Reading this except reminded me of Edwin Hubble, who is infamous amongst astronomers for his overt racism and sexism. However, he was also one of the leading astronomers of the 1900s. Before he came along, we thought the Milky Way was the entire universe. He was the one who realized that the splotchy “nebulae” in the sky were other galaxies. His data also helped to conclude that the universe was expanding at a uniform rate (the Hubble Constant, still being fine-tuned by astronomers today). And so the Hubble Space Telescope was named after him.

And we don’t mind, because he revolutionized our field and lived in a very different time.

That’s my take on it, at least.

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I’m learning a lot from this book. I’m being led to re-examine a lot of my well-intentioned preconceptions (oo oo...John; can I hyphenate preconceptions? So I I get 3 in one sentence? That would be strangely delicious, like Cherry Bubly). I cringe when I think of how patronizing,, infantilizing I’ve been. Thanks

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Really appreciated this chapter of the book

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McWhorter: It follows easily that we need to start reconsidering our sense of racial classifications. Namely, if we really believe that race is a fiction, we need to let racially indeterminate people make the case for that, by letting go of the idea that anyone with one peep of non-whiteness in them must “identify” as not white.

You have no idea how brave it is for a black or part-black person to say that in public.

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thank you for this, it simulated me to finally post something more directly about all this on my blog, though mine does include quite a bit of profanity. https://www.stephenharrodbuhner.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/THE-DAY-THE-WOKE-MOB-CAME-FOR-THE-HERBALISTSStephen-Harrod-BuhnerIt.pdf

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How we treat other species today is surely the best analogy. It’s both particularly fraught and powerful because it implicates so many of us so deeply. There is close to zero justification for what we do to other animals - based on selfishness, willful ignorance and self-deception, and logically specious rationales (often simply “might makes right” - or among a rapidly-diminishing proportion of us “because Genesis says so”) we prop up to keep dissonance and guilt at bay. Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald had an interesting conversation in one of the former’s recent podcasts, about the almost unfathomable cruelty inflicted on countless other animals on our behalf, whom many of us are well aware are at least as intelligent and emotionally sensitive as the dogs and cats and other companion animals we rightly consider family and might risk our lives to protect. We’re used to consuming certain products so we pay badly exploited others who are often traumatized to the point of long-term PTSD, to inflict unspeakable agony and terror out, of sight and hearing of us, so we can continue to pretend “it’s not that bad”; or, “it’s too engrained in society - how can I undo all of these habits?” I find this example particularly compelling because my moral condemnation would foremost be directed against myself: someone who ate staggering amounts of chickens and salmon in particular, until midlife, while knowing in my heart most of that time it wasn’t ok and it was my responsibility to find ways to stop contributing to such horrific and, today, entirely needless cruelty. I’m coming up on being vegan for five years and know I’m not better than anyone else, can’t really judge anyone else, in spite of the clear conviction that how I’m behaving now is unquestionably better - precisely because I did the exact same things not that long ago. Virtually our entire society inculcates using and abusing other animals in horrific ways as not only entirely normal, but something reassuring, comforting, heartwarming and homey. I’m not saying humans are exactly like other animals in every way (and can imagine the extreme offense some would take at the comparison I’m about to make) - though we are surely vastly more similar with so many other species than we like to admit, given our common development, morphology, and behavior. But how we excuse and deny and cover our eyes and ears and build mountains of fallacies to rationalize the mass, institutional, extreme abuse of other animals today is really not so different from how humans not so long ago openly and unapologetically othered and dehumanized other humans. It’s interesting that when people did and do this they so often explicitly compare or literally describe the people they denigrate as various kinds of other animals. When people want to rationalize committing genocide they describe their victims as insects or vermin to be exterminated. When abuse short of extermination is called for, the victims might be described as monkeys, pigs, or dogs. Anyway, a therapist told me recently:we can’t judge our past selves too harshly on the basis of what we know now. That’s not a perfect apology to how we evaluate our historical past today. And yes there are some things we as people should have known and done and that our long-past countrymen should have known and done. But I’m kind of bemused by and and honestly a little impatient with woke crusaders today who so sanctimoniously bully others, engaging in these self-flattering postures of slaying long-vanquished dragons. While going out of their way to try and smear and rule out of bounds movements to end the most excruciatingly cruel in degree, massive in scale and ubiquitous present-day injustices, like our literally tortuous abuse of other species. It’s easy to see why: focusing on such compelling present wrongs steals their thunder and threatens their narcissistic obsession with being continually congratulated for - what? Being really super-performatively opposed to slavery a hundred and fifty some years after the Civil War? More outraged by Jim Crow two generations after affirmative action was introduced? None of this is to say that everything is perfectly just and there are no lingering impacts from those past horrors. But there’s a reason we get treated to a sort of slavery porn; why every policy one objects to has to be a “New Jim Crow” (or Eagle!); why every act of excessive force is a “modern day lynching”. There is a lot of self-aggrandizement at play. Stacey Abrams is not John Lewis. Meanwhile none of these anachronistic freedom fighters or woke elect wants to be implicated - or responsible - for being one more person “living in the world” as AOC says whenever someone calls her on her hypocrisy, who is actually harming innocents or obliviously licensing less fortunate laborers to do so on their behalf, instead of being hero of the social justice fantasies playing in their heads.

