It has become common to assert that awakening has all the attributes, if not the makings, of a new religion.
Racism Awakened: How a New Religion Betrayed Black America, by John McWhorter. Portfolio, 224 pages, $ 28.00.
The argument is compelling. In its language and practices, enlightenment mimics some of the common aspects of religions. It has myths (that America’s true founding was in 1619) and beliefs (that systemic racism permeates all aspects of American institutions) that believers embrace with faith. There are religious – Ibram X. Kendi, Robin DiAngelo, Ta-Nehisi Coates – who speak ex cathedra. And he promises transcendence: by taking up arms against white supremacy and its effects, the righteous can participate in the determining struggle of our time.
So argues John McWhorter – a linguistics professor at Columbia, and himself a black man – in his new book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America. The zeal of the “elect,” as McWhorter calls followers of this new creed, has made awakening one of the most powerful forms of religious observance in America today. Within a few years, a fringe ideology once confined to academia has swept across businesses, churches, schools, and federal and state governments. Speaking to readers who are half-convinced of the truth of this ideology, McWhorter argues that enlightenment is harmful to the very people he claims to be helping.
The attraction of awakening remains confusing for the foreigner. True, the collapse of mainstream Protestantism left many people looking for a moral goal. But what attracts them to such a ruthless “religion”, which encourages its followers to flog themselves and persecute others for an ever-growing list of racial misdeeds?
Strangely, McWhorter says, awakening seems to ease people’s consciousness. This is due in part to his insistence on the truth of his personal experience. Adopting a thesis by American philosopher Richard Rorty, McWhorter argues that the counterculture triumph of the 1960s transformed the left from a “reformist” enterprise into a “cultural” enterprise. While the old left saw the American system as partially flawed and in need of reform, the new left wanted to abandon the American project entirely in favor of new cultural norms. The transformation destroyed confidence in the American system and placed “self-expression” at the center of leftist politics. Likewise, McWhorter argues, awakening testifies that personal experiences of racism are proof that the system is beyond reform. Sixty years after the civil rights movement, racism, according to Revival, is the defining experience of American life.
What is more alarming than the content of awakened beliefs, however, is how quickly they have been adopted by millions of Americans. Many did so without sincerity, out of fear or out of a desire to get along. One of the fundamental principles of enlightenment is that a rejection of enlightenment is in itself evidence of racism. As McWhorter writes, “the implication is that if you don’t think racism [is] the culprit, then you are a racist. The cost of speaking out to a seemingly well-meaning ideology is low, while the cost of criticizing it can be high: people have lost their jobs and their reputations because of false accusations of racism. On a more personal level, the vigil flatters the moral vanity of those who profess it. It gives liberals a good fatherly feeling for caring for marginalized “people of color” without forcing them to do anything other than utter the correct platitudes.
The problem, according to McWhorter, is that arousal actively harms black Americans. In an effort to reduce racial disparities, for example, schools are reluctant to suspend and expel black boys for violent and disruptive behavior, creating a chaotic learning environment that leaves them and their peers undereducated. In colleges, dropping merit-based admissions has taught black students that, in a reversal of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous formula, their skin color matters more than their character content. Worst of all, according to McWhorter, is that “anti-racism” flattens the complexity and beauty of black life into a vulgar story of victimization at the hands of a “white supremacist” society. In this worldview, black people are defined by “what someone does to you, rather than what you like to do”.
McWhorter describes three preliminary solutions to the racial success gap instead of the “quietly racist alternative” of awakening: legalizing drugs, teaching school children phonics, and “moving beyond the idea that everyone has to go to school. ‘university”. On the first, McWhorter is overly optimistic about the legitimate job opportunities legalization would offer impoverished young black men, and he ignores the likely damage from politics, including the rise in drug addiction and drug addiction. On the second, he’s probably right. Teaching phonics is effective in improving reading for black children raised in homes without books, and making it compulsory could help close the racial achievement gap. McWhorter’s third recommendation is correct but politically unlikely given that Democrats have long emphasized that university is the best way out of poverty and legislated for it.
But these solutions do not touch the reality of awakening as a religion. McWhorter, an atheist, uses “religion” in a derogatory way, but his understanding of religion is superficial and his arguments about it are underdeveloped. For him, all religions are absurd, each having its own “catechism of contradictions”. He cautions readers to avoid arguing with the awakened, ignoring their “victimized racial claims” and refusing to be silenced – just as one would ignore religious claims of a faith to which we don’t believe. McWhorter thinks he disarmed enlightenment afterwards by relegating his claims to the purely religious sphere.
But in equating this new creed with a religion, McWhorter gives too much respect to awakening and too little to genuine beliefs. True religions meet the deep needs of every soul, regardless of class or racial background. Revival is a pseudo-religion for the elite. He lives on a borrowed Christian heritage and presents some Christian ideas in a distorted form. But it is no more a religion than communism. And his influence is not a matter of personal conviction but the direct result of his long-standing roots in government.
In 2020, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, explaining why he tolerated civil unrest in the face of draconian coronavirus restrictions, explained that someone protesting against “400 years of American racism” was “not the same … that the store naturally injured. owner or devout religious person who wants to return to services. Those who oppose awakening should take his word for it.
Josh Christenson is associate editor at the Washington Free Beacon.
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Original author: Josh christenson
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