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The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Righteousness
“Behind her words, there was a kind of despair — a robotic chemistry that felt very tired, very strained, and very performative. It was not rooted in independent critical thought, but verbatim regurgitation”
An experience with a woke woman left me baffled, curious, and momentarily appalled. This piece is an excavation of that experience along with the reasons that motivated me to write it—first, a few of my personal thoughts on what is known as the Woke movement.
As currently defined, I will never be “woke”. I don’t accept that my conscience is asleep. Not strictly because of what woke people think — but because of how being woke makes people think. Wokeness gets some things right: inequality, across many spectrums, is a problem. Liberals need a coalition and a quick word with which to identify. A short term on a loose banner can be a unifying one if only for the reason of organization. The communities under this banner have valid gripes with current systems that may see them as outside the mainstream. While I agree with the many problems of inequality, I rarely agree with the proposed woke solutions.
Whatever your stance on Woke-ness, it is inarguable — the movement has taught us a great deal, indeed. The maxim “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” comes to mind. But what I and many others have found is that behind the sentiments of peace and understanding, love and acceptance, there is a dark labyrinth, a kind of impossible word maze at the heart of the woke’s tactic.
Where folksy sentiment meets hyper-active activism, the rhetoric gets more than pushy — but of course, it will, because to buy completely into the woke premise is to believe that you are at war. I suppose if you’re at war, you’d think that you had every right to shove or to shout over others. But more towards the thought patterns than how it plays out in the streets, it is a type of thinking that operates much like a religion of victimhood, but with the closed-mindedness of a tyrant. The “woker than woke that gets more woke by the week” is a persona rather than a component of an individual brain. It is a mindset convinced of its good intentions inside a head with two faces that are constantly spinning — by the time you get a look into its eyes, another pair is before you, and the rules have already changed. The experience many times can leave you feeling dizzy. This is an excavation of one of those experiences.
First, let me give some context —
Soon after my essay Narrative Breakdown: “Black People can’t be Racist”, was published, I was contacted by a woke woman demonstrating quite a bit of bad-faith nonsense. The unfolding of the events perfectly demonstrates the zombie-ism of the woke and the possessed nature of its impotent rhetoric.
At first, I was glad that she engaged in the piece, read it, and felt activated, somehow, by my words. Instead of a productive conversation, however, I was blindsided by Wokeness. After all, I suggested an idea contrary to the current narrative, and most importantly, I had broken many “rules” while doing so.
I lay out this experience only to show commonly used argumentative devices and why they are extremely faulty. While the Woke did not invent them, they seemed to have perfected them. In response to my article, her first criticism(s) was the following (in italics) —
“Just one quick note, the reason that B in Black is capitalize(sic) is because Black Americans have had their history and heritage stripped from them. Many cannot trace their roots back to the origin before America”
(1. Dominate definitions and language so anything can mean what you want it to)
While the above statement is true regarding black origins, I don’t buy into the solution. I have read a good bit of the literature on why some insist on grammar-based justice and to do so is to resort to mental acrobatics that can’t seem to make a case for it without academy-fueled philosophical and existential word salad. If I start a sentence with, for example, the word “cardboard,” it, too, would require a capital letter. The lowest standard for any word to be capitalized is simply for it to begin any sentence. There doesn’t seem to be much prestige here. This is a cheap tactic and transparent in its pettiness. One consistent tool in the Woke kit is to subvert definition and assume the cruelest intention whenever possible. If you read any text that exclusively capitalizes the “B” in black, and never the “w” in white, you should know what you are in for with this person. It is a signaling of a kind but is far from virtuous.
“Honestly my gut reaction to the article is that you are missing the point. That this is all revolved around your feelings not facts”
(2. Gaslighting is a sin, but apparently a necessary one)
Are reflexive gut responses the best way to respond to information? But more importantly, it is my article. It is unlikely that I would fail to miss the point of my own piece. I have to ask — since when did the ultra-woke have a problem with feelings? For a movement that has based so much of itself on validating feelings, that response seemed flagrantly hypocritical on her part or unbelievably overlooked. I know that if I were to diminish anyone's feelings, I would instantly be called out for my insensitivity. This would be considered emotional gaslighting if I were ever to say such a thing.
I put a fair bit of time into my piece to validate feelings as they are what guide us many times. For better or worse, they cannot be completely disregarded. We must use judgment in our discussions this way and our understanding of our emotions. My piece was not guided by my feelings more than it was formulated by reading, listening, and thinking damn hard about the topic I chose to write about.
“For instance, your assumption that Black people will be above the law when it comes to hate crimes”
(3. Mis-quote, misconstrue, and intentionally miss the point)
This critique seems reasonable, except that I never made any assumptions in this way. I posed the question (with a question mark and all) as a strict inquiry. My point was that when definitions of words change and new hard and fast ideas form or when one group is required to be guilty of a characteristic that another group could never be charged with, this can quickly result in unintended legal ramifications. It is not my most vital point in the piece, but I myself admitted that and noted that in terms of the criminal justice system and racism, it would not be “first priority.”
