For anyone who follows online debates over race in America, John needs little introduction. The Columbia linguist just wrote a bracing tract, Woke Racism, against the new elite religion. He, like me, despises the racism inherent in critical race theory and its various off-shoots, and let’s just say we talked very freely about many of the dynamics of our time.
A provocative podcast today. Some thoughts:
What if it’s all just backlash to inevitable change. Andrew and John both write and speak about the backlash that’s coming from the left which is at one level, frustration with the inability to achieve justice quickly, despite obvious slow but steady progress. We already know too well the backlash on the right, which is taking the form of a populous nationalist autocratic revolt. What if we step back and think about these dynamics on the left and right as backlash to very broad and deep change that is inevitable and occurring, that has demographic, economic, and cultural (even spiritual and philosophical) elements.
Backlash is common when change is real. I say this as someone who has worked in organizational change for most of my professional career, and see the same dynamics when organizations are going through large scale change. Backlash is often a resistance to change that is inevitable and occuring.. So perhaps what we are experiencing in our racial dialogue, and the larger polarization, is a sign that a significant change is underway. This could be a reason for optimism, in that the messiness means something is shifting, although that shift may not be a good one. I think the chance is good that it will turn out okay, that we are in a shift that is inevitable in an increasingly pluralistic, wealthy country constituted as we are.
I don't think this is a "one-off" event in the way Andrew talked about the George Floyd racial protests. The pandemic and the George Floyd incident certainly enhanced everything but I still think it’s part of a larger change process. We are having the "national conversation on race" that so many politicians have called for, and now we see why it has taken so long to have the conversation; it is messy. I think this is in the spirit of what John was saying about how maybe this whole screwed up moment will force us back to something that’s reasonable. I think that’s true but I think we don't go back to something that is like 10 or 20 years ago. I hope and think we will get to somewhere different and better (underlying changes in racial attitudes suggest this possibility). I've read a lot lately that speaks to a large societal transformation at hand: George Friedman (The Storm Before the Calm), Robert Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett (The Upswing) are 2 examples. I think George Packer in Last Best Hope speaks to the same dynamic.
Anyhow, the dynamics are intense, the hypocrisy from both sides is over the top, and hopefully it turns out well!
I'm not a fan of McWhorter pushing (in his NYT newsletters, to which I subscribe) acceptance of the anti-sex movement's Orwellian pronouns, which I refuse to use.
("Anti-sex" rather than "trans", because it is biologically impossible to change an animal's sex, no matter how much cosmetic surgery and chemical ingestion is performed.)
This was a wonderful conversation, and I have ordered McWhorter's book. Thank you Andrew for bringing us the ideas of brilliant people we might never have a chance to encounter. I love hearing ideas in conversation, but I always buy the books.....including yours, "Out on a Limb."
I very much appreciate the embrace of wider contexts in these materials. I just recently discovered the great works of Orlando Patterson and William Julius Wilson (both black academics at Harvard), and there's much wisdom in their books on that topic, especially regarding the causes of statistically different outcomes among people grouped by race. In this video, I teased out what I found to be some of the more salient points on that topic in their books and a few others (at the 5:24-11:34 mark, and the 49:12 mark, the latter quoting Wilson's points about the predominance of class over race): https://paultaylor.substack.com/p/video-analysis-of-popular-critical
Also, the tactics employed in the most popular woke books (and by their adherents) are very similar to those used by medieval witch-hunters, as explored in these essays: https://paultaylor.substack.com/p/a-critique-of-kendi-diangelo-hannah; https://paultaylor.substack.com/p/part-2-the-false-certainty-of-a-trick