Monday, July 26, 2021

The Year of the Woke Revolution

It's Lee Siegel, at City Journal, "Year Zero: The roots of the woke revolution":

On the day in March that eight people were murdered in a massage parlor in Atlanta, six of them Asian-American, a Cherokee County, Georgia, police captain gave a media briefing after the alleged murderer was caught. He described the suspect’s motivation as follows: “He was pretty much fed up, and at the end of his rope, and yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.”

Indignation erupted. How, people cried, could the police captain attribute the murders to someone merely having a bad day? Having determined that the crime was motivated by anti-Asian hatred, the Internet furies concluded that the captain had spoken callously because of his own anti-Asian bias.

Leave aside that anyone who had seen a police movie could recognize as tough-guy talk the captain’s seemingly casual description of an unspeakable act. And never mind that just a few weeks later, President Biden described the slaughter of eight people in a FedEx facility not as a human tragedy but as a “national embarrassment,” as if it had been a messily disputed election. Consider instead what the policeman’s critics cared about. Imagine that the captain had appeared before the media and had said that he believed that the suspect was motivated by anti-Asian hatred and that this hate was the true virus ravaging us all. Would he have been lauded? Yes. But what if he gave this briefing while the suspect remained at large, giving him time to flee? In reality, the entire Atlanta police department was on the scene almost immediately. The suspect was caught shortly after the shootings, before he could harm anyone else. Even if the police captain had been insensitive, why should this matter more than his and his officers’ actions?

Words are crumbling under the weight of moral one-upmanship. One cannot, for example, call both Hitler and Donald Trump “fascists” without the term losing its meaning. But for four years, an imminent fascist revolution sponsored by the Trump movement was a liberal obsession. (Hard to make a fascist revolution, though, without having the military on your side, and Trump spent four years insulting both the military and the state’s intelligence apparatus.) Nor does the term “systemic racism” mean anything if it describes both the structure of apartheid in South Africa and slavery in the antebellum American South and the circumstances we live in today. Apartheid South Africa was systemically racist. Georgia in 1860 was systemically racist. But the New York suburb where I live—Montclair, New Jersey—has a black mayor who succeeded another black mayor; a black superintendent of schools; a black assistant superintendent of schools; several black school principals; a black deputy chief of police; a self-conscious enclave of wealthy black bankers and black lawyers; and accomplished black residents, from a world-famous jazz bassist to a former head of Homeland Security. Montclair is more racially, socially, and economically diverse than any neighborhood in New York City. Yet cries of Montclair’s systemic racism have now swept the town, as well as its public school curricula.... 
... We are now living in a new golden age of American racism. So long as you talk the proverbial talk—and, if you really need extra cover, make the obligatory accusations and issue the compulsory condemnations—you can actually indulge racist impulses. You can inveigh against racism at your local school board meeting and then, a year or two later, quietly move your children into the whitest private school you can find. You can fawn so fulsomely over your white daughter’s black friend that the friend will never return to your house. You can be so excessively polite yet calculatedly distant with black people that you will ensure that none will enter your life. If you are a Coca-Cola executive, you can declaim against the new Georgia voting laws, even as you market your product extra-aggressively in poor black neighborhoods, where the obesity and diabetes caused in part by regular soda consumption has by now afflicted generations of black children. Maybe the hope among Coca-Cola executives is that, thanks to the new rhetoric of morally superior denunciation, you can start addicting liberal white kids in the suburbs, too: “Woke Goes Better with Coke.” And why not? Apple tells me that in order to “protect the environment,” it will no longer include a power adapter and earphones at no extra charge with its new phones. However, Apple will gladly sell them to me.

Excellent piece (emphasis added).

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