Some Observations on John McWhorter’s “Woke Racism”

Clare Xanthos, PhD
4 min readNov 20, 2022

“How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America”

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For over two decades, Columbia University professor, John McWhorter, has produced anti-racial justice commentary, which has been eagerly lapped up by his racist fanbase. McWhorter, a self-described liberal (who is Black) is someone who implies that Black people should be grateful that slavery and Jim Crow were abolished; that modern racism is insignificant; and that anti-racism is a threat to American society.

In his 2021 book, Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America, McWhorter unleashes a tirade against what he perceives as the evils of anti-racism which he labels as “woke racism.” When these kinds of sentiments are expressed by a Black intellectual, they are, of course, given more credibility, which is why McWhorter is especially popular among racist commentators. Indeed, at the time of writing this article, McWhorter is following and followed by a number of well-known racists on Twitter, including notorious racial realist Charles Murray, one of the authors of the infamous book, The Bell Curve.

Source: People followed by John McWhorter (@JohnHMcWhorter)
Source: People followed by Charles Murray (@charlesmurray)

Woke Racism (2021) is McWhorter’s latest publication. It builds on his previous work, focusing on what he considers are the harms of anti-racism, particularly following the 2020 racial reckoning in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. An earlier book Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America (2000) argues that it is Black people’s culture, attitudes and behavior rather than racial discrimination that causes Black disadvantage; this theme is expanded upon in Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America (2005).

Woke Racism is a deeply disingenuous book, underpinned by layers of obfuscation. Its very title flippantly implies that being anti-racist (woke) is the equivalent of engaging in racial discrimination — an insult to all those who have dealt with and continue to deal with the very real effects of systemic and everyday racism. Moreover, the buzzword, “woke…

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Clare Xanthos, PhD

WRITER. AUTHOR. SCHOLAR. Interests: Racial Equity, Racial Health Equity, Racial Justice. Co-Editor: Social Determinants of Health among African-American Men