John McWhorter

The recent uproar over President Obama’s 2007 speech to black pastors is yet another example of how white people don't get it about black people.

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Is this debate over a crowdsourced dictionary a product of the digital age? Hardly.

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In 2012, he who exhibits a command of facts in the accent of a country-western singer becomes the closest thing we have to a philosopher king.

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It has been fashionable in the wake of Wade Michael Page’s tragic acts in Wisconsin to speculate on whether the White Power music he listened to helped stoke him into the senseless murders he committed. Such speculations, however, are as incoherent as they are pointless—and they are marked, above all, by a cloying air of self-congratulation. A comparison with another musical genre helps put the debate into relief.

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The idea that America harbors an epidemic of “assholism,” as Geoffrey Nunberg has it, is one that most people would spontaneously accept before feelin

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Twitterish

ONE HAS LATELY heard much of the hashtag. That is, the Twitter symbol #, used to categorize a tweet. Charlie Sheen’s first tweet, for example, was famously: “Winning ..! Choose your Vice... #winning #chooseyourvice.” #Winning has gone on to live in irony across the Twitterverse, in mockery of the eternally less-than-winning Sheen. But even President Obama recently urged students to tweet their senators about raising the interest rates on federally subsidized student loans with the hashtag “#DontDoubleMyRate.” The new thing, however, is using the word “hashtag” in conversation.

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Gosh, Golly, Gee

“Only connect,” E.M. Forster told us, and poor Mitt Romney just can’t, alienating the left by spelling out that he doesn’t care about the downtrodden and dissing the right by describing himself as “severely conservative.” But Romney’s lack of personal warmth goes further than his remarks—or coiffure, or pet care—and right down to his interjections. It’s the G-words. “This was back, oh gosh, probably in the late ’70s,” he reminisced to a radio host about a steak house.

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There are many reasons to be glad that President Obama has finally decided to stop dissimulating and openly advocate gay marriage. Not least among them is that he is no longer giving tacit approval to a prejudice in the African-American community that becomes more awkward and regrettable by the year. Homophobia, to be sure, is a sadly universal phenomenon. But it is one with especially deep roots among blacks. Polling numbers bear this out.

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That Elizabeth Warren claimed in the 1990s that she is a Native American is, among other things, a sign that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts had a point. When Roberts famously wrote in a 2006 opinion, “It’s a sordid business, this divvying us up by race,” he was castigated by many liberals for not understanding that Race Matters—that race is at the root of considerable societal injustice, and the country must address the issue squarely.

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Let’s not kid ourselves: If George Zimmerman’s trial is televised, it will become fodder for jokes. “All Trayvon All The Time” will become a mantra, a cue for sophisticated Americans to roll their eyes. We would be made to think that there is something tacky, obsessive, trivializing in broadcasting the judicial fate of the man who thought he was just stopping a “suspicious” black thug and wound up murdering a 17-year-old on the phone with his ladyfriend and carrying a bag of Skittles. The spectacle of the O.J.

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