John McWhorter

Also, somewhere along the line, the Tea Party stars appear to have been taught that effective speechmaking requires regular incantation of swaggery little jabs of a “Make My Day” redolence. Presumably Ronald Reagan is the model, reinforced by Sarah Palin’s fondness for lines about pit bulls and reloading. But this works best when there is a certain “there” there to back it up; call it star quality, which all will admit even Palin has. Poor Ms. O’Donnell does not.

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So this month’s flap over someone “using a word” is between Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown in their battle for the California governorship. The word this time, given the personnel, is not the N-word, of course--although wouldn’t you know, exactly that word has been brought in as a comparison. This time it’s whore, on a tape from last month that turned up of a conversation between Brown and an aide.

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This book is Eugene Robinson’s two cents on the dissolution of the old-school black identity, an identity largely based on grievance.

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The accusations against Bishop Eddie Long are, in themselves, not a “black” story, of course. We are accustomed to the spectacle of superstar preachers opposed to homosexuality, such as Ted Haggard and George “Rentboy” Rekers, caught with their pants down with people who are not women. However, the situation presents Long with an opportunity for true redemption, in that he could make a key statement to a black America behind the curve on the acceptance of homosexuality. It has become, quite simply, an embarrassment. Yes, homophobia is not limited to the black community.

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LANGUAGE AS THOUGHT: WATCH OUT FOR THE HYPE Judging from how the Times magazine’s excerpt from Guy Deutscher’s new book has been one of the most read pieces in the paper for over a week now, the book is on its way to libating readers ever eager for the seductive idea that people’s languages channel the way they think--that is, that grammar creates cultural outlooks. “Oooh-mmmm!” I heard in a room once when a linguist parenthetically suggested that the reason speakers of one Native American language have prefixes instead of words to indicate mixing, poking, and sucking on food is because they

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LANGUAGE AS THOUGHT: WATCH OUT FOR THE HYPE Judging from how the Times magazine’s excerpt from Guy Deutscher’s new book has been one of the most read pieces in the paper for over a week now, the book is on its way to libating readers ever eager for the seductive idea that people’s languages channel the way they think--that is, that grammar creates cultural outlooks. “Oooh-mmmm!” I heard in a room once when a linguist parenthetically suggested that the reason speakers of one Native American language have prefixes instead of words to indicate mixing, poking, and sucking on food is because they

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Who cares whether one in five people think Barack Obama is a Muslim? Yes, that’s even more people than a couple of years ago, based on results from a Pew Research Center poll last week. But even so, though this misconception is a personal insult to a president many of us think warmly of, does it really matter? In the grand scheme of things? Because the grand scheme is what should be on our minds, not score-settling and mud-slinging in the present moment.

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What Hope?

This book is depressing because it is so persuasive. There is a school of thought in America which argues that the government must be the main force t

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Not so long ago, all eight of the members of Congress being investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics were black. Now, two powerful black members of the Congressional Black Caucus are on the griddle. There are two entirely appropriate responses. One of them is to wonder if there is something racial going on. Yes, that is reasonable. Dismissals of this line of reasoning as mere “crying racism” are, in this case, hasty. Bloggers blithely listing white people who have fallen into the OCE’s line of sight as disproof of the racism charge are missing the point.

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This week’s Big Story on race reminds me of Married With Children. Really. Not because of the NAACP’s role in the firing of the Agriculture Department’s Shirley Sherrod. Obviously, in the wake of their well-advised and masterfully civil demand that the Tea Partiers disavow racism officially, to them a video of a speech made to their own members by someone appearing to condone reverse racism was poison. Which would have made sense if that’s what the video showed. But it didn’t, especially when viewed in toto (but actually only barely even in the clip).

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