Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

The Quotable Black Scholar: John McWhorter on Racial Progress

January 8th, 2013 by Ajuan Mance

Manhattan Institute Expert and Columbia University Professor John McWhorter



When Newt Gingrich says that housing project people don’t work, our job is to show that they do. When he says that Obama is the “food stamp” president, our job is to show that most food stamp recipients are white. When Ron Paul writes that we’re about to start rioting again, we are to make sure that everybody knows we’re not.

In other words, although this isn’t the lesson usually taken from these recent episodes, it would appear that we are getting more comfortable admitting that progress happens for us. Real progress, even if racism still exists, as it always will. And not just symbolic progress, such as having a black president. When we get angry at whites depicting us as poster children, we are saying that being black is less of a problem in 2012, even if it occasionally still is one.

–John McWhorter, “Segregation is Down. Great News, Right?” The, January 30, 2012


Biographical Notes: John McWhorter is Associate Professor in the English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York. He is also a Manhattan Institute Expert. He holds a B.A. in French from Rutgers University, an M.A. in American Studies from New York University, and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Stanford University. He has previously taught at Cornell University and the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of a number of journalistic essays, opinion pieces, and scholarly articles. He has also published fifteen books. They are:

  • 1997: Towards a New Model of Creole Genesis
  • 1998: Word on the Street: Debunking the Myth of “Pure” Standard English
  • 2000: The Missing Spanish Creoles: Recovering the Birth of Plantation Contact Languages
  • 2000: Spreading the Word : Language and Dialect in America
  • 2000: Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America
  • 2001: The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language
  • 2003: Authentically Black: Essays for the Black Silent Majority
  • 2003: Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care
  • 2005: Defining Creole
  • 2005: Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America
  • 2007: Language Interrupted: Signs of Non-Native Acquisition in Standard Language Grammars
  • 2008: All About the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can’t Save Black America
  • 2008: Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English
  • 2011: What Language Is (And What It Isn’t and What It Could Be)
  • 2011: Linguistic Simplicity and Complexity: Why Do Languages Undress?

–Ajuan Mance

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One Response


    Gotta love John McWhorter.