Columbia professor, linguist and author John McWhorter has no time for black fragility. He sees the new anti-racism movement, hyped by writers like Robin DiAngelo and Ibram Kendi, to be playing on the bigotry of low expectations.
Speaking to Bill Maher on Friday, McWhorter said the way anti-racism is being perpetuated now doesn't make any sense.
"If you are a good black person," McWhorter told Maher, "you're often told that when it comes to certain race issues, you're supposed to not quite make sense, and that you're supposed to deal with a certain kind of word magic. I have never felt that. I've always felt that I'm black and I would like that to make sense too. And that's why I end up looking brave when I'm really just obsessive."
McWhorter said that the new anti-racism movement leaves him feeling condescended to. DiAngelo's book White Fragility, which he said would be best used to even out the leg on a wobbly table, portrays "black people as these hot house flowers," he said, "where everyone has to tiptoe around us..."
"I don't feel like that person," he said.
Maher noted that the book should perhaps be called "black fragility," and McWhorter nodded, saying that it portray black people as easy to anger and delicate, a classification which he disagrees with. McWhorter doesn't support any classifications about groups of people based on skin color.
He decried the white people who say they're "doing the work" by reading White Fragility, and slammed the notion of the victimhood complex that turns people into "silly babies."
Much of this, McWhorter said, isn't just about him, Glen Loury, and Coleman Hughes speaking their minds. Instead, he said, many people agree with him. How to Be an Antiracist, he said, should be read as "literature, not as scholarship."
"It is not the default in the black community to think of ourselves as pathetic. 'Yes we can't' has never been the slogan for black America and it's not now," he said.
McWhorter and Maher discussed the fact that black achievement is visible in public, most black people are middle-class and live in the suburbs, but that this reality is not allowed to be discussed in conversations about race and racism in the US.
McWhorter has spoken about social justice and white privilege as religions. Whiteness, he said, is the "original sin" of this religion, and he believes that this is an absurd way to think. Racism isn't worse now than in the 1960s, he said, and those who say it is "are too young to remember the way it was."
It's part of the victimhood complex "which feels good in the moment," he said, but it's defeatist.
"Anybody who thinks that now is just as bad as the way it was in 1970 except that manners have changed, no... It's easier to believe that change doesn't happen, which is more tempting and more fun," he said, "because you have a reason to get angry." Change happens slowly, he said, and we should be happy that things change.
The authentic black position isn't that things never change. "Why is it unblack to address degree?... If it makes me white supremacist to say so, then I, John McWhorter, and you can put this on Twitter, am a white supremacist, because I embrace degree."
After his appearance, he posted that his words will have earned him lots "of friends and enemies." McWhorter, however, stands by his words.