There are some deeply disturbing trends happening right now in American society. Anti-semitism and other forms of hate are on the rise.
For example, this happened over the weekend in Los Angeles:
Los Angeles officials have condemned demonstrators who held banners above a motorway, pledging support for Kanye West’s anti-Semitic statements https://t.co/UZIEQqQCAC
— Evening Standard (@EveningStandard) October 24, 2022
Needless to say, that is a disturbing photo. It is tempting to fall back on the old ways of snickering at them as fringe yahoos who are laughable wackos. Except, there is also this:
#Florida saw a 50% increase in #antiSemitic incidents in 2021 compared to the year before & had 3rf most anti-Semitic incidents of any state in the #US, behind #NY & #California, according to the report. Nationally, in 2021 anti-Semitic incidents rose 34%.https://t.co/uRDrWnB1II
— Liz Goldenberg (@newstruthliz) September 14, 2022
Before you are tempted to come up with another excuse, no doubt, in this case, something like well, that’s Florida for you, note that the increase is sharp in the entire United States as well. Of course, this is not limited to attacks on Jewish people.
Got to be one of the most racist things on US TV in 50 years. Carlson talking about white women "as the key to reproducing the white race," and claiming black people are targeting white women for that reason.
Adds that a black anchor "can barely speak a coherent sentence." pic.twitter.com/OI8H2lLowB
— Will Stancil (@whstancil) October 20, 2022
Again, we can’t write this off as fringe. This is coming from a man who hosts a very popular prime-time show that goes out to millions. And yes, I know, he is goofy also. All authoritarian fascists are goofy until they are killing people.
There are a million and one ideas on How We Got to This Place. I think it is difficult to ignore that this stuff really got going at the same time as the hysteria fired up about wokeness.
First things first, anti-wokeness is nothing more than the latest version of the Political Correctness moral panic of the 1990s. Which was how Dinesh D’Souza became famous. If you have ever bitched about PC OUT OF CONTROL you are helping out someone as loathsome as Dinesh D’Souza and if you feel the need to get defensive, dear reader, I have receipts.
The term woke began in the Black community to mean being alert and aware of the dangers of racism. It goes back to the 1930s. In fact, it appears in the 1938 Lead Belly song “Scottsboro Boys.” The song describes a landmark case in the history of racism in the American justice system, when a group of nine Black teenagers in Scottsboro, Arkansas, were accused of raping two white women. What it means is being aware of the racism around you and not allowing oneself to become complacent. As is often the case with a term that began in the Black community, white people started using it and ruined it. Now, it has been completely hijacked by right-wingers.
Woke is like an expression I hear people use in reference to an approaching thunderstorm that makes meteorologists cringe – It’ll blow over. As a meteorologist once said to me, ask them what they mean by that. He said the response is often very funny because people do not know what they mean by it. Same goes for woke.
The right has used woke as a disparaging catch-all term for anything related to liberal or progressive ideals. They use it this way because they know it works, just like it did with political correctness. Anything from civil rights to abortion rights to fighting climate change now falls under the woke banner.
At some point in 2020, a lot of institutions and The Very Sensible and Serious Moderate Minds of the Discourse decided that the absolute biggest problem in the United States was wokeness. This conversation on wokeness was never nuanced, but it was all about how bad and terrible wokeness was for the country. What it did was end up hurting the resistance to racism, including pretty much destroying within months the unity around the George Floyd killing. And it ended up enabling what we are seeing now.
Besides taking out the resistance to racism/antisemitism, it also gave the permission for white elites to pretty much say what they want. It started with the Harper’s Letter, which had its origins in author J.K. Rowling being upset over criticism of her repulsive anti-trans bigotry. This was written and signed during the summer of 2020 when America’s issues with racism and police violence, an increasingly unstable president, and a goshdarn pandemic were all on the table. And this is what motivated many people to raise their voices in protest. Think about that for a second.
Soon, elite institutions and people who should know better began to parrot far-right takes on wokeness, and the wingers quickly realized that mainstream entities like the New York Times and Jamie Dimon would help carry their water for them. This in turn helps to normalize things like major cable news network hosts saying a Black anchor on a rival network is barely coherent.
Once you shame the resistance and get the powerful in on the act, hate can race through society like cancer. And if you make it vague enough, all the better. I have been telling people who have fallen under the spell of anti-wokism that woke is nebulous in its meaning, and as I mentioned to a white liberal female friend who seems to think we should listen to the anti-wokes, abortion rights have fallen under the umbrella of woke. She did not want to consider that, but if history is any indication, she will not have any choice. We have seen this sort of thing before. If anything is woke, then you might want to consider that
How far will this go? I do not think we are very far away from a politician or high-profile media personality saying the worst of racial slurs and defending it as free speech, with support from conservatives in elite publications like the Washington Post. What we are seeing should be alarming, but it gets limited media coverage likely because so many in the media are part of it.
This is a dangerous situation we are in, and right now, as hard as it might be for some people, we need to disregard the idea that wokeness is some sort of serious issue that must be addressed. Because it is enabling some very, very bad behavior.
The last word goes to Lead Belly (you can hear him say “stay woke” at around 4:29 of this video):