“Also, what are your sources for these theories you have on equality?”
(4. Shift the burden of proof)
Well, I didn’t give any theories on equality. I simply don’t know what “theories” in my article she is referring to. It is an opinion piece aimed at driving conversation via the offering of things to consider. She either failed to recognize that or pretended she didn’t. There are not any “theories” necessary to source or share. Only lines of consideration can be heeded or ignored. Anyway, my claims are not extreme. One does not need to show “proof” for things I ask the reader to simply consider.
“Are you fostering any inspiration from Black voices?”
(5. Blame and shame and activate guilt)
As an artist and writer, I work to develop my own voice. That is my job. But here lies hypocrisy — the literature of the woke is chock FULL of articles calling for white people to stop with the MLK quotes and the Rosa Parks memes likening this to the hijacking of black voices.
If you choose not to mention any black people in your piece, you’re not fostering their voices. If you do quote a black person, it cannot be John McWhorter, Thomas Sowell, or anyone smacking of center/right political views. You must quote the correct black people. And if you justify a stance with “…and some of my black friends agree with me” you are showing your racism. If you have zero black friends that agree with you, you are racist again. Another consequence is that you could be accused of hijacking other cultures. I do have an introductory quote by James Baldwin in my first novel, alas, not because he was black, but because his words fit exactly the book's spirit. I could provide a list of black people who have influenced my thinking but I won’t do that here any more than I would provide a list of white people that did the same.
“The article comes off as you criticizing white people’s short comings at an attempt to be an ally but you don’t really offer any advice on how to do better.’’
(6. The only “advice” we want to hear is the advice we want to hear)
Whoa — it is not ok to criticize white people all of a sudden? Criticizing some white people when appropriate is fine by me. And this line about attempting to be an “ally” is what bugs me — that’s woke language. I can only say I am an ally to ideas I think are good ones. That makes me an ally to productivity. What more could one promise? I can’t go any further than that. Am I willing to pledge away my mind, hand over heart carte blanche to a cause? Not in this lifetime. There will be no blind commitments based on faith from me. And anyway, I do offer ways on how to do better. How? I write pieces built to drive the conversation in the direction of productivity. If we can dispense with the nonsense, we can have meaningful dialogue on a whole host of topics. That is my commitment. That is my contribution. If the “hand that writes is as good as the hand that plows,” it is also as good as the hand that “holds the placard”.
“As far as the main theme, I don’t think you have done enough research to prove your point. It seems more like assumptions”
(7. Elitist dogmatic thinking)
This line of response is a trendy one among the woke. They often pride themselves on being armed with research, knowledge, and a very pointed education. Woke culture is full of orders to “get yourself educated” or “do your research”. Nothing wrong with this, if that is only what those words actually meant. What “education and research” mean in woke practice is that you cannot be fully educated until you think exactly like them. That if you would only become educated and do your research, walking the line of the woke movement will come naturally to you. The only mark of education to the woke is a total lockstep agreement. The article itself was never about assumptions, but about considerations, and plausible consequences that may or may not happen, but are reasonable in their concerns.
The article Narrative Breakdown: “Black People can’t be Racist” is intentionally titled towards these considerations — an offering of why I think one might reconsider the original premise that black people can’t be racist. To back this up entirely with facts is not a possible or meaningful task. It is a conversation — very little in it is verifiably true or false. Very little could be proven or disproven, only argued for or argued against. This is often the case with op-ed opinion pieces of this kind. But that type of reasoning fails many subscribers. If one says, “Black people are obligated to drive hate out of their hearts just like everyone else” and no one should interfere with this process in this damning way (i.e. saying Black people cannot be racist), this is not reasonable to simply say. Alas, she wants to see the proof.
Throughout this small debacle, this woman had not shown me one ounce of decent intellectual honesty. Not one ounce of openness. My article to her was harmful, yes, but was more than that- it was an opportunity to display righteousness. It is okay if you dislike or disagree with me or my work. But behind her critique, there existed a kind of despair — a robotic chemistry that felt very tired, very strained, and very performative. It was not rooted in independent critical thought but in regurgitation verbatim.
This type of response — the one that calls for a complete shutdown of anything contrary to the standard woke narrative—is not a new tactic. Instead of a grown woman, I was confronted with a self-appointed babysitter whose job was to protect black people from any harm. What this woman doesn’t know is how infantilizing that truly is. What she doesn’t know, and what many people don’t get is that they themselves are not really all that important. Regretfully, your version of “Look, I’m helping” isn’t really helping.
I did not write this article with the intent of being mean to a well-intentioned white woman or anyone else. The Woke culture is a dog chasing its own tail. But this dog is capable of catching it. And occasionally, this dog will bite down and draw her very own blood. And because you were the loudest, the most fervent, the most ferocious, but perhaps, the most inauthentic, your betrayal, after the dust settles, will be seen as the greater one. And when those whose “woke-ness” was rooted in good faith and not showmanship begin to cancel you, their eyes will not be blind to your self-righteousness; instead, their eyes will be burning because of it.