As I’ve said before, academic John McWhorter is someone who has frequently strayed from ideological orthodoxy on the question of race and policing. For instance, last year he gave an interview on the 5 year anniversary of the death of Mike Brown which pointed out that a lot of what we initially heard about the case turned out not to be true. Over the weekend, McWhorter was interviewed by Bret Weinstein for his podcast show. The two discussed the current Black Lives Matter movement and the far-left ideology that seems to have migrated from college campuses to America’s city streets.
Asked directly if he believes George Floyd was murdered, McWhorter said he believed he had been but then added that there are other cases in which police had done nearly the same thing to white suspects. Therefore, he argued, the conclusion that the color of Floyd’s skin was the main factor in his death rather than, say, a problem with policing more broadly is not certain. He suggested that the media was part of the problem because the video of Floyd’s death is the one we’re going to see over and over. “I would say that George Floyd was murdered but the problem is that to say that it was because of his black skin detracts from solutions to America’s problems that would float all boats.”
“As I’ve written often, we’re dealing not with a political ideology but with something that an anthropologist would recognize as religion,” McWhorter said. He continued, “And it’s easy to hear me say that and think that I’m trying to make a rhetorical point. I don’t mean like a religion, [it] is a religion. The way that you understand how these people operate is to actually imagine how you would interact with a Mormon who you were trying to convince that Joseph Smith didn’t dig up tablets in the back yard.
“And again, not rhetoric folks. Exactly that. It’s the same frame of mind. It’s just that our language doesn’t happen to apply the label religion to the kinds of ideology we’ve seen over about the past ten years.
“The tenet of this religion that dominates is that to be against racism trumps literally everything else. There are ranked priorities and being against racism…is everything, to the point that you allow yourself not to make any logical sense. You must be against racism and so George Floyd must have been murdered because he was black and there is no questions asked.
“And you cannot have any kind of dialogue with a person of color about racism. If you have any kind of dialogue with them, if you question anything that they say…you are a racist and there are no questions to be asked.”
As he said, McWhorter has written about this before. In 2018 he wrote this about the adoration for Ta-Nehisi Coates in certain circles:
There is an idleness in this cult of atonement, in that it cannot get whites what they want. I wonder if today’s atoners quite understand that “getting it” will not, for example, make Ta-Nehisi Coates like them any more than Marlon Riggs liked the graduate student and her friends despite their leftist politics. There is an Old Testament quality to the Coates preachings, for example. He is unmoved by the deaths of white firefighters during 9/11, uncomfortable seeing his son as a tot playing comfortably with white kids, and sees young white parents with their big strollers as white people taking up too much space as always. The degree of self-hatred—if sincere—is staggering in whites proclaiming how much they “love” this kind of scripture.
And all of this, ultimately, is often as condescending as nakedly dismissive views of blacks were in the bad old days. I doubt most whites truly think racism is so acridly pervasive and persistent in this country that a middle-class black man ought to fear his children playing with theirs, or look upon firefighters barbecued on 9/11 as mere racists getting their just desserts. Pretending to believe this sort of thing is insincere and insulting. It’s a pat on the head…
We have gone from most whites being unaware that racism was a problem for black people at all to whites being chilled to their bones at the possibility of harboring racism in their souls, terrified at the prospect of being singled out as a heretic, and forgetting that the indulgences they purchase and the praying they do for their souls has more to do with them than with anyone black and their problems.
Some have called this moment the Great Awokening and I still think that fits. Here’s the full interview. The portion above comes about 15 minutes in but the whole thing is interesting.