October 22, 2017

JOHN MCWHORTER: Educated liberals overuse the term ‘racist.’

No one can fail to be amazed by the courage of the people who protested segregation and bigotry in the 1950s and 1960s. Those who endured physical injury justifiably stick in our minds the most.

Today’s educated liberals lack the courage they admire in their forebears, at a time when it is needed more than ever. Namely, too many liberals in power lack the guts to sanction those dedicated to shouting down speakers from the right. Instead, they let pass a state of dialogue as choked as the one that Berkeley’s Free Speech movement resisted.

To hurl the N-word at someone is an attempt to shut down discussion. Today, the word “racist” serves the same function. Or, today’s fashionable new version is the now grievously overused “white supremacist.” Such that, for example, liberal man of letters and Columbia professor Mark Lilla is accused of making white supremacy “respectable” — for suggesting that Democrats emphasize identity politics less with the goal of winning the White House from Donald Trump. . . .

It has become clear over the past few years that the shouting students and their civilian accomplices (the latter of whom have sometimes outnumbered the former, as at Middlebury when Charles Murray was accosted) are a charismatic minority who do not represent general opinion, even among enlightened people on the left. The verdict is in: even those of us deeply committed to battling discrimination and inequality find this shutting down of speakers barbaric: unintellectual, uncivil, crude, counterproductive.

Crucially, however, these objections make not a dent in these happy warriors’ actions.

Nope. Only consequences will do that.

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