The Ezra Klein Show

Ezra Klein brings you far-reaching conversations about hard problems, big ideas, illuminating theories, and cutting-edge research. Want to know how Stacey Abrams feels about identity politics? How Hasan Minhaj is reinventing political comedy? The plans behind Elizabeth Warren’s plans? How Michael Lewis reads minds? This is the podcast for you. Produced by Vox and the Vox Media Podcast Network.



episode 254: John McWhorter thinks we're getting racism wrong

Hello everyone. I'm Jane Coaston, senior politics reporter at Vox with a focus on conservatism (Ezra will be back from vacation next week).

"Antiracism… is now a new and increasingly dominant religion” writes John McWhorter, “it is what we worship, as sincerely and fervently as many worship God and Jesus.”

McWhorter is a Professor of English at Columbia University, a contributing editor to The Atlantic, and an outspoken critic of what he calls “third-wave antiracism.” He believes that our increasingly religious national discourse around race -- with its focus on “safe spaces,” “wokeness” and “white privilege” -- is not only wrongheaded, but even dangerous.

But McWhorter isn't that easy to pin down. He acknowledges racism’s pernicious effects on communities of color, but believes that while we are busy calling out individual racism, we are ignoring the issues that most impact black lives: an endless War on Drugs, an unequal education system, and attacks on reproductive and voting rights.

In this conversation, we explore what terms like “woke” and “diversity” actually mean, the types of issues that really do impact black communities, the legacy of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the potential virtues of virtue signaling, why The Phantom Menace was (objectively) a terrible movie and much more.

I hope y’all have as much fun with this conversation as I did.


John's essay "The Virtue Signalers Won’t Change the World"

Book recommendations:

A Death in the Rainforest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea by Don Kulick

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

Follow Jane on Twitter @cjane87

Want to contact the show? Reach out at

News comes at you fast. Join us at the end of your day to understand it. Subscribe to Today, Explained

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit


 05 September 2019  1h9m