recent phenomenon is well meaning but, in his view, destructive, and must be resisted. He defines “woke racism” to be
...more
Erika Hardison
Oct 10, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If Jason Whitlock wrote a book, this would be it 🤮
Colleen
Nov 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
Well-renowned linguist and professor at Columbia, now New York Times columnist and frequent guest on the Glenn Loury Show, Conversations with Coleman and other heterodox outlets, John McWhorter has of late become one of the few liberal intellectual voices actively critiquing what he terms in this book "Third Wave Anti-racism," or "Woke Racism," or, when applied to people espousing this ideology, "The Elect." This is his first book-length foray into the topic, although he has a substack where he ...more
Penny Adrian
Oct 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Turning Black people into objects of pity is NOT anti-racist.
More Black people are thriving in today's America than at any point in US history.
And rather than being a despised minority, Black people are probably the most admired, respected, and emulated minority in our country.
Yes, Black people are disproportionately poor, largely due to historic racism.
But poor whites suffer from the same social problems that are typically associated with Blackness and blamed on racism (addiction, high incarcer
...more
Eric Morse
Nov 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
John McWhorter should not be controversial.

Any open-eyed observer will see the kind of rhetoric and initiatives put forth by the woke left these days and come to the same conclusions that McWhorter reaches in this book. Wokeism is a religion, and its central dogmas are based on racism. The fact that you can’t say this without being shunned, shouted down, and increasingly these days, fired from your job, is a rotten state of affairs which cannot end well. McWhorter sees all of this and dedicates
...more
Dallin
Nov 09, 2021 rated it liked it
A bold polemic against Ibram X. Kendi, Robin DiAngelo, and others. Overall I agree, but it could’ve used more nuance. The religion metaphor only goes so far.
Kevin Shoop
Oct 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A much needed check-and-balance to the current climate of hyper-wokism; specifically, in this case, on issues of race. Not meant as red meat for the Fox News crowd, but thoughtful and uncompromising pushback against what McWhorter calls "Third Wave Antiracism." ...more
Jon Cheek
Nov 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
McWhorter very capably criticizes the excesses of key elements of the Left in their efforts to make anti-racism a religion today. An African-American, Leftist intellectual in a prestigious university, McWhorter's perspective is important. The style is engaging, logical, and witty. McWhorter is openly critical of the unceasing attempts to label just about everything as "Racism" and he points out the fallacies in such a practice. While not excusing the fact that the founding fathers owned slaves, ...more
Jackson Emanuel
Nov 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book reads more like a political pamphlet than an academic text, but it's a message that many left-of-center Americans should hear as part of a healthy intellectual diet.

The central claim of this work is that a paricular strain of antiracist activism in the US has become so detached from reality that it deserves to be considered a religion, replete with saints (George Floyd, Eric Garner), apostles (Robin DiAngelo, Ibram Kendi), orginal sin (white privilege), divinity schools (university ca
...more
Natalie Park
Nov 26, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio
Although, at the end of the book, there were a few things I could agree with, most of the book was simplistic and lacked nuance. Many of the topics are complicated and he boiled it down to one or two points which favored his side of the argument. At times, he seems to be professing his version of “religion” and blindly painting a wide stroke against all wokeness.
Sam
Nov 06, 2021 rated it liked it
There’s a lot in this argument to keep a middle-class, middle-age, cis hetero, overeducated, kombucha-drinking, Birkenstock-wearing, “social justice” (a term Dr. McWhorter appears to link indelibly to derangement & destruction), white, female educator like myself up at night. And that is a win. I agree enthusiastically with his three-pronged approach. I‘ve also heard teenagers and adults stumble through primary texts with labored starts-and-stops and heartbreaking self-reproach.

But I’ve also re
...more
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John Hamilton McWhorter (Professor McWhorter uses neither his title nor his middle initial as an author) is an American academic and linguist who is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where he teaches linguistics, American studies, philosophy, and music history. He is the author of a number of books on language and on race relations. His research spec ...more

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“Black boys do commit more violent offenses in public schools than other kids. Period. This means that if we follow these prophets’ advice and go easier on black boys, we hinder the education of other black students. The Elect earnestly decry that most black kids go to school with only other black kids, because it fits into their agenda to point out “segregation.” But that “segregation” also entails that the black boys they think should be allowed to beat other kids up in school are handing out the beatings to other black kids.” 1 likes
“We need the hard left to point us to new ways of thinking. However, we need them to go back to doing this while seated, with the rest of us, rather than standing up and getting their way by calling us moral perverts if we disagree with them and calling this speaking truth to power.” 1 likes
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