Academic John McWhorter has an interesting opinion piece up at CNN today. It’s titled “We need a ‘PC’ that includes white people.” What it proposes, in the wake of Trump’s election, is a kind of racial compromise. McWhorter suggests the kind of racial utopia the left envisions is simply never going to happen, i.e. a place where the majority of white people automatically agree they are guilty:
Many white people figure that they have gotten the message that they shouldn’t stereotype, that black people have a lousy history, that a lot of people aren’t free of racist bias. But white people feel like they aren’t bad people, and are sick of being told that they are, no matter what they do. The idea that they are bearers of a “white privilege” for which they must endlessly apologize, no matter what they do or think, likely rankles especially. They feel damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
McWhorter frames the recent election as a lot of fed up white people, many of whom are not living terribly privileged lives, giving the “middle finger” to the whole conversation. What he proposes is something of a compromise in which certain elements of PC culture remain while others are dropped as going too far. He uses the word “woke” which has been adopted as shorthand for racial awareness of the sort the left wants everyone to embrace:
It is “woke” to understand that Trayvon Martin and so many other black people would be alive if they had been white.
It is “woke” to revile Republicans’ attempt to disenfranchise as many black people as possible on the basis of a fallacious concern with virtually non-existent voter fraud.
I’ll come back to these non-negotiables in a minute but first here are the parts of PC culture McWhorter suggests could be abandoned:
In an America we can actually expect healing in, it will not be “woke” to assail a white man wearing dreadlocks, or a gay white man adopting some slang expressions and gestures of black women, as committing the sin of cultural appropriation.
It will not be “woke” to call for reparations for abuses of black people committed eons ago, hoping that whites will cherish black Americans as human history’s only people whose legacy permanently cripples them in the present.
It will not be “woke” for the media to treat the video of a white man nearly killed by black men as any less of a racially charged incident in the wake of Trump’s victory, as if black people carry some kind of immunity to censure because of slavery and Jim Crow and redlining.
McWhorter concludes that, while some activists will say these things (and many more) are worth fighting for, “we cannot make more than a hyper-educated sliver of white Americans see those facts as justifying a contemptuous view of themselves.” In other words, better half-woke than not woke at all.
McWhorter deserves some credit for trying to reach a compromise and for being willing to buck his own side’s activists over PC issues some take very seriously. Still, I think he’s going to run into problems if the idea that Trayvon Martin would still be alive if he was white is a non-negotiable. First of all that’s a counter-factual. Second, it implies that Martin’s death resulted from him being black rather than from him getting into a fist fight with an armed man. Martin’s own girlfriend—who was on the phone with him just before the shooting—told an interviewer she believed Trayvon probably threw the first punch. The evidence at trial made clear Martin was sitting on top of Zimmerman (who was on his back on the ground) when the fatal shot was fired. There’s a lot more to this incident than Trayvon being black.
The point is, it’s not just the minor issues around the edges where the activist left would need to be prepared to compromise. In any case, McWhorter will never get the far left to agree to any sort of compromise on these issues. One look at college campuses today tells you the most extreme take on safe spaces, cultural appropriation, micro-aggressions, etc. is becoming more common not less. In another 10 years, those students will be the activists demanding capitulation on their ever-expanding racial agenda. Compromise does not seem likely.