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"These double standards now predominate. Elite “antiracists” absolve blacks from responsibility for their actions. All crime is the result of racism, if it is even acknowledged. This patronizing attitude is today’s real racism, and it guarantees that the bourgeois behavior gap—the cause of lingering socioeconomic disparities—will continue. No one in a position of elite authority is sending the message that society expects blacks to live by the same standards as other groups. Instead, we are unwinding every objective standard of conduct and achievement—whether it’s the criminal code or academic proficiency requirements for school and employment—if enforcing that standard has a disparate impact on blacks."

Heather MacDonald 4/1/2021

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"Wokeness is the new religion, growing faster and larger than Christianity. Its priesthood outnumbers the clergy and exercises far more power. Silicon Valley is the new Vatican; and Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter are the new gospels." Victor Davis Hanson 4/1/2021

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I am not sure I really understand the “end game” of the Elect. As you say they are not dumb so they have got to see this will not end well for our country and thus for 90+ % of the people. Immigrants in the last 30-40 years will have no patience with this eventually and neither will the working class. This will happen even faster as China and India come into their own.

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The section on bi-racial identity reminded me of the Seinfeld episode in which Elaine tries to figure out whether her boyfriend is black without asking if he is black, and in which he assumes she is Spanish because her name sounds Spanish and she takes him to Spanish restaurants. Neither is clearly any one thing or another, but each dances around whether the other is an other.

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Writing doesn’t get sharper than that, folks. Drink it in.

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The only thing that isn't quite squaring for me with this book is that I have had multiple long conversations with at least four different friends who are professional racial justice activists/educators in which I push back very hard on "the movement." In each case, we are able to have meaningful conversations in which both of us comes to understand the other's point of view.

All of these friends has expressed in one form or another, discomfort with some bit of woke orthodoxy, while at the same time, presenting an unwavering commitment to the general approach to dismantling racism that the current antiracist movement takes.

Is there really no middle ground here, really no space for rational conversation in which those of us who are deeply skeptical of wokeism, don't reject it lock stock and barrel with the same kind of dogmatism we decry? Is this battle of ideas and approaches really zero-sum?

On the one hand, the battle really does feel zero-sum to me when wokeist orthodoxy animates a DEI themed meeting I have to attend in which the facilitators are operating strictly from the woke script in a way that is rote, shallow, uninteresting, and highly discourages any deviation, critical engagement. Or, when I read about the many cases that have surfaced recently of people being canceled for incidents that are unambiguously not racist (like the business professor who referenced the Chinese phrase "ne-ga", and got in big trouble).

On the other hand, when I talk to these woke friends of mine, in private, on walks through the woods on a lovely fall or spring day, we create real human connection and a genuine exchange of ideas. And, some of the work these friends do doesn't seem categorically bad. Some even seems thoughtful, humanizing, and ultimately a net good.

