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The excesses of woke

April 20, 2021

I suspect many of us have known someone who was obsessed with some injustice done them in the past, by lover or employer or parent, for whom understanding that cause becomes more impediment than solution. The injustice can be quite real. Which makes it difficult to acknowledge it, while at the same time recognizing some of the reaction has veered away from anything useful.

Such obsession has more opportunity for metastasis when the injustice is cultural rather than individual. It is hard to read about the furor in musicology at North Texas State University and not realize that something has gone wrong.  Or about some of the other demands for cleansing the worksite and campus from racial sin. It has become a subject for humor

While some of that excess can be attributed to pernicious social theory, I suspect much of it results from a vicious cycle that has spiraled for decades, as the politics of conservative resentment and the politics of seeking racial justice feed from each other. The quite valid cause of the latter doesn’t save it from also becoming fodder, bait, and predator in political battle. 

As always, it’s never clear how to inch towards a better world. “Forget about it,” is not a solution. No matter how much the right wants it to be. It is partly because of their white-washed and mythical notions of America’s past that we need historians providing constant reminder of what was. But neither is it possible, nor desirable, to make everyone woke.  

France, which has its own race demons, doesn’t want to import the most recent iteration of race theory from the US. 

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