The Other Side of Being "Woke"
The Only Way to Right the Ship is to Jump Aboard
There is one fatal flaw in our argument for equality. It is not the argument itself. Obviously there is no room in the world for hatred, racism, bigotry or prejudice. The flaw is how our argument is sometimes framed. Often we become overwhelmed by the passion of our own convictions, and in the attempt to voice our argument for equal rights, we become more concerned about being right than with the rights themselves. We get lost in the argument, and stop short of the follow-through and participation in bringing about the change we've demanded.
I am in agreement that we need a revolution in this country. For far too long, our republic has not adequately represented or appreciated the true diversity of our nation. Revolution in my opinion does not mean we revolt. There is a difference between shining a light on disparity and inequality, demanding immediate change, and burning the system to the ground. The latter serves no one.
Social justice requires community involvement. That involvement cannot stop at simply identifying the problem and pointing out those who perpetuate inequality. It must continue into identifying solutions, engineering the necessary change, and ensuring that past transgressions are not repeated. It requires those who identify themselves as social justice warriors to not only confront agents of the state who misuse their authority, but to replace them.
As Jonah Goldberg says, "the only institution capable of imposing social justice is the state."
Social justice is not possible without strong and coherent redistributive policies conceived and implemented by public agencies.— United Nations, 2006
We're Making Anti-Elitism Elitist
I dislike the term ‘woke.’ If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a relatively new colloquialism used to describe someone who is aware of social biases and the systemic subjugation of people of color, of women, of LGBTQIA persons and other social minorities. I also have a problem with the new buzzword “privilege.” My problem isn’t with the words or what they stand for. It’s that more often than not in the fight against labels and for equality, ‘woke’ and ‘privilege’ are used as tools of segregation and divisiveness by the very people claiming to be enlightened.
When a woman tells a man that he could never understand the fear or victimization of rape, when a person of color tells a white person that he or she could never fully grasp the inherited trauma of enslavement or the impact of racial bias because he or she isn’t a minority, any time you draw focus to yourself by highlighting your subjugation and using it as a means to distance yourself rather than using your experience as a teaching tool, you undermine your own humanity and negate the ability of your audience to feel empathy or attempt compassion.
I am a Human Being
Nothing Human Can Be Alien to Me
Let me put this all another way….
I happen to be a 37-year-old man of mixed race who is also gay. As an activist, I’m sometimes asked to recount my experiences as a white child growing up in a Latinx household or as a Latinx child growing up and being raised to say I was white. As a gay man, I’m also asked about my coming out and my experiences with bullying both at home and at school. And as an activist, when I choose to share those experiences with others, my intention is always exposition. I don’t share my story to garner sympathy or celebrity, or even to commiserate. I share it to raise awareness that stories like mine are not unusual, and I do it as much to educate those going through similar experiences as I do to educate those who have no experience with homophobia or racism or bullying. I need both groups to understand where I am coming from if we are going to move forward together and ensure that stories like mine become less and less common.
If a straight person wants to know what it was like for me to come out as gay, it would be counterproductive of me to assert that he or she is wholly incapable of understanding because we don’t share a similar sexual orientation. My experience involves pain, it involves rejection, it involves fear and isolation and an entire host of human experiences he or she can relate to despite the fact that we do not share a similar orientation.
Bridges beget allies. Fences beget opposition.