Lost in the madness surrounding COVID-19, the Vaxx hoopla, Afghanistan, and illegal immigration is the social system that has flooded our nation and changed our culture. What is that system? Wokeness. Don’t turn away because of the “woke” word in this story! What you may not know is that, culturally and socially, Wokeness has become a massive contributor to the structure of our society. Maybe it happened so quietly that most Americans don’t give it a second thought. If that’s you, you need to rethink your position. Why? Let me explain:
Have you heard someone important and well-known find themselves in the spotlight and they say something from their heart that’s captured via network television cameras? What if the thing they said is an opinion expressed about something or someone that might be a conservative icon or conservative view that all the “woke folks” despise but the individual really likes. I don’t think for one second they’ll get a free pass for that opinion! Here’s what will “probably” happen in today’s world:
- The comment will elicit a lot of hatred on social media, of a fascinating kind;
- The general diagnosis will be that they were doing something wrong by not maximizing the “woke” folks’ acceptable opinion of that person or idea;
- They were actually “draining moral urgency and providing comfort to the status quo.”
I can’t relate to that because I don’t understand what that means! But my understanding is unnecessary in the acceptable language of the woke crowd. The default woke perspective about everything experienced in every sector of life must begin with separating the person involved from the “reality” of the certain truthfulness and superiority of the woke folks. And it’s all they think about!
This mental habit is closely related to what we now call “wokeness.” In an older frame of mind, you objectively perceive the reasoning for such a “mistake.” Then you propose a solution, which might either be radical or moderate, conservative or liberal. You were judged primarily by the nature of your proposal.
But wokeness jams together the perceiving and the proposing. In fact, wokeness emphasizes how you perceive a situation — how woke you are to what and who is wrong — then what exactly you plan to do about it. To be woke is to understand the full injustice.
The victims are generally white. Wokeness’s goal is the short-term advancement of minority voters at the expense of all others. It is advanced by campaigns of disinformation that chill countermanding arguments, publish propaganda, manipulate search outcomes, and control educational curricula. Its execution relies on allies in the media and academia.
Much of academia now uses selective history and exaggerated tales, untestable theories, and biased materials to ensure that America’s future leaders are indoctrinated. Indoctrinated, that is, to see all whites as inherent oppressors and all minorities as inherent victims. Some children are now shamed into pursuing redemption for the crime of being born white.
Disinformation to support racist woke laws and policies is promulgated by mainstream and social media. They hammer disproportionate racial/ethnic outcomes in income, incarceration, police shootings, education, and health outcomes as products of systemic racism overseen by white supremacists. Verified data refuting these assertions by showing the outcomes are often products of personal decisions, like what and when to study, raising children with one parent, observing the rule of law, and a healthy lifestyle are censored or overridden.
The purpose of this disinformation is to validate politically motivated decisions misleadingly, such as passing laws and policies that favor some races and ethnicities over others. To fool people, racist initiatives are framed with the language of “equity.”
It isn’t working. These actions exemplify the dangers of decisions based on politics rather than data and common sense. The hardest hit are the people “wokery” is pretending to help.
Consider the goal of two equity initiatives. One seeks to match arrests and incarcerations to racial/ethnic populations instead of the commission of crimes. One limits police presence in black and Latino communities. Murders are rising, and 85% of the hardest hit are black and Latino communities.
Outcomes from lowering school performance requirements to permit equitable grades and graduation rates are other problems. America has been lowering standards for a while, and our students perform abysmally on international tests. This is a concerning sign for our future national competitiveness. Individual student performance, however, still affects personal opportunities. Because performance increasingly relies on household structures enforced on after-school studying, blacks, and Latinos, on average, are suffering more. I would argue that this is a consequence of the higher preponderance of single-parent households in these families, at least in significant part.
I’m afraid that’s not right.
America was central to ending white supremacy after the Second World War. It did so by facilitating independence for colonies of white supremacist empires. In 1964, racism was dealt a heavy blow by the process of the Civil Rights Act. This blow was further actualized in the 20th century, making America the leading anti-racist nation. In pursuit of power, liberals have squandered this great achievement by their repugnant insinuation that America today resembles the Jim Crow era. It is wrong, and it is hurting all of us. But it is hurting minorities the most.
There is no measure or moderation to wokeness. It’s always good to be more woke. It’s always good to see injustice in maximalist terms. To point to any mitigating factors in the environment is to be naïve, childish, a co-opted part of the status quo.
The word wokeness is new, but the mental habits it describes are old. A few decades ago, a small strain of Jewish radicals believed that rabid anti-Semitism was at the core of Christian culture. Any attempt to live in mixed societies would always lead to Auschwitz. Segregation and moving to Israel was the only safe strategy, and anybody who didn’t see this reality was “insufficiently woke” in today’s language.
