Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Review of Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America by John McWhorter

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Sociology
Book Club Event = Book List (10/28/2023)

Watch Short Review


“First Wave Antiracism battled slavery and legalized segregation.  Second Wave Antiracism, in the 1970s and ‘80s, battled racist attitudes and taught America that being racist is a moral flaw.  Third Wave Antiracism, becoming mainstream in the 2010s, teaches that because racism is baked into the structure of society, whites’ “complicity” in living within it constitutes racism itself, while for black people, grappling with the racism surrounding them is the totality of experience and must condition exquisite sensitivity toward them, including a suspension of standards of achievement and conduct.” – John McWhorter, Chapter 1: What Kind of People?, Page 14

“Namely, each component by itself serves to condemn whites as racist.  To apologize shows your racism; to be refused the apology, too, shows your racism.  To not be interested in black culture shows your racism; to get into black culture and decide that you, too, want to rap or wear dreadlocks also shows your racism.  The revelation of racism is, itself and alone, the point, the intention, of this curriculum.  As such, the fact that if you think a little, the tenets cancel one another out is considered trivial.  That they serve their true purpose of revealing people as bigots is paramount – sacrosanct, as it were.” – John McWhorter, Chapter 1: What Kind of People?, Page 19

“The story of how black inner cities got to the state they were in by the 1980s is complex and has nothing to do with blame.  However, to simply frame the issue as a “racism” that requires “elimination” now simply solves no problems.  For example, one might say that one cause of the problems was that the war on drugs sent so many men to prison and left boys growing up in poverty, without fathers.  But to call the war on drugs racist ignores that the laws it has been based on had hearty support from serious black people, including legislators as well as people living in poor communities.” – John McWhorter, Chapter 4: What’s Wrong With It Being A Religion? It Hurts Black People, Page 99


Is This An Overview?

Race in the United States is a sensitive topic, and there are many different ways to approach race topics, specifically about black individuals.  There are policies and claims that would benefit black individuals.  This book is about the views that hurt black individuals.  The ideas are considered Woke, and the author terms their supporters as the Elect.  The ideas are considered to be a religion, for their contradictions and methods are exactly the same.  Alternative ideas to the Woke, are unacceptable.  Anyone who raises different ideas is meant to be shamed and persecuted. 

How racism is responded to impacts outcomes.  The response does not need to be hostile.  Dismantling racist structure, does not need to harm the black individuals living within those structures.  Woke ideology tries to manage America’s race relations, in which they seek to create a special status for black individuals.  To get more black individuals into employment, they create policies that reduce the standards needed for black individuals to enter employment.  But these policies actually hurt black individuals, because it makes black individuals appear inept.  Black individuals are not less capable.  Black individuals have just as much capabilities as everyone else.  Racism does not explain all disparities. 


How Did Antiracism Change In The U.S.A.?

First Wave of Antiracism was against slavery and legalized segregation.  Second Wave of Antiracism during the 1970s and 1980s was against racist attitudes.  Third Wave of Antiracism is about teaching that racism is the totality of experience, and to lower standards of achievement and conduct for black individuals. 

This wave of Antiracism is making innocent people lose jobs, and preventing constructive public discussions on urgent issues.  People have lost positions because they were insufficiently antiracist.  Pride goes into shaming everyone, including black individuals, for not being offended enough at those portrayed as racist. 

The Third Wave Antiracism makes many contradictory claims.  The contradictions are excused, for their purpose is to designate people as bigots.  They claim that they are pursuing social justice, which makes everyone else appear that they are resisting social justice.  Society is changing, into accepting their ideas not because of moral sophistication, but out of fear. 

The Woke claim that no progress is has been made on racism, because they would lose their sense of purpose.  While in reality, a lot of progress has been made on racism.  Progress on race is avoided rather than celebrated.


Is Woke A Religion?

Woke is not like a religion, it is a religion.  They require a suspension of disbelief.  They are as self-contradictory as religions of the past.  The original sin in this religion is white privilege.  People accept the racist charge and commit self-mortification to become cleansed.  They retain followers by claiming an idealized past, providing a fantastic future, and a polluted present. 

Much like religions of the past, Woke people are persecuting other people for not adhering to Woke religion.  Woke people consider their views to be above politics, not subject to disagreement.  They do not permit alternative views.  Woke need to punish and eliminate anyone who disagrees with them.  Critiquing them is not enough.  Although the Woke support cancel culture, they claim that canceling something was not the intent but to speak out against what they disagree with.  Even though speaking out to the Woke includes punishing the people they target.  The people of the Elect ideology are unreachable to other people’s views.


What Are Some Social Controversies?

Black individuals have different views on race, making Woke mindset not universal among black individuals.

Woke makes the case for black individuals to be seen as perpetual victims.  Black individuals apparently need to be taught that they are being stigmatized.  The more educated a black individual becomes, the higher chances of them making claims that they are being stigmatized.  They are taught what to say, rather than how they actually feel.  There are cases in which black individuals even pose as being frightened, rather than actually being frightened.  They demonstrate the violence of views with their poses.  The exaggerated victimhood is needed to compensate for a lack of legitimate reason for being special.

Black individuals are killed not just by cops, but because of other black individuals as well.  The outrage is usually only about cop activities, not community member activities.

Woke ideas claim that black individuals are meant to represent the diverse perspectives within institutions.  But not all black individuals want to be the representative for the diverse view.

To the Woke, there will always be a racist bias that is an obstacle to black success.  Even though, other groups that have been persecuted have never made that claim. Unequal outcomes do not necessarily come about because of unequal opportunity. But for the Woke, it is.

Black individuals supported the war on drugs because it was supposed to make their communities safer, even though the war on drugs has become seen as racist.

Black individuals appear to be falling behind in academic studies.  While embracing school for black students can be seen as acting white. 



This book deals with a very sensitive topic.  The way in which the book is written can further antagonize people.  The author acknowledges the antagonism, and wrote this book to help everyone navigate the contradictions that the Woke claim about race.  The author does not address values used by the Woke that can contribute to bettering the lives of black individuals. 

The author does not believe there is a need to attempt to discuss race relations with the book’s antagonists, because they do not listen to others.  The author does defend that claim, but that does use the same tool as the antagonists.  In contrast to this view, a lack of willingness to hear out the opposition comes from all sources.  Even within very divergent views, a discussion can be possible but does need to be considerate of the alternative views.

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is Woke?
•Is Woke a religion?
•How is Woke racist? 
•How to resolve racism?
•What can hurt black individual progress?
•What can benefit black individual progress?
•What does progress on antiracism mean to the Woke?
•What is the history to antiracism in the U.S.A.?
•Do all black individuals agree on the Woke ideas?
•Are black individuals perpetual victims? 
•What does it mean to punch down? 
•Does a black individual need to write about race? 
•How to judge what people have thought in the past? 

Book Details
Publisher:             Portfolio / Penguin [Penguin Random House LLC]
Edition ISBN:      9780593423073
Pages to read:       135
Publication:          2021
1st Edition:           2021
Format:                 eBook 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall          4