John McWhorter teaches linguistics, philosophy, and music history at Columbia University, and writes for various publications on language issues and race issues such as Time, the Wall Street Journal, the Daily Beast, CNN, and the Atlantic. He’s also the author of many books including his most recent New York Times bestseller, Woke Racism – How A New Religion Has Betrayed Black America.
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- How to change someone’s mind?
- “I try to understand where other people are coming from. I am not surprised by anyone. I think you need to listen to it from their point of view and not assume that anyone is crazy or evil.”
- John recommends pragmatic action against racism involving only three programs: an end to the war on drugs, teaching reading by phonics to children lacking literate households and, promoting the idea that not everyone needs a college education to succeed.
- “I don’t think of myself as brave. What I really am is a failed lawyer. My issue is if things don’t make sense to me, I just want to try to make sense of it and I want people to understand what I mean.”
- John believes that affirmative action should be based on class, not on race.
- What to do if your leadership team is not well represented by people of another race?
- From John: “Don’t hire a token black person. Don’t hire someone just because they are black. They need to be qualified for the role.”
- Expansion from Dr. King’s statement about judging someone for the content of their character rather than the color of their skin… “I agree with that, but I think you also have to look at class, and if they come from a poor upbringing.”
- John criticized the 2018 book White Fragility following its resurgence in sales during the George Floyd protests beginning in May 2020, arguing that it “openly infantilized Black people” and “simply dehumanized us,” and “does not see fit to address why all of this agonizing soul-searching (for residual racism by white people) is necessary to forging change in society.” He said, “it’s a true horror of a book. The worst book I’ve read since I was 16.”
- Qualities John looks for in a friend:
- A wry sense of humor
- You have to “see beyond level 1” and be smart to have this
- “They don’t have to have the MSNBC take on race”
- “I want coherence.”
- A wry sense of humor
- From Woke Racism:
- “The people wielding this ideology and watching its influence spread ever more are under the genuine impression that they are forging progress, that reason and morality are in flower. However, society is changing not because of a burgeoning degree of consensus in moral sophistication. What is happening is much cruder. Society is changing not out of consensus, but out of fear.”
- Life advice:
- Don’t get a degree in law unless you want to practice law
- To the extent you can, follow your passion
- “Follow your own gut. Go with your own mind. You’ll have a much richer adulthood doing this.”
- Linguistics: the scientific study of language and its structure, including the study of morphology, syntax, phonetics, and semantics.
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