John McWhorter

‘The Help’ Isn’t Racist. Its Critics Are.
August 17, 2011

In the week since its release, The Help, a movie telling the story of a group of black maids in the South in the early 1960s, has been derided repeatedly in blog posts and reviews as a lazy collection of racist tropes, an irredeemable expression of naive bigotry. In an article in the New York Times, film critic Nelson George condemns the filmmakers for failing to properly “come to terms” with America’s racist past.

Dreaming and Not Believing
August 15, 2011

A book whose argument is that young black people, living amid less racism than their parents, see racism as less of an obstacle, is likely to seem unr

McWhorter: ‘Tar Baby’ Isn’t Actually a Racist Slur
August 03, 2011

It was five years ago now that Mitt Romney and the late White House spokesman Tony Snow both spent time in the hot seat for using the term “tar baby.” Romney was referring to the Big Dig highway project in Boston, and Snow to an abstract debate. But there are those who consider the term, originally referring to something difficult to free oneself from once touched, a racial slur.

What Can Be Done About the Incomprehensibility of Shakespeare?
July 28, 2011

“Iconoclastic” as I am thought to be on race, I have been struck by how equally unexpected one view of mine has been considered: that much of Shakespeare’s language is impossible to comprehend meaningfully in real time, so much so that most first-time viewers of a Shakespeare play are understanding grievously less of the meaning than they are aware. Of late, I had a chance to retest my impressions, since the Royal Shakespeare Company is currently doing five Shakespearean plays in repertory in New York and I just caught their magnificent As You Like It.

Were There Really Fewer Two-Parent Black Families During Slavery Than There Are Today?
July 13, 2011

Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum may have a number of things to be embarrassed about. However, supporting an observation that there were more two-parent black families during slavery than there are today is not one of them. This observation was found in “The Marriage Vow,” a conservative pledge produced by The Family Leader, a Christian group. It was signed, notably, by Bachmann and Santorum.

A Semi-Defense of the Infamous Slavery Passage in the ‘Marriage Vow’ Pledge
July 13, 2011

Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum may have a number of things to be embarrassed about. However, supporting an observation that there were more two-parent black families during slavery than there are today is not one of them. This observation was found in “The Marriage Vow,” a conservative pledge produced by The Family Leader, a Christian group. It was signed, notably, by Bachmann and Santorum.

Palin’s Emails: What Her Remarkably Lucid Prose Says About the Art of Teaching Writing
June 16, 2011

Sarah Palin’s emails are telling us something about remedial writing classes at our universities and colleges, and it’s not what you think.

Tracy Morgan: The Latest Example in a Troubling Homophobic Trend
June 14, 2011

The sad thing about Tracy Morgan’s insights into homosexuality last week during a stand-up act—among which was that homosexuality is wrong because “God don’t make no mistakes”—is that they are part of a sad pattern. Wise people like to point to the racism lying always “just underneath” our thin American skins. Well, an equally wise observation is that a certain especially acrid brand of homophobia lies “just underneath” in too many of America’s black men. Too often, when things get a little ugly, or a little funny, or a little uncensored, out it comes.

Crimes and Punishments
June 02, 2011

Few could disagree with the central premise of Michael Tonry’s book: the War on Drugs has failed. The price of crack cocaine has fallen steadily since

Trump Talk
May 16, 2011

Watching Donald Trump’s interview the other week with CNN’s John King about the release of President Obama’s long-form birth certificate, one couldn’t help but notice something novel about the way he spoke: Trump’s talk was almost pathologically first-person-focused, with his “I’m proud of myself” and “I’ve done a great job” a near constant refrain. What kind of person speaks like that?

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