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Can 'Social Justice' Be Rehabilitated?

Social justice is laudable. But privileged and luxury belief-laced extremism has turned to the same evils it claims to fight. Can it be saved?

In the late ‘90s I was on the Internet Usenet forum, for those who’d chosen the no-kids life by choice. It was a great support forum, for awhile.

Later I complained to my then-partner, “It’s gotten very anti-child. We’ve always had a few of those nutters there, but now even the reasonable ones sound extremist about kids, and put down expectant mothers. They don’t seem to understand that kids are human beings too.” ‘Stork parking’, the spaces reserved for pregnant women at shopping centers, had just become a thing and many asc’ers were outraged.

“Unfortunately that seems to be the way of discussion forums,” he replied. “Eventually the extremists take over if users don’t moderate.”

I left a.s.c the day a friend with children scrolled through and was appalled at the nastiness. Embarrassed to be seen in such company, I didn’t offer a farewell or a reason for departure; I simply stopped contributing.

The natural gravitation toward extremism

Liberal feminists have achieved many fantastic victories. Women’s education, Roe v Wade, Title IX, better if not yet equal pay. Men no longer have the right to rape their wives, arguing that ‘We’re married, she has to give it to me.’ Black civil rights progressed down a close similar path, and, thanks to progressive liberals, only in red states now is gay marriage considered a scandal and an offense against God.

Now, most of the progress to de-marginalize further lies with individuals’ responsibility to step up and ‘do the work’ of improving and developing themselves, trying harder, asserting themselves more, refusing victimhood. It’s up to you, baby.

But social justice needs new mountains to scale, and because of the last half-century’s successes, activists must climb higher to find new forms of ‘oppression’ they can fight. They have to exaggerate and catastrophize because on some level they know their current projects are fairly weak. Hence the rise of ‘microaggressions’ and ‘intersectionality’ to find ‘marginalizations’ people didn’t know they had, and who are too privileged or too young to know what real discrimination feels like. These ideas have come to be known as ‘luxury beliefs’, those you need to be wealthy and educated enough to support.

Rob Henderson, the author of the newly-published Troubled: A Memoir of Foster Care, Family & Social Class, argues that luxury beliefs are the new status symbols, in an age where almost anyone can afford luxury goods, or cheaper knockoffs, or you can just steal them. They’re beliefs people higher up hold that benefit themselves, but harm the classes below them.

Social justice activism tends toward extremism on the other side, too.

Conservative activism has moved toward a cult of personality and MAGAism after getting much of what they wanted—an end to Roe, unfettered access to guns, the end of affirmative action and a more conservative Supreme Court friendly to rolling back other liberal successes.

Activists and the ‘chattering classes’ demonize the opposition and compete for attention expressing ideas and opinions ever more extreme, just as my compatriots once did on a.s.c. How privileged do you have to be to think the protected speech of ‘misgendering’ is actually a crime, however much you support trans rights? Those who police and criminalize protected speech that offends their delicate sensitivities and succeed demonstrate just how marginalized they aren’t. That goes for those supporting ‘Don’t say gay’ Ronald DeSantis or insurrectionists pitching a tantrum because their side lost.

These, too, are luxury beliefs.

What once was called ‘wokeness’, a commitment to social justice and correcting inequities in the system, is now primarily a well-to-do luxury brand for the non-marginalized of all colors, fast-tracking toward the authoritarianism they claim to fight.

Twenty-four hours after the October 7 attack, students at academic moron factories celebrated antisemitism and a vicious terrorist cult, when they would have better served genuine human rights by encouraging Palestinians to stop murdering gay and transfolk.

Regressive Left feminists turn into good little Handmaids for the Patriarchy when sly sexual predators claim the fake-ass ‘gender dysphoria’.

Woke social justice activists claim to fight homophobia while ‘trans-ing’ any kid unfortunate enough not to fit the rigid gender stereotypes they condemn the right for, and favor ‘de-colonizing’ everything except men in women’s bathrooms, changing rooms and prisons.

But still…

Wokeness, the extremism that once properly called itself progressive and liberal, is rooted in pre-civil rights black social justice and originally referred to staying aware of impending violence and systemic racism at a time when it was still unofficially okay to lynch a black man. After the Ferguson, Missouri riots in 2014, it elevated the meaning of awareness of dangerous cops, a caution important for white people too.

Is it possible to be ‘woke’ and ‘not a fasch-hole?

On another note I also wonder: How many conservatives are tired of their political beliefs and ideologies being twisted by a narcissistic psychopath and his mouth-breathing miscreants?

X/Twitter screenshot of Republicans Against Trump social media account

I use the word ‘woke’ somewhat less as I realized it was offensive to people who are ‘woke’ but not crazy-ass extreme, including some of my friends.

The most extreme, I expect, have defriended or unfollowed me by now and the rest ignore me. I’ve taken to referring to wokeness as ‘illiberal’ which makes a very important point that some so-called liberals aren’t. It does seem a shame, on some level, for ‘woke’ to have been misappropriated as badly as it has been.

Or ‘colonized by white activists’, if you want to wokely honest.

