The Virtue Signalers Won’t Change the World

A piece well-worth the time to read, regardless of your ideology.  I disagree with Dr. McWhorter’s characterization of anti-racism as religion (a critique made far more eloquently and convincingly by Dr. Glenn Loury) as overly simplistic.  As the eldest child of immigrants who came to the U.S. from Jamaica in 1969, my chief objection to the piece is my parents’ generation being held up as examples that anti-black racism wasn’t sufficiently onerous to prevent their success.  I see these examples held up often in conservative circles and they never seem to go beneath the surface.

McWhorter (and others) severely underestimate the degree to which having immigrant parents is an advantage–not just in terms of different expectations, worldview, and culture, but because of the absence of baggage tied to the country’s history. The mantra he blithely refers to in the beginning of that paragraph is one I only recall hearing once or twice in the 24 years I lived at home before moving out–and only in jest, not seriously.  Black people whose parents and grandparents were born in the United States almost certainly remember a time when that mantra was also a lived experience.  Interestingly enough, the very piece McWhorter links to says the following:

“While U.S. born blacks have had to battle generations of institutional racism, such as predatory lending, that has put them at a socioeconomic and psychological disadvantage that some immigrants have not experienced in this country.“

That shortcoming aside, McWhorter is making a good faith argument.  His desire is for meaningful action on the part of progressives to improve the lives of black Americans.  While I’m not a fan of the term “virtue signaling” (it’s a pejorative often found in the mouths of conservatives making bad-faith arguments), McWhorter is right in describing what one might call “performative activism” as a dead end.