The authenticity trap

John McWhorter has views on Critical Race Theory and how it’s being deployed in education.

The organization 1776Unites, founded by my mentor and model Bob Woodson, has tweeted out a video where various black people decry a now fashionable idea that “whiteness” includes being smart. As in, precise, objective, fond of the written word, oriented towards dispassion, on time.

Those things are all manifestations of intelligence, vigilance, discipline. But according to our Elect folk, we black people are best off channeling our Crazy Badass Mothafucka. Because that’s more “authentic.” And, I get the feeling, fun to watch.

Well, that last is debatable. Personally I find McWhorter very fun to watch when he’s doing the tv talking head thing.

Because so many think that the battle that I and others are waging against Critical Race Theory’s transmogrification into education for children is an obsession with something that isn’t a real problem, I want to explore a bit.

I knew something was really wrong when in 2019 at a conference in New York City for the city’s principals and superintendents, participants were presented with an idea that to teach with sensitivity to race issues meant keeping certain issues in mind.

These included ways of looking at things that are “white” rather than correct: namely, objectivity, individualism, and valuing the written word.

Yes. I did a post last August about Robin DiAngelo and that whole idea. One paragraph from that post:

What’s the problem? The problem is ascribing things like “emphasis on scientific method” to whiteness ffs! Bam, with one blow of their fist they declare black people uninterested in science. That will work out well! I guess Katherine Johnson was just mistakenly trying to be “white” with all that math skill she had? Neil Tyson should have played basketball instead?

So, yes, I’m on Team McWhorter on this one.

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza was fine with this, happily telling the media that it’s white people’s job to do the “work” of identifying the racist assumptions in how they go about their business.

So: to stand outside of matters and analyze them with one’s own private mind, and perhaps couch one’s conclusions with the considered artifice of writing rather than the spontaneity of speaking, is inauthentic for black and Latino people. It is racist to impose such things on black and Latino (and Native American?) kids. Or at best, brown kids should be taught this uptight “white” business only as a gloomy alternative to the realness of just hanging out sharing passing personal impressions via chatting.

There’s nothing progressive about telling people that science and learning are for the dominant people and that the subordinate people are “authentic” instead of learned and that’s a better [read: holier] thing to be.

The Voice and Speech Trainers Association has posted a “White Supremacy Culture Daily Self-Check-in” ushering members through exactly this kind of mantra, including “The belief that progress is bigger and more” and “Fear of open conflict” as “white” things to cleanse yourself of. In other words, one is supposed to distrust wanting to expand or increase, and one is to cherish people yelling at each other, which, I’m sorry, is a cute way of saying that America needs some ghetto authenticity in the way people talk to each other when they disagree. … This view of precision and detachment as white is a view about, more economically, reason. The idea is that to master close reasoning is suspect. It is exactly the roots of the “Math is Racist” notion, and if you want a whiff of how religiously people can glom on to such ideas, take a look at my Twitter feed in the week after I posted about that here.

Yet, seeing this educational philosophy laid out in the sunlight, The Elect cannot dismiss it as fringe “kookiness” — unless they want to insult the curators of a national museum devoted to celebrating the very black people The Elect live to liberate. At the African-American History Museum in Washington, D.C., for a hot minute or two in 2020 you could see a variation on the Jones-Okun business, an expanded presentation of what we must reject as “white” evil. An educational poster was displayed that slammed not only objectivity, individualism, and writing, but linear thinking, quantitative reasoning, the Protestant work ethic, planning for the future, and being on time.

That’s the one that prompted the post last August.

Yes, this was real – from people who surely bemoan the stereotype of black people as dumb and lazy! Again, only a mental override could explain why the people responsible for this display would allow that emblazonment of precisely the stereotypes lobbed at black people for centuries. Tarring whites as imposers of alien values felt more important than considering that the poster depicted black people as gorillas – and was created by a white woman!

Exactly. You couldn’t make it up.

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