You can't debate someone you've already assassinated. And in case you missed that point up front, McWhorter makes it even more clear: you can't hunt what you've already killed, gutted and mounted in your drawing room.

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I think you should expose him--in a debate or in any other feasible way. It would be cruel to do so if he were merely dumb, but he's ambitious and cruel. The laid-back pastor look is a facade for that terrible combination of ambition and ignorance--one I've seen over the years in academia more than once. When that kind of person becomes the head of a department--well, I need not tell you.

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Even if we were to accept your argument for why people like Kendi won't debate the likes of you or your pal Loury, you be hard pressed to make the argument that Colman has been anything but respectful to Kendi. However, I don't accept your argument. You are being far too magnanimous, a trait you and to your credit have in abundance.

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From "Dee" below a few:

"It would be interesting for them to engage in a written “debate” on a pertinent topic, where each could present evidence to support his position, and each could be read and evaluated, side by side, as it were."

Got me to thinking, as I was reading an interview with Kendi. But, then, I dunno if Mr. McWhorter reads any-a this stuff. Anyhoo, here's a vehicle:


Given, a couple unfortunates. It IS they NYT. And Mr. Klein, I've noticed, prefers to have people on that he agrees with. But if either he or Mr. Loury would care to put on the "boxing gloves" and enough people ASKED for the debate...

Admit, I can be overbold at times to suggest it. But there it is.

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I agree if you mean a “debate” staged by a MSM outlet, whose viewers are accustomed to ‘panel discussions’ that resemble bullfights. However I have seen many worthwhile moderated discussions on current topics at CSPAN, & the participants often come from quite disparate viewpoints. The atmosphere is civilized & intellectual. The format does not allow for the sort of depth we get from comparing written exchanges, but it’s sufficient to highlight the participants’ differences, and promote follow-up with their written work. Might be worth a try.

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I never thought of it that way before, but I do now. Thank you.

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Jeffrey Peoples made a reply below, in response to a comment by one Matt Mullen who made some noise about "systemic racism." Easy to overlook, because they were both long. But thought some might find this one comment on the subject interesting. Jeffrey Peoples:

"No one owes Kendi any gratitude for misinforming possibly millions of people, including middle aged white people like yourself, about the state of racism today which is currently stagnating the progress of many black people and contributing to the embrace of political philosophies that could be overall damaging to the economic liberty of innocent people and create obstacles to opportunity for people of other racial groups—based on the degenerate notion that government based racial discrimination, aka racism, is virtuous when applied for the benefit of some individuals based on their racial identity."

All that to say... I could NOT agree more. Hope You do too.

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Sorry John, I love what you do but I have to disagree here. These charlatans are getting rich and causing havoc by spreading an unsophisticated and divisive worldview -- someone needs to reveal their lack of depth and offer a more nuanced path forward. You, Glenn, Coleman (who has challenged Kendi, as you said), Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who has challenged DiAngelo), and others in the long-form podcast sphere are our champions of reason. When someone tells me to 'read white fragility and you'll understand', I say that I have read it and that I did not like it. I tell them to read Shelby Steele or listen to you and Glenn talk, to get the other point of view -- but they won't.

You say that you would not voluntarily attend a beat-down, and fair enough. I don't think, though, that any of you would just look to score "OHHH!" points against Kendi or DiAngelo -- I think you would ask them hard but fair questions. What you would produce would be a valuable resource for the genuinely thoughtful people who make up the majority of your audience, and, I'm sure, theirs too.

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This was a tongue in cheek piece, right John? You're really pulling a Mohamed Ali - Sonny Liston job here....getting that big bear to come out of hiding to fight you?

I would think that any man or woman who believes they have something important to share with the world would foam at the mouth at the opportunity to do battle with any worthy challenger who mocked and teased them...and if you and Glenn are not worthy no one is. That's what Baldwin did may times over.

But I get Kendi and Di Angelo. They're raking up the big bucks playing to naïve college kids and stupid guilt ridden white people. My guess is that the average black Joe chuckles listening to their nonsense but go along with the clown show because they recognize that with white quilt comes black power. With fans like that why risk getting smacked down by your intellectual superiors.

I don't know why the thought of these two bring the image of Kamala Harris to mind. Every time I see her I can't help but believe that she knows she's in way over her head and suspects that the rest of the world does too. I suspect Kendi and DiAngelo also know they're as firm as an overcooked noodle.

But for the good of our country John, you should hound these pseudo intellectuals down and demand a fair and open debate on their so called scholarship. I don't think you'll be able to change the minds of the already indoctrinated kiddies in our public and private colleges, but there's a pretty good chance you'll wake Karen up and convince that average black Joe I was referring to that the gold Kendi and DiAngelo are selling is a fools gold that is antithetical to the long term best interests of black people.

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I would raise another recent instance in which intellectual arrogance and petulance appear to have played a large part in a public figure's choice to avoid debate by seeking refuge among the like-minded. After receiving a groundswell of overwhelming, clamorous faculty support at the University of North Carolina, including extensive outreach to the press and influential donors voicing wounded outrage on her behalf, Nikole Hanna-Jones tossed the product of these efforts—the university's offer of a tenured position—into the wastebin, hightailing it to Howard University, where she could be assured of never hearing a discouraging word.