I’m not sure it’s as effective anymore as a term solely for black awareness when there’s less racism in America, regardless of what you’ve heard about the prevalence of ‘white supremacy’. There’s something to be said for being ‘woke’ to injustice, if only we could agree on what that is. Is injustice really some old white lady who said ‘Negro’ because she was young in an era when that was a perfectly polite way to refer to black people, or is it better focused on the practice of ‘carding’ by some police departments, randomly stopping people and demanding identification, asking questions, who are often disproportionately black?

When did ‘woke’ become so weak?

It’s not as though the world lacks for oppression to eliminate. A black President drew out bald-faced American racism on the right the way Hamas’s attack on Israel vomited the anti-Semites and whitey-haters on the left. Maybe social justice is just weary after fighting so hard for so many genuinely progressive projects and they want easier assignments like de-’whitewashing’ Hollywood. Somewhere along the way it became the problems it tried to solve, and refused to look within and ‘do the work’ it demands of others.

Marginalized = sinless, apparently.

How is Ibram X. Kendi prescribing black racism against white people not 100% bloody racist himself? He’s a non-starter for many liberals because he’s the problem he claims to want to solve. It strikes me that the next iteration of ‘antiracism’ in America—2.0—should be examining and coming to terms with anti-white racism, which sounds right-wing and ‘yabbut’ but genuine antiracists can see how unserious woke ‘antiracism’ really is because it supports racism.

Yeah, we can see where that’s going.

If there’s one thing you can count on with humanity, it’s to exploit others. Will Kendi eventually advocate for 400 years of white slavery to ‘atone’ for a past we turned our back on 160 years ago? Wait for it. Woke social justice craziness isn’t over yet.

I suspect ‘social justice’ will get worse before it gets better, especially if the Republicans and their golden god prevail. (Where are the statue puller-downers when you need them?) Unless those wokes who haven’t yet given their brains over to the dark forces of extremism join other level-headed liberals to fight to take it back.

‘Woke’ can be rehabilitated only if enough level-headed liberals grow the labia and balls to do it, and make it clear that illiberals are hardly ‘woke’ to racism, sexism, and homophobia when they’re pushing it themselves. Woke social justice warriors don’t listen to the right, so they have to hear critiques from their own, which is risky. The ‘woke’ are famously intolerant of those who fail to hew strictly to social justice doctrine, but the times they are a-changin’, and it may soon become less socially acceptable to identify as ‘woke’ in 2024.

DEI, one of the main engines of toxic wokeness, is under fire. Colleges and universities are slashing their DEI budgets and the legal system is examining whether it’s constitutional to demand pledges to political narratives like ‘antiracism’ to get or keep a job. It’s becoming clear that DEI, as it’s implemented today, is creating and encouraging racism and other bigotries rather than alleviating it.

The DEI industry could save itself, I suspect, if it embraced a universal social justice commitment to reducing all racism and discrimination. Like if it told the full story of slavery rather than treating it as though Europeans singularly invented it in 1619. It would enjoin POC to examine themselves along with their white cohorts and ask themselves whether they’re treating white people unfairly (or men, or ‘cis-het’, or whatever). Because tribalism is universal, and racism is tribalism, and anyone who hasn’t lived all their life in a cave knows it’s not just restricted to white people. Or men. Or cis-het.

I don’t think DEI will do that, though. Illiberal fundamentalism has seized the far-left soul and I already know from twenty-plus years of arguing with Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. that you can almost never change the fundamentalist mindset. Ibram X. Kendi said it and I believe it!

We have to hold these people to account, just as we do the crazies on the MAGA side—demanding facts, evidence, and rational theories pertaining to others’ suspected motivations, not conspiracy theories and blanket ‘they hate us, they hate America, they hate democracy’ condemnations. That’s whether they’re on the right or left, or you are. Hold your own as accountable as you do the other side.

I have a formerly progressive friend who, over pandemic lockdown, fell down the rabbit hole of left-wing conspiracies. He gets really, really mad when I challenge some of his crazier assertions. It’s QAnon crap for the left.

We need to make more ‘illibs’ like him really really REALLY mad.

I’ve begun by challenging the broader, wokenized definition of ‘white supremacy’. Systemic racism exists, but if we hadn’t made progress black people would still be using separate fountains, feared for ‘contaminating’ swimming pools and Clarence Thomas would have picked pubic hairs off his Coke can on a park bench rather than a law office.

White supremacists are the KKK, not you or me or even the guy who cracks a racist joke. White supremacists are racists, but not all racists are white supremacists.

What can you do to challenge social justice extremism, and bring ‘woke’ back to some semblance of normalcy, not to mention social justice? Or the crazies on Team MAGA?

I do suspect Americans are getting fairly tired of both, since voters are famously switching sides for the forthcoming election and I honestly don’t think anyone has a clue which candidate will win. We in the Murky Middle are the new Silent Majority, although maybe with the decline of power on both sides, we won’t have to be afraid to speak up anymore.

Did you like this post? Would you like to see more? I lean left of center, but not so far over my brains fall out. Subscribe to my Substack newsletter Grow Some Labia so you never miss a damn thing!

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