America’s new religion is Antiracism

John McWhorter has observed that America’s new religion is Antiracism:

…they have developed a new religion. That religion is antiracism. Of course, most consider antiracism a position, or evidence of morality. However, in 2015, among educated Americans especially, Antiracism—it seriously merits capitalization at this point—is now what any naïve, unbiased anthropologist would describe as a new and increasingly dominant religion. It is what we worship, as sincerely and fervently as many worship God and Jesus and, among most Blue State Americans, more so.

For the most part, I agree with him, but, being a disagreeable type of person, of course I am compelled to split some hairs: What McWhorter describes in his article is not a religion, but a fundamentalism. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I consider fundamentalisms to be pseudo-religions that work against the purpose of religion. It would be more accurate to call fundamentalism an anti-religion.

This morning, talking with Susan about a paper on diversity and multiculturalism she is writing for one of her ESOL certification courses, I had an insight. I could never understand why, despite my efforts to study, wrestle with and actually practice pluralism in my daily life, the adherents of Antiracism I’ve known have rarely been interested in what I’ve learned or what I have to say on the subject of alterity. They usually just avoid conversation, but when I do engage them, they condescendingly speak to me as someone who doesn’t yet understand what they just know, without any trace of recognition that their assumption of epistemological privilege is both odd and unsupportable. I have put many hundreds more hours of work into understanding these issues than they have. Wouldn’t it make sense to at least entertain the possibility that these hundred hours produced something worthwhile? And given the difference in motivation to learn, can they really claim to care more than I do?

But now McWhorter has helped me see what is going on: this is a religion vs. fundamentalism conflict. This is how it always goes: There are the religious people who live their religion with their whole being — feel it, love it, breathe it, and allow it to soak into their lives and to transform them. And there are those who adopt and enforce the conventional opinions, customs, language, symbols, rituals and behavioral norms of the religion and assume all deviations from these conventions must be symptoms of defective faith, or even heresy. My genuine religious faith in Pluralism looks like heresy to Antiracist Fundamentalists.

And really, I see no less irony in the puritanical, inflexibility and intolerance toward doctrinal otherness of today’s multicultural monolith than I do in the hostile insularity most Christians make of Jesus’s teachings of transcendent love.

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6 Responses to America’s new religion is Antiracism

  1. Barry says:

    “Them those are fightin’ words, Brother Stephen.” But oh how badly we need to hear them and to masticate them into corrective food. The truth is, insularity almost always leads to hypocrisy, and hypocrisy to a hardening of our thinking and behavior. And when when we are emboldened we inevitably give purchase to the fundamentalism you so cuttingly describe. People with this affliction reflexively react to truth, grounded in reality, as if you approached with chisel and hammer to tear down their monument. Thank you for writing such uncomfortable truths. May you accelerate nicely. Keep writing.

    • anomalogue says:

      Thanks, Barry. And right now it feels like the space between the monuments is narrowing and threatening to crush anyone who hasn’t gone to one extreme or another. Thank God for people like Michelle Alexander who go to the rough ground and empirically trace out the dynamics of racism.

      • Barry DeLissee says:

        She is as brilliant and she is courageous. Watched a TED talk she gave on the parallels of America’s practice of mass incarceration and Jim Crow. Thanks for introducing me to her, Stephen. Keep writing hard truths, my friend.

  2. Hmmm. I was underwhelmed by the linked article. He builds “Antiracism” up as a set of claimed parallels with the worst of fundamentalism (I agree on your choice of words), and then decries how bad it is. I could quite easily do the same for Teapartyism, or even probably for something like Film.

    Then again, far be it from me to claim that misplaced veneration and mindless group-adherence are not rampant in many spheres :-)

    Personally, I have found Ta Nehisi Coates’ writing to be illuminating. His phrase “those who think they are white” (Baldwin’s, I believe) has rattled around in my mind and heart for months since I read it.

    Recently, I read “White Rage” which does an excellent job of describing just how bad things have been the whole time, up until now. It was dispiriting.

    Is it so hard to believe that in considering White/Male/Cis/whatever Privilege and its effects, many of us are simply awakening to areas of self-awareness and consideration that we were blind to before. I have no desire for forcing purity tests on anyone: indeed, I grew up Religious, and reject both externally forced and internalized guilted adherence to dogma of any kind as a lack of respect for humans. The result for me has been to think hard about policy: I currently believe that universal sufferage in the US is the single most important issue we should be pushing for.

    One minor point: I guess if you limit consideration to some subset of “educated Americans” then his rabblerouser comment makes sense. But I suspect Colin Kaepernick might have opinions on how far we’ve come.

    I guess I should add: I think it’s correct to despise the “Recycling makes you better person”-type religion that does indeed underly many forms of token liberal-leaning-ness. But I don’t think it characterizes what is happening in our country. At least, I hope not.

    • anomalogue says:

      I don’t think McWhorter is decrying all antiracism as “religious”. I think he is decrying that aggressive strain of antiracism that has taken on a fundamentalist character. It is similar to the attitude liberal religions take toward their fundamentalist counterparts. Nobody is denying the reality of individual or institutional racism.

    • anomalogue says:

      Regarding Coates, I believe he is profoundly racist. I enjoy reading him and thinking about what he says, but I think he is invested in belief in race however much he grounds its existence in the beliefs of others. He wants race to exist, because in the world in which he moves, it affords him lavish social and intellectual privileges in the alternative class system the illiberal left is building. I think Coates is such a talented writer that he could do without race, but so far, he has not. I prefer Michelle Alexander’s work. Her thinking is more empirical, honest and action-oriented.

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