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This articles expresses how I have felt my whole life. I am a bit like Thomas Chatterton’s children. I am recognizably Black but not Black in the typical American sense. I was born to upper-middle class immigrant parents who gave us a life of privilege, focused on our academics, and didn’t pass on the same hopeless, depressing American racial narrative that many native Black people drink from. While I was a merely a distant observer to the authentic “Black experience,” I was still constantly put inside the box by well-meaning white and Black people alike who expected all of my interests and attention to center not just on my identity, but THEIR contrived and simplistic version of what they assumed was my identity. For me, this led to identity crises as an adolescent and a larger striving for individuality and my own self. Yes, I am lucky in my life and should not presume to speak

for others, but not for the fact that the Elect would have you believe that others of much more meager upbringings and way less fortunate are somehow privileged over me just because of race, and that all my days are colored by racism and struggle, regardless of my actual carefree and prosperous day-to-day life and circumstances. Luckily, I always placed a premium on reason over emotion (I never stopped seeing our social conventions around race as a construct and most conversations about modern racism to be unproductive), and I was able to convince myself that it was the rest of the world and their fixation on race was not my problem if I didn’t choose it. And I knew that one can support progressive policies that help Black people and poorer non-Black alike without imbibing from the straw of blame, hopelessness, and over-sensitivity.

I don’t think that’s how the majority of people process it, as the contemporary tendency is to embrace an ever more essentialist mindset, like a modern Marxism in which everyone is labor or proletariat, with individual strivings buried into blurry abstracts. Perhaps it is because the human yearning for identity and group-belonging is strong and irrepressible and has calcified around our current categories. Who knows? Maybe we will never get over it. What I hope is that current fashions will one day shift to provide more room

for racial minorities - especially Black people - to see themselves as individuals, and forget their race even for a second, especially when entirely irrelevant. Currently liberals are unfortunately as just as bad on this token as conservatives, and while I am not a political conservative by any means, I feel there is no political home to really seek refuge from this dynamic.

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The notion of “identity” was coined by Erik Erikson in the 1950’s. He used it to discuss the way selves develop, though stages of the life-course, facing distinct challenges at each stage.

Though they drew on earlier work (such as Erikson, and Piaget; not forgetting Sartre) Berger and Luckmann codified the concept of “social construction” in the mid-1960’s. Identity construction was part of this. When I first read their work, as an undergraduate, the message I took away was: identity is a choice. One is radically free to construct it. The conventional wisdom condemns homosexuality as inversion, deformation, illness as set forth in the DSM? But if one wants to move from polymorphous eroticism to choosing a specifically gay identity and to build it, this is perfectly feasible. Likewise there is nothing “natural” (in the sense of compelling) about defining femininity as this idea is conveyed in what Barbara Welter named “the Cult of True Womanhood.” Anatomy is not destiny. Destiny is not destiny, if one chooses not to make it so.

That is a far cry from the way people talk today about “identity,” as in “identity politics.” Identity is no longer the realm of individual freedom; anatomy may no longer be destiny, but birth is. There is a “true self” (as Ralph Turner described it) and it is one’s duty to uncover it, get in touch with it, live out its constraints and possibilities. If one is Black, life’s task is to get in touch with one’s Natural self. If one is gay, this is not chosen; one was born that way (such that wanting to become bi-sexual is a deep self-betrayal). The same is true for trans-sexuals: the only permissible narrative is that if one finds oneself so inclined, this can only be because one has a true sexual essence accidentally imprisoned from birth in a wrongly-matched body. (Discussing developmental challenges, thinking about life choices, are all now beside the point.)

There is, thus, a great gulf fixed between the way people tended to think of identity in the late 20th c., and how we have come to think of it in the early 21st.

Not just among the racial Elect as McWhorter describes them; but also in discussions of sexuality, and of the self in general, now runs a deep vein of determinism. This is quite striking; particularly so in light of the thesis (Pluckrose and Lindsay, for instance) that Wokeness is a matter of the 60’s chickens coming home to roost, the triumph of the Long March Through The Institutions. In the ‘60’s I was free not to grow up as just one more Man in The Grey Flannel Suit. In the ‘20’s, I must grow into a destiny, innately determined. (In cargo shorts, perhaps, rather than suits.) Now birth is destiny, in a very deep manner.

In the ‘60s, Marcuse wrote a book called One-Dimensional Man -- in which a flattening of possibility was held to grow out of the structural weakness of late capitalism. I think to the extent that this book may have struck a chord back then, this was due precisely to the sense that possibilities were open not closed. Yet what has the Long March given us except the sort of one-dimensionality McWhorter describes in this installment -- in which the only interesting thing about a guy like Appiah is the (one) way he is like George Floyd. (Bor-ing.)