This attitude led to Meir Kahane and a very ugly strain of militancy.
In 1952 Reinhold Niebuhr complained that many of his fellow anti-communists were constantly requiring “that the foe is hated with sufficient vigor.” This led to “apoplectic rigidity.” Screaming about the imminent communist menace became a sort of display art for politicians.
These days we think of wokeness as a left-wing phenomenon. But it is an iron law of politics that every mental habit conservatives fault in liberals is one they also practice themselves.
The modern right has its own trigger words (diversity, dialogue, social justice, community organizer), its own safe spaces (Fox News), and its own wokeness. Michael Anton’s essay “The Flight 93 Election” is only one example of the common apocalyptic view: Modern liberals are hate-filled nihilists who will destroy the nation if given power. Anybody who doesn’t understand this reality is not conservatively woke.
The problem with wokeness is that it doesn’t inspire action; it freezes it. To be woke is first and foremost to put yourself on display. To make a problem seem massively intractable is to inspire separation — building a wall between you and the problem — not a solution.
There’s a debate on precisely this point now surrounding the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates is, of course, well known for seeing the problem of racism in maximalist terms. Coates says the entire American story was and continues to be based on “plunder,” the violent crushing of minority bodies. Even today, “ ‘gentrification’ is but a more pleasing name for white supremacy.”
Coates is candid about his pessimism and his hopeless view of the situation. But some writers have criticized his stance. Cornel West has argued that it’s all words; it doesn’t lead to collective action. In The New York Review of Books, Darryl Pinckney argues, “Afro-pessimism threatens no one, and white audiences confuse having been chastised with learning.”
I’d add that it’s a blunt fact that most great social reforms have happened in moments of optimism, not moments of pessimism, in moments of encouraging progress, not in moments of perceived threat.
The greatest danger of extreme wokeness is that it makes it harder to practice the necessary skill of public life, the ability to see two contradictory truths simultaneously. For example, it is certainly true that racism is the great sin of American history, that it is an ongoing sin and the sin from which many of our other sins flow. It is also true that millions of people have tried to combat that sin and have made progress against it throughout history and today.
The confrontation with this sin or any sin is not just a protest but a struggle. In that or any struggle, resolution begins in seeing where the forces of progress are swelling and where the forces of reaction are marching. It sees opportunities as well as threats. It is being dispassionate in one’s perception of the situation and then passionate in one’s assault on it.
Indignation is often deserved and always makes for a great media strategy. But in its extreme form, whether left or right, wokeness leads to a one-sided depiction of the present and an unsophisticated strategy for a future offensive.
Don’t be tempted to consider the timing of this “2021 Wokeness” being thrust upon the American people as accidental. As always, such social perspectives are used purposely, and their timing is purposeful. Wokeness itself was thrust into our attention at a specific time with a specific purpose. What is that purpose? One can only imagine.
I, for one, feel certain it was to fill a void created by the separation of Americans into two political groups, which are opposites: Conservatives and Liberals, or “Progressives.” “Political parties are nothing new. How is Wokeness not just another political perspective?” Simple: Wokeness, as intended by its creators, is to join ONE group of people together while simultaneously pushing those “other” people away. In doing so, value and Wokeness is the determinant of which is which.
To be successful, Wokeness creates and, more importantly, perpetuates division among people. Wokeness has become the weapon of choice in doing just that: sowing division wherever it is perceived to be politically appropriate.
Success in Wokeness is discovered in just how much division can be created to effect the exact opposite of what America’s forefathers hoped for: a populace to be united under similar ideas and ideals while allowing anyone with different perspectives to feel comfortable in doing so.
How can we effectively deal with Wokeness without further division? There’s only one way to do that. And that process has quietly slipped from our culture without our noticing. What is it? The populace from top to bottom MUST choose to implement and embrace a process of conciliation rather than allowing differences to control society.
That’s a tall order, especially in today’s environment. Can we ever do it? There’s no doubt Americans “can” do it. Sadly, though, it’s doubtful that Americans “will” do it. Success requires more than just one person in leadership to embrace and espouse that process throughout their lives that all Americans can see.
In the shadow of Trumpism, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Proud Boys, Democrats, and Republicans, there are far too many fences to mend to reasonably think such will happen. But we can pray. And we can do OUR part to facilitate it happening. No doubt it is as huge as an elephant and seems impossible to eradicate.
But you know what they when the question is asked, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is, “You eat an elephant one bite at a time.”
Of course, some will take the reference to the “elephant” as the GOP! OMG: that’s “WOKENESS!!!”