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I doubt if a public conversation or debate between Mr. Kendi and Mr. McWhorter would be worthwhile since the distance between them is so large and each has opinions strongly held, in Kendi’s case to the point of fanaticism. The atmosphere these days is not conducive to a reasoned back and forth. Too bad. So I agree with Mr. McWhorter’s position. It would be interesting for them to engage in a written “debate” on a pertinent topic, where each could present evidence to support his position, and each could be read and evaluated, side by side, as it were. No personal attacks allowed, sticking to the issues. I tend to agree though that Mr. Kendi’s experience and “scholarship” might not prepare him for that kind of thing. I view him as really a “pop” figure (like DeAngelo) who is in over his head, so I doubt he would want to engage in that way. This is a cynical observation, but they both must be making a lot of money on their celebrity. Who knew that a seemingly clueless white woman could make a career out of it and shamelessly play on white guilt and the desire of good hearted but also clueless white people to “think the right way.” Or a guy who used to believe that whites were from another planet would be leading discussions on racism and be taken seriously. Let’s hope Warhol was right about the 15 minutes of fame.

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The point of exploring ideas, philosophy and theory is to understand how to progress and learn. Opinions are only as good as the available information out there and are by definition lacking information.

This practice of taking a position to live by and defend at all costs is problematic and egotistical. Ideas are made to be improved upon or discarded - if you ask me taking ownership of an idea is banal and unhelpful in problem solving.

Who cares what anyone thinks? It’s not one’s business to control or to judge others’ thoughts in discourse or life.

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I think it's a mistake to see Kendi as a foolish kindly pastor. Intellectual lightweight, yes, but he's meanspirited. He's a bully too--DiAngelo's bullying is more obvious. Kendi's shows in his actions.

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I pretty much agree with Mr. McWhorter, with a few additional points:

It's unfortunate (usually) that we think in terms of "debate." To me, "debate" implies winners and losers. Sometimes that's necessary, but often it isn't. I've never participated in a formal debate, but I have gotten into blog thread debates and in-person debates/arguments with others. Speaking for myself, I tend to get emotional, frustrated, and defensive.

Ideally, I would prefer something like "discussion." It would be cool if Mr. Kendi, Ms. Diangelo, Mr. McWhorter, and Mr. Loury met to discuss and share ideas. The goal wouldn't be to change each others' minds or anyone else's minds, and it wouldn't be to score points. But it would be nice to watch and share ideas, illuminate points of disagreement and differences in reasoning, and perhaps make occasional concessions.

"Discussion" is usually a pipe dream, and I completely understand why it probably wouldn't work out with Mr. Kendi, et al., just like it probably wouldn't have worked out on that show Mr. McWhorter decided not to go on. Maybe it only works when there's a shared sense of friendship that in those cases either was impossible to achieve or was overrun by circumstances.

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I think there's a lot of merit to Kendi's argument that vast disparities between White and Black Americans indicate systemic racism. Because, if you agree that there are no inherent differences between the races, then it seems perfectly logical to conclude that something in the system must be contributing to those disparities.

For example, the destructive attitude among young Black Americans that excelling in school is "acting White". How did that attitude arise? It seems clear to me that growing up in a world where you don't see a lot of Black people in higher education would give Black kids the very clear impression that "that's not for me". And I believe it was our American system that created that toxic idea, through our long history of actively and passively denying Black Americans educational opportunities. The proof, for me, is that recent Black immigrants don't share this poisonous attitude toward educational excellence. They weren't raised in our system. And their parents weren't raised in our system.

I see systemic racism in the way job applicants with Black-sounding names on their resumes are much less likely to get called in for an interview. This is why I support affirmative action. By the way, I doubt many White people even realize what's going on in their mind when they pass over applications with Black-sounding names. And if they are, I doubt they spend much time examining their assumptions.

I see systemic racism in the way that some neighborhoods were formed that (intentionally and unintentionally) have kept Black families from accumulating generational wealth. (The average White family has $170,000 in wealth. The average Black family has $17,000).

I see systemic racism in the way that Black people are far more likely to end up in the criminal punishment system because police make racist assumptions about who is likely to be a criminal and who is not, and because of the over-policing of Black neighborhoods.

Does this mean that Black people bear no responsibility for their fate in America? Of course not. Does this mean White people today want to keep Black people from achieving success? I'd guess there are very few of those kinds of people, though they certainly exist. But I think we owe people like Kendi a bit of gratitude for making people like me (middle-aged White guy) aware of the problems facing Black Americans in 2021. I think this awareness is the first step in creating a more just and equitable society.

I've been listening to some of Kendi's podcasts lately. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he invites John McWhorter on his show for a polite discussion rather than a debate. I'd be eager to hear that discussion. I'm sure Kendi would be eager to explain all of the many ways in which his ideas have been challenged, fair and unfair.

Finally, I think McWhorter's charge that "He is irritated at real questions because he has had no experience with actual academic give and take." is wildly unfair. If he didn't get that in academia (which I doubt) he is certainly familiar with it today. He is one of the most harshly and openly criticized academics in public life today. I doubt there's a criticism of his work that he hasn't heard a hundred times.

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I understand your point, but I don't see debate as "fights," though I understand that is what most people want. I don't. Fighting makes me uncomfortable, to be honest (Libra, here). But I think you and Kendi do need to have a conversation in front of people. The problem in our society is people live in a vacuum. And honest, respectful, good-faith debate is an important counter to that. First of all, we can see people respectfully disagree. We have lost the ability to respectfully disagree. And we can see two ideas side by side. Someone who is "irritated at real questions because he has had no experience with actual academic give and take" should not be allowed the platform Kendi is allowed, nor should he be allowed to go unchecked. No one should. Not you, not me, not Kendi. (DiAngelo is another subject. I don't believe in "race traitors," but if you want to see a white supremacist, look at DiAngelo. She's a white woman who makes money speaking for minority populations in order to prove herself better than other white people. Minorities are not "people" in her mind, but a way to enrich herself on many levels.)

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