John McWhorter: 'The Idea That America Is All About Despising Black People? That's Fantasy.'

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If advocates of "wokeness," "critical race theory," and "anti-racism" seem to be acting like religious zealots who must crush all heretics, that's because they are, argued Columbia University linguist John McWhorter at a 2018 debate at the Soho Forum.

"Anti-racism as currently configured has gone a long way from what used to be considered intelligent and sincere civil rights activism to today [being] a religion," said McWhorter. "I don't mean that as a rhetorical thing. It actually is what any naive anthropologist would recognize as a faith."

The 55-year-old author first explored his idea of anti-racism as "Our Flawed New Religion" in a 2015 essay at The Daily Beast. He's expanding the concept into a book, due out next year, that he's serializing on Substack. Tentatively titled The Elect, it lays out his argument about the misguided fervor undergirding the anti-racist movement championed by people such as Robin DiAngelo, Ibram X. Kendi, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Meanwhile, McWhorter's latest volume to hit store shelves is Nine Nasty Words, a study of how curse words such as fuck became commonplace, unsayable, or something in between. Reason's Nick Gillespie talked with McWhorter about the shifting status of curse words and accusations of systemic racism in contemporary America.

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