LIVING LANGUAGE: FACULTY Q&A WITH LINGUIST JOHN MCWHORTER

[ Wed. Feb. 20. 2013 ]

They're two different brains. I started as an academic, and I thought that was all I was ever going to be. As for the media career, it was all just a complete accident. I was at Berkeley, and there was a fight over the ban of affirmative action. I thought that affirmative action—the way they had done it—had become obsolete. Not wrong, but enough time had passed and it was time to base affirmative action on socioeconomics. Saying that in the late 1990s in Berkeley and Oakland—you were not supposed to say that as a young black professor. I wrote an essay on the website edge.org, and the publisher of my linguistics book suggested that I expand it into a book. At first I said no: Why would anybody care what some linguist thinks about race issues? But I wrote it [Losing the Race] because I felt very passionate about the issue, and I just love writing.