October 26, 2021

"To her, death is quite romantic/She wears an iron vest/Her profession’s her religion/Her sin is her lifelessness."

Sings Bob Dylan, in "Desolation Row." 

That played in my head I as I was reading "I do not mean that these people’s ideology is ‘like’ a religion. I seek no rhetorical snap in this comparison. I mean that it actually is a religion. An anthropologist would see no difference in type between Pentecostalism and this new form of antiracism." 

That's quote from John McWhorter's "WOKE RACISM/How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America," extracted in this NYT book review "John McWhorter Argues That Antiracism Has Become a Religion of the Left."

McWhorter writes for the NYT, so I expect only a gentle review, but there's this:
Where McWhorter is less effective is in his critique of some of the Third Wave’s high priests. Although he takes aim at writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates, Robin DiAngelo, Ibram X. Kendi and The New York Times’s Nikole Hannah-Jones, he only briefly quotes their writing. A more compelling pushback would have involved a thorough analysis of their arguments (he has reviewed Kendi and DiAngelo elsewhere).


Fernandinande said...

That played in my head

I've been listening to the old "Candid Camera" theme song several hundred times a day.

Joe Smith said...

Global warming/climate change beat Antifa to the punch by decades...

Temujin said...

Yes, McWhorter writes for the NYT, but he is first and foremost a Conservative. Which makes him a non-believer. And for those following Wokism, that's a first level sin. I'm surprised he's still left with a quiet night at home.

McWhorter is a 'gentle' Conservative. If they actually wanted a serious critique of the Wokism there are plenty of writers out there who have skewered these people. But the Times- being what they are- ignore those people, censor any mention of those people.

The Times, they are a changin'.

Mike Sylwester said...

In past centuries, a person might be burned alive because he refuses to declare that the Communion bread and wine actually are Jesus' body and blood.

In this century, your reputation and career might be ruined if you refuse to declare that Blacks' disadvantages in life are caused entirely by White racism.

You may not say that such disadvantages are caused at least partially by lower intelligence.

In Canada, Blacks score significantly lower on academic tests.

rhhardin said...

I don't know what's gained by calling it a religion. Religions are generally somewhat better, to the extent that they're a poeticization of ethics. There's no poeticization in antiracism, it's just a non-negotiable demand.

mikee said...

I note that over my lifetime the cycle of leftist ideas moving from fringe, to mainstream, to outdated, to dropped for the next new thing, has increased in speed. This indicates to me that the Left has improved its marketing methods, but is still in denial about the vileness of their progressive ideology. What will be the Left's Council of Nicea, or their 95 Theses nailed to the cathedral door?

charis said...

I’d say the religion of the left involves worship of two ancient goddesses: Gaia (earth) and Dike (justice). There is a lot of defining and filling in details, but that’s the gist of it.

Sebastian said...

"A more compelling pushback would have involved a thorough analysis of their arguments"

Yes and no. Ideally, refutation would suffice. But Kendi et al. have already been shown to be silly hucksters without substance, without any notable effect. Treating wokeism as religion helps to account for the pointlessness of argument.

Of course, anything can be "religion." This one immanentizes the eschaton more than any other.

Mel said...

Another Bob reference, from "Please Crawl Out Your Window": "Their religion of [the] little tin women". Always thought that might be about feminism. Certainly suggests a kind of brittleness, hollowness, perhaps humorlessness.

Lucien said...

McWhorter is often thoughtful and perceptive, even though he is afflicted with TDS, but this is not his best thinking. Does he think wokeism is protected under the First Amendment, or the RFRA? Do we need to provide reasonable accommodations to sincerely held Woke beliefs, or maybe tax exemptions for Woke organizations? Would requiring adherence to Woke ideology violate the Constitution’s bar to religious tests?

If he had a well formulated theory of what religion is and is not, and Wokeism fit within those criteria, I might give his statement more credence. (Presumably such a theory would include Scientology, Shintoism, Confucianism, Zen Bhuddism, etc., but probably not Marxism.)

No — he really is using simile, even though he denies it.

charis said...

Having read the review now, I’ll add this comment.

“A firm belief that all humans carry souls bestowed by God precludes prejudging them through such corporeal categories as race.”
(Zaid Jilani)

I agree, and what an astonishing statement to read in the Times.

Cassandra said...

McWhorter wouldn't describe himself as a conservative. He has described himself as a cranky liberal Democrat.

Which - IMO - only makes his arguments stronger, and his ongoing debates more interesting.

As with many black public intellectuals, he often writes for right-leaning orgs because they're the ones who are most open to his arguments.

Kevin said...

A more compelling pushback would have involved a thorough analysis of their arguments (he has reviewed Kendi and DiAngelo elsewhere).

So now Liberal white people want the Conservative black man to break down for them how their anti-racism isn't helping black people?

Come on, white Liberals, DO THE WORK!

Rigelsen said...

Lucien: “If he had a well formulated theory of what religion is and is not, and Wokeism fit within those criteria, I might give his statement more credence.”

So, you’ve read the book and he doesn’t make those arguments? That would be surprising to anyone familiar with his recent writing.

William said...

Her review wasn't particularly enthusiastic but neither was it scathing. I guess you could call it polite and balanced....Related topic: In the 10/18 issue of the The New Yorker there is an article by Joshua Yaffa. It details the predicament of a Black American who defected to Stalin's Russia. For awhile, he thought the Soviet Union was the greatest place on earth, but later he went on to have some issues. He has the distinction of being the only Black American to die in the Gulag. The man's name was Lovett Fort-Whiteman.... He thought and preached that the plight of the Black man in America and elsewhere was secondary not just to capitalism and imperialism but also to white racism. This line of thought ran contrary to Stalin's views on the subject. Stalin was not open to debate on the subject. Lovett was exiled to a small town in Siberia and then when his politics still remained troublesome, he was sent to a Siberian gulag where he perished.....The article was non-judgmental even sympathetic about Lovett's character and opinions. I suppose Lovett had a point. Prejudice is probably prior to imperialism and capitalism. Fair enough, but I would argue that prejudice is prior to race. White people are not the only bigoted people in the world, and racism is not the only form of destructive prejudice....The Soviet Union did not oppress Black people. This had something to do with the fact that there weren't any more than a few hundred Black people in the country. Stalin killed and oppressed other people at a brisk, genocidal rate. Lovett was willfully blind to ignore this fact. He praised the wonders of the Soviet Union to the skies......So was Lovett a victim or an accomplice?

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

Pentecostals are counter-cultural. Most Pentecostal churches were desegregated by the 1920s, for example. No one has ever gained mainstream acceptance by being a Pentecostal. They are always scorned by right-thinking people.

Wokeism is enforced orthodoxy. They pretend to be an enlightened minority, but they have the backing of higher education, big corporations, and the government. As a religion, it has a wider reach than any church has possessed since the Middle Ages. Since the Reformation, it has been possible to move to a different state with a better religion. The internet is everywhere, and if you get cancelled your shame is a Google search away.

It's a religion, but it's not powered by real belief. Fear drives it. As soon as a critical number of people say something and aren't punished, the whole thing will collapse.