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McWhorter interview screenshot

Talking with John McWhorter about the Racist ‘Woke’ Religion

“Woke” anti-racism is ascendant in our culture. But contrary to the claims of its advocates, it encourages, rather than combats, racism. And it actively harms, rather than helps, the people it claims to care about. What animates it is not a commitment to facts and evidence, but a zealot’s mentality: it is a new religion. John McWhorter makes these provocative claims in his trenchant new book Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America. In this episode of the New Ideal podcast, Onkar Ghate and I talk with McWhorter about his analysis of the “woke” phenomenon.

Topics we talk about include:

  • How the debate over race issues has changed since the early 2000s;
  • Key similarities between religion and the “woke” phenomenon;
  • What explains the religious fervor over racial issues since the Civil Rights era;
  • Why not all black Americans have the sense of having overcome oppression;
  • Whether defeatism about race is a consensus among black Americans;
  • Why the leaders of the “woke” religion are uninterested in solving real problems;
  • How today’s “anti-racists” oversimplify the influence of historical racism;
  • McWhorter’s proposed solution to the problems of racism;
  • How the appeal of the “woke” religion relies more on “show business” than science;
  • The wisdom of discarding the problematic concept of biological “race.”

I’ve learned a lot from reading McWhorter over the years, and I enjoyed the conversation. If you’re curious about his book, I wrote about it in New Ideal recently, and it is well worth reading. Let me also recommend a separate podcast that Onkar and I did on the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day: “Racism, ‘Color Blindness,’ and Tribalism,” a discussion informed by Ayn Rand’s philosophic analysis of racism. In her essay “Racism,” which you can read online, she called it “the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.”

The McWhorter interview was recorded on December 1, 2021. Watch or listen to the discussion below. Listen and subscribe from your mobile device on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify or Stitcher. Watch archived podcasts here

Podcast audio:


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Elan Journo

Elan Journo is a senior fellow and vice president of content at the Ayn Rand Institute. His books include Illuminating Ayn Rand (2022), Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: What Went Wrong After 9/11 (2021) and What Justice Demands: America and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (2018). Elan is a senior editor of New Ideal.

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