August 10, 2010
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
Is the CBC Uniquely Unethical?
August 03, 2010
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.
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).
Suck It Up, Tea Partiers—the NAACP's Right On This One
July 16, 2010
Much to my surprise, I’m with Benjamin Jealous of the NAACP on this Tea Party business this week. Jealous has called on the Tea Partiers to officially disavow the racists, such as there are, in the movement. I am pleased to see that he has been on good behavior—no melodrama, no exaggeration, no pretending it’s 1962 (which I read as one more sign that that style of race discussion is on the ropes). Complementing his call for the Tea Partiers to be explicit, he has been explicit in saying—admitting!
But Is Jesse Jackson *Interesting*?
July 15, 2010
Jesse Jackson has never interested me much. I’m a little late out of the gate in commenting about Jackson’s latest diversion, analogizing LeBron James to a runaway slave in light of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s sputtering about James’ departure to Miami. I’ve always been a little laggard in dogpiling on Jesse. When I first started writing about race, I quickly noted a certain cognitive dissonance: everybody expected the new cranky black “conservative” to have a Jesse obsession. I never did, and don’t now. He shouldn’t be news, really.
June 24, 2010
Stuart Buck at last brings together all of the relevant evidence and puts paid to two myths. The first is that the “acting white” charge is a myth or
Is English Special Because It's "Globish"?
June 21, 2010
Most of the mainline reviews of Robert McCrum’s Globish – of which there have been so many so fast that I am in awe of his publicity people -- are missing what is fundamentally wrong with the book. Herewith one linguist’s take on this peculiar book, within which all evaluators seem to perceive a certain fuzziness, but few are catching that it is based on an outright error of reasoning and analysis – as well as an infelicitous volume of downright flubs. McCrum starts with the well-known fact that English is now the world’s de facto universal language.
Is It Interesting to Criticize the Civil Rights Act? Down to Cases with Rand Paul and John Stossel
June 03, 2010
I have held off on writing about Rand Paul’s take on the Civil Rights Act. Partly because I am finishing a book. But also because his idea that it shouldn’t have been made illegal for businesses, as private institutions, to discriminate strikes me as, oddly, both too interesting to sound off on without long-term reflection and too uninteresting to get excited about in the moment. Uninteresting because who among us really thinks that there will be a move any time soon to legalize segregation for American businesses?
For Richard Blumenthal to claim that he has been “misspeaking” in implying that he fought in Vietnam rather than obtaining multiple deferments and finally waiting things out in the Marine Reserves right here at home is repulsive. I am not exactly the first one out of the gate on that. However, he is also using language in the same way a great many Americans do when doing what they think of as The Right Thing. And as speakers of English always have – as well as speakers of any human language.
Please “Treme,” I Beg You--Get Over Yourself
May 07, 2010
On Wednesday, TNR senior editor Ruth Franklin explored the way authenticity is played with in David Simon’s new HBO show, “Treme.” Here, John McWhorter offers his own, markedly different opinion on the subject. People can get irritating about their authenticity.