McWhorter’s article, “Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America” was very interesting and provided a different perspective than many of the other authors we have read in this class or during my time at Rhodes. His very conservative critique as a well-educated and well-read African American man was, quite frankly, unexpected. His discussion of the cult of victimology was an intriguing read and something that many of my professors, my fellow students, and half of my brain wanted to or would disagree with. While I was rereading the article to prepare for this post, a curious thought crossed my mind. In many ways, McWhorter and his article are similar to Ida B. Wells and her pamphlets and anti-lynching campaign.
While comparing these two authors directly would be difficult because of time and topic difference, their means for accomplishing their respective ends were very similar. Both McWhorter and Wells attempted through lectures and articles to dispel myths about both African American and mainstream American culture. Wells argued and dispelled, with factual and anecdotal evidence, many of the myths surrounding the lynching of African Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In her pamphlets, stereotypes of black and white men and women were examined and usually disproven. In his article, McWhorter uses very similar tactics to discuss the Seven Articles of Faith of the cult of victimology. In each of the sections, he discusses one article of faith – which usually revolved around a stereotype or other promulgated inaccuracy – and attempted to refute it with statistics and anecdotal information.
However, it is unlikely McWhorter will ever be hailed as an African American revolutionary like Ida B. Wells. This is partly due to the fact that McWhorter was only allowed to write this paper because of the Civil Rights foundation that was partially laid by Wells. But, the majority of the reason for McWhorter not being named a hero is likely because of the very tradition he writes about. In fact, it may add more evidence to his claims of the cult of victimology. Exposing and critiquing said cult would not and probably did not, understandably, lead to an embrace from the majority of the African American or well-educated populations.
I just want to be clear; I am not arguing that Wells and McWhorter should be held on the same pedestal. Wells and her work to discourage and erase negative stereotypes were incredible and revolutionary in their own right and deserve to be studied and lauded. Though, McWhorter was also revolutionary/groundbreaking/radical in that he critiques the system most of us believe in. I do not necessarily believe wholeheartedly in his arguments but his examination certainly adds a different perspective to the stream of research surrounding the issues of racial disparities, much like Wells’s African American perspective added a new viewpoint to the white-dominated stream of explanations for lynching in the 1880s to the 1920s.