One of the issues I often discuss on this blog is racism, real and perceived, see here and here. My basic view is that while there are remnants of our racist past in today’s society, America has made much progress in improving race relations in recent years, and systemic racism no longer exists in our country.
I have just come across the new book, Woke Racism: how a new religion has betrayed black America, by John McWhorter, which adds a new perspective to this controversial issue. According to Mr. McWhorter:
- There have been three waves of antiracism historically in our country.
- First Wave Antiracism battled both slavery and legalized segregation.
- Second Wave Antiracism, in the 1970s and ‘80s, battled racist attitudes and taught America that being racist is a moral flaw.
- Third Wave Antiracism, becoming mainstream in the 2010s, teaches that because racism is baked into the structure of society, whites “complicity” in living within it constitutes racism itself, while for black people, grappling with the racism surrounding them is the totality of experience and must condition exquisite sensitivity toward them. . .
- In other words, Third Wave Antiracism, in its laser focus on an oversimplified sense of what racism is and what one does about it, is content to harm black people in the name of what can only be called dogma. It exploits modern Americans’ fear of being thought racist to promulgate not just antiracism, but an obsessive, self-involved, totalitarian, and utterly unnecessary kind of cultural reprogramming.
- The author refers to these modern-day antiracists as the Elect. With the rise of third wave antiracism, we are witnessing the birth of a new religion.
- The Elect have superstition: when Elect white people at protests take a knee for extended periods to indicate general wokeness after George Floyd’s murder, it is a submission to Elect imperatives.
- The Elect have clergy: they are Ta-Nehisi Coates’ (“The Case for Reparations”), Robin DiAngelo (“White Fragility”), and Ibram Kendi (“How to Be an Antiracist”)
- The Elect have original sin: “white privilege.” White people are racist, and if they deny it, it proves that they are.
- The Elect are evangelical: just as fundamentalist Christians are bearers of a “Good News” which, if accepted, would create a perfect world, there is always a flock of unconverted heathen (white people) out there who don’t yet see the light.
- The Elect are apocalyptic: in 2021 America has become conscious of racism, within just a year, to a degree so extreme and so sincere that history offers no parallel. But to the Elect none of this matters. The same people are saying the same things that America never “comes to terms” with race.
- The Elect ban the heretic. Since 2019 the Elect’s behavior has become known as “cancel culture.” The Elect’s central moral duty is to battle racism and the racist.
- The Elect supplant older religions. The imperative to “dismantle our white supremacy culture” has virtually taken over the centuries-old now combined Unitarian/Universalist denomination, which happens (what consternation!) to be my own church!
Conclusion. “America’s sense of what it is to be intellectual, moral or artistic, what it is to educate a child, what it is to foster justice, what it is to express oneself properly, and what it is to be a nation, is being re-founded upon a religion. This is directly antithetical to the very foundations of the American experiment.”
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Hi Jack, I fear that systemic racism is alive and well. One book that I recommend is Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. Sue
I have tried twice to read Caste but I am put off by the author’s comparison of today’s African Americans with the treatment of Jews by Nazi Germany and the treatment of the untouchables in India. African Americans are making steady social and economic progress today even if we wish it would happen more quickly. For example see https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/BlackMenMakingItInAmerica-Final_062218.pdf?x91208
for a discussion of black progress.
In the meantime, I am reminded of a thought, attributable (2013) to Nobel Prize Awardee Jack J. Heckman, “…the accident of birth is the greatest source of inequality in America today. By the time they start kindergarten, children born into disadvantage are already at risk of dropping out of school, becoming pregnant in their teenage years, engaging in crime, and working for low wages for the rest of their lives. All of these deficits are passed on to the next generation. This cycle harms not only those born into disadvantage but all of society.”
He was then a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and received the Nobel for having documented the ROI of early Childhood Education (beginning at 6 months of age): 7 to 1. In effect, we will not change this without offering each newborn and their parents an appropriately responsive combination of Family Leave and advanced early childhood education.
We will need to reduce our nation’s health spending to fund this commitment. The complex strategies necessary for better healthcare and the needs of every child are known. We lack only the will to make it happen.
I am totally in favor of early childhood education for the children of disadvantaged families. In fact, the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties, on whose elective board I sat for 8 years, is promoting this exact endeavor through the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska.
The last Omaha area School District’s Superintendents Report (crafted by the Buffet Institute) for 2019-20 would indicate that about half of the children living within family conditions of poverty are being served. Admittedly, this is an extremely difficult project (especially in association with the pandemic). It is likely that a prolonged community-wide effort will be required. Our nation’s data for poverty indicates that 10-12% of our nation’s families endure their survival with poverty-defined resources. Unfortunately, most communities have substantial neighborhoods marked by severe poverty. Remarkably, our nation’s annual level has not changed for the last 30 years, other than during recessions. If you are curious about your community’s poverty distribution, there is a NEIGHBORHOOD ATLAS WEBSITE that anyone nationally can access to identify their local neighborhoods so affected. The Website is hosted by the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health. It’s fairly easy to find and use.
Keep in mind that the so-called Superintendent’s Plan for Early Childhood Education, financially supported by the LC, and carried out by the Buffett Institute, is only a pilot plan to demonstrate that early childhood education does actually work (which it does!). For this, the LC gives the Buffett Institute roughly $3 million a year (from a 1.5 cent tax levy). Full funding for all eligible children (i.e. from low-income families) would require additional financial support, presumably from the state. This will. of course, be a hard political challenge to achieve.