Rethinking Race and Class: John McWhorter

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John McWhorter [The Teaching Company]

Here’s the question: In four decades of unrelenting news and politics centered on “race,” what has worked, and what hasn’t, to challenge and ease the authority of the color line? And what accounts for the sense after Katrina that much of the drama was just sound and fury?

If we’re starting again — as, in a sense we are — what have we learned from, for example: voting rights and the rise of black politics; school desegregation; welfare and welfare reform; the rise and decline of public housing; affirmative action in higher education and the job market; and education “reform,” including charter schools and the testing movement? Add your categories and take your stands, please.

Our guest, John McWhorter of the Manhattan Institute, is an eminence among black conservatives. I think of him as Bill Cosby without the laugh lines, in the raging arguments around black culture and language (McWhorter’s academic specialty).

McWhorter’s post-Katrina analysis and sermon in the Times of London is an introduction.

Nudge the conversation before it begins: how did we get here, from “there,” which looked a lot more promising in 1965?

John McWhorter

Senior Fellow, the Manhattan Institute

Author, The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language

[In a studio in New York City]

Update 9/25/05, 6:57 pm

A correction from rlg:

Easy with the labels there…

He fits the label “conservative??? rather badly – he voted for Nader in 2000, has said “there should be no War on Drugs??? and many other things, supports some but not all forms of affirmative action, etc… His arguments about race may seem to lump him with conservatives but just as many of his other positions do not. The refreshing thing about McWhorter is that he makes himself very hard to label.

Black culture and language isn’t really his academic specialty, though they are the subject of much of his popular linguistics work. Most of his work in academic linguistics concerns creole languagues (especially those of Suriname), and language change over time.

rlg, comment on 9/25/05

The Reverend Eugene Rivers

Pastor, the Azusa Christian Community, a Pentecostal church in located in Dorchester,Massachusetts

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