It is also a kind of one-dimensionality in which there is (because there can be) no politics. If everybody is just an avatar of their eternal essential group “identity,” what kind of negotiation is ever possible? What sort of compromise? What sort of change? It’s all just zero-sum power struggle -- in which outcome is equally eternal and unchanging. Which is of course McWhorter’s point of departure in this installment: “is there any degree of saturation that slavery could reach into the American consciousness that would satisfy The Elect, such that they would allow that a battle had been won?”

In the ‘60’s people could still sing: “til victory is won;” but then they began to say instead “¡Hasta la victoria siempre!” Forward -- but, always and forever. This is not politics. “Identity politics” is not politics. It is, rather, millenarianism. (Perhaps also, “racial Trotskyism.”)

And thus “Elect philosophy teaches black people to live obsessed with just how someone maybe doesn’t quite fully like them, and then die unappeased.” As a number of people have observed, if this is a religion, it is a religion peculiarly devoid of a description of what salvation looks like.

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I am a big fan of yours, Professor McWhorter, and agree with you on many issues, so this suggestion comes from a place of love and wanting The Elect to be as persuasive as possible.

I agree that it is wrong to hold people in the past to contemporary values. However, I urge you to find another issue than abortion to make this point. It’s unnecessarily divisive. I was so put off by it that I almost stopped reading. Please choose another illustration. It should be something that many people today actively participate in but that we also suspect, somewhere deep down, is problematic, yet we keep doing it anyway. You will alienate half of your readership by imagining an enlightened future where a woman's right to control her body is that.

I’ve often tried to imagine what people in the future might find unacceptable in attitudes that are common today. Here are a couple that make sense to me:

In the future, people may be appalled that we ate meat from factory farmed animals. Even bacon lovers (I confess to being one) find pictures of pigs at CAFOs deeply disturbing. Even those who love omelettes (again, me) are sickened by the miserable details of factory chickens’ hateful, brief lives. In our hearts, we know something is wrong here, but we willfully ignore it because, well, we like inexpensive meat and eggs. Future generations will not judge this kindly.

In 2100, our great-grandchildren will want to cancel us for driving gasoline-powered cars, especially those of us who worry that burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change. An environmental activist today who participates in any number of common activities (living in a single-family home, flying) will be metaphorically burned at the stake by our carbon-neutral descendants. (Presumably they will accomplish this using a metaphorical giant magnifying glass rather than wood).

Please rethink including the abortion argument. It will be emphatically unpersuasive to a great many otherwise sympathetic readers.

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"Yet for arguing this in the public sphere, Williams is often roasted as a race traitor by people sincerely thinking of themselves as bearers of a progressive message. Ladies and gentlemen, this is The Elect."

It never fails to strike me that while a lot of "white" people (whatever "white" may mean today) get their butts dusted for falling foul of the latest wokeist rules, there is a very special sense of glee that the wokeists have in cancelling other people of color for falling foul of the rules. It reminds me of the way that many "intersectional feminists" seem to salivate over nothing so much as cancelling another woman. Men like to talk about how feminism is a bunch of manhating, but that is NOTHING on their hatred for other women, trust me.

And the race-wokeists will hate a person of color for questioning them or even just floating a question in a way that doesn't lead only to a certified wokeist conclusion. We're at the point where we can't even ask questions in a way that might lead to new ideas, and how the hell can we solve these problems without that sense of "no suggestion is off limits" that comes with a good brainstorming session?

I've come to the conclusion that the whackos on both sides of the spectrum -- the qanon trumpsters and the wokeists both -- are consciously attempting to kill off any line of inquiry that might result in measurable progress. They descend on actual strategic inquiry too predictably. There is no difference between them; they're both allergic to facts. (The only difference is that the right wing puts physicists in front of a firing squad, the left wing biologists.)

And as far as Washington and Wilson and all those are concerned, I can't understand how it does anyone any good to cancel examples that show that you can be enormously imperfect and still achieve something worthwhile. No, they didn't achieve EVERYTHING. No one can. But the fact that you can be a shit about one thing and still get something decent done is inspiring, to me. And it's not just happening in history; it's happening now. I'm sick to my stomach at how Alexey Navalny has been abandoned by the wokeists -- is he an asshole? Yes. Is he also a prisoner of conscience whose death will be a disaster? Yes. One can be both a dickhead and a prisoner of conscience. Human rights are not only for the ideologically perfect.

At the turn of the 19th century, one had to be a white male to have civil rights. Now, one must be perfect. This is a far narrower slice of the population. We're headed in the wrong direction on this.

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