A reader complements McWhorter’s point:

It isn’t just that there is no one new to be the new Jackson and Sharpton; it’s that there isn’t a new community to lead. On the positive side, there isn’t a standard issue black community anymore. Maybe there never was, but there are now black children of privilege, black hipsters, blerds, etc. – all who identify with another group before they identify as black. The segregation in our society is more economic than it is racial. Poor, uneducated whites don’t really have it any easier than poor, uneducated blacks or Hispanics. There is nobody to come to the defense of the poor (no matter what the facts of any given situation are) in this country like Jackson and Sharpton did for African-Americans. The issues are more complex, and Jackson and Sharpton’s message has always been awfully simplistic. I don’t know if there CAN be a new one of them.

On the negative side, racism is a lot more sneaky then it used to be. Drug policy is perhaps the number one way the government is racist, and who stands up for that? The country as a whole just won’t open their eyes to that problem for myriad reasons.