I’ve long been a fan of John McWhorter, a linguist at Columbia University. My first exposure to his thinking was listening to the Great Courses production of his lectures titled “The Story of Human Language.” I’ve recently finished reading his book Woke Racism, a nuanced critique of progressive racial policy, despite its not-so-nuanced title. He develops a concept for how upper-class American views about race have a religious tone, what McWhorter calls “The Elect.”
McWhorter has a beautiful analogy about tearing down statues of George Washington, our very respected first president. Washington was a pillar of the establishment in his day, more beloved by his contemporaries than even Kennedy in 1960 or Obama in 2008. If Washington is now a monster for having owned slaves, what unforeseen controversy awaits today’s establishment?
McWhorter imagines one:
In the future, the bulk of Americans may consider being pro-choice immoral. The celebration of any conglomeration of cells chemically set to become a Homo sapiens as “a person” may spread to intellectuals of influence and become as intelligentsia-chic as Electness is now. How do we feel about people of 2100 advocating that educators not celebrate the achievements of people in 2020 because they were not opposed to abortion?
That’s a rich analogy.
Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of We were winning when I was there.