Never trust any ideology, left or right, that encourages kids to sort themselves by race.
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Who gets the last-week microphone? Right or wrong, that’s what matters.
If Dems can keep the spotlight on abortion, they win (as a large majority favors Dems on this issue).
If the Repubs can keep the spotlight on crime, they win (a majority favors Repubs here).
If the Dems can focus on how undercutting election integrity is now part of the Repubs’ fixed platform, this helps them.
If the Repubs focus on inflation, this helps them (absurdly, since inflation is worldwide and the US numbers are better than the global average).
In the fight for the mic, it seems Repubs are winning in the home stretch. As for me, I’d like to see the biggest spotlight on abortion, due to the enormity of what’s at stake for average families. Just imagine your daughters (and sons) going to college where they make one dumb mistake and abortion is a criminal offence, where your daughter doesn’t want her doctor to have information that might be used to track her periods, or where every text message about her period could be tracked and seized as criminal evidence.
Choose your meme and get it out there. Keep the focus where it should be this week. Don’t wait for the media to do it.
A couple of stories from the past 24 hours, just from my region of the USA. Who knows how many similar stories across the country are ongoing and unreported. Click for links.
Not to mention …
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which had blocked states from denying abortion rights to women, is no doubt a 50-year setback for women’s rights. No way around it. But besides the problem that millions of women will now face in their personal lives (many of whom will have to carry unwanted pregnancies to term), there is also the immediate political problem. Republicans/conservatives had held a very large advantage going into the 2022 midterm elections. Because about 2/3 of Americans favored keeping Roe v. Wade, there will no doubt be some swing against Republicans in favor of women’s rights. But beware of overconfidence. The Republican advantage has gone from large to small but they are still likely to gain some seats in Congress. And Democrats/liberals are famous for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The 2016 presidential election is a case in point. The Republican nominee (Trump) was probably the most spectacularly unqualified candidate in U.S. history, both in terms of competence and temperament, and the Dems found a way to lose. And after the election? Did Dems look in the mirror to see how they may have alienated so many voters that they were thrashed by the worst candidate in history? No, they doubled down and wrote off everyone who disagreed with them as racist. Perhaps a harmless strategy if you are preaching to the choir, but hardly a way to win back some of those you have alienated.
So what’s the problem today? Just looking at the electoral side for now, the problem is stopping the Dems from self-destructing. A large majority is on your side on abortion rights. Don’t give away the electoral advantage this gives you. Two pitfalls in particular are easy to avoid, and yet I fear they are exactly the kind of pitfalls Dems generally dive into.
Now I understand that I may get some pushback on #1 and #2 from my younger progressive friends – fair enough, we can haggle out how to hone the ideology and prioritize strategies as we go forward. But if there is pushback, remember that I’m actually on your side. Multiple and diverse points of view is good, not bad, in the same way that genetic diversity moves the species forward. Mainly, though, just be careful how you frame your case. It could be the difference between having 2/3 of the country at your back or having things go as they did in 2016.
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Let’s face it. I skip much of the pulp (non-) fiction on cultural politics in today’s media, but I’ll occasionally find a bit in The Atlantic worth reading. This one by Conor Friedersdorf, e.g., shows how “outrage entrepreneurs on either side” of hot-button issues like racism sometimes dance each other round until they swap places. Maybe I like this one because I have argued the same in this fine blog, sometimes humorously, as in my entry on Jonathan Swift and the Arc of Liberalism, sometimes more pedantically, as in my entry on Buckling and Curling in the US Political Spectrum. In any event, if you skip the Atlantic link, you can at least link to my previous entries for more entertaining, equally informative, and much shorter elucidations of Left and Right dancing around in their little (we can hope) death spiral 😊
Conor Friedersdorf article here
 The Atlantic is one of the few media outlets that has not zipped itself into an ideological straitjacket in the past few years. It leans left and includes new (woke) progressive voices like Ibram X. Kendi, but also includes regular contributors such as former George W. Bush speechwriter, David Frum, and anti-woke liberals such as John McWhorter.
 A note on terminology: I am sometimes criticized for using the word “woke,” as if that aligns me with a conservative rhetoric. Although the term was at first amply used as a badge of honor for left-leaning politicians like my own New Orleans mayor, Mitch Landrieu, it is true that the right has seized the narrative and largely turned “woke” into a slur. In my case, I have always identified as progressive, not conservative, but for clarity today I need to distinguish between “progressive” as rooted in the 1960s radicalism of MLK and the hippies (which favors free speech and less racialization in our value judgments about people) and “woke progressive” (the identity politics sort, which favors stifling dissent and emphasizing race in value judgments about people and interactions). Thus, I use the term to distinguish two very different versions of progressivism which are often conflated because they carry the same “progressive” tag.
It’s time to move radicalism beyond the old, deadening left-right spectrum. If you’re on the left, you’re not radical. You’re as trapped in the old spectrum as the right. Here are my thoughts for a new radicalism, one that I hope disregards all current allegiances.
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Some decades ago on a daytime TV talk show – I’ll never find it – the African-American public intellectual, Cornel West, was seated next to some Ku Klux Klan members, and the host said something about the KKK representing white people. West gestured at the white supremacists next to him on the stage and replied, “These people don’t represent white people; they represent morons.” That encapsulated the norm in anti-racist discourse in the post-1960s trajectory (post-MLK/post-hippies). It was not black vs white but, as Dr. King called it, a “coalition of conscience” on one side and racists on the other, “for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny . . . that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom” (“I Have a Dream,” 1963).
How times have changed. Many in the (ironically named, some would say) “progressive” movement have swung around to suggest that the KKK, in effect, DOES represent white people, as the KKK expresses more overtly what is implicitly baked into white people. Whereas West’s witty remark of yore would marginalize racists and foreground Dr. King’s coalition of conscience, the most prominent voices among today’s anti-racists give the KKK center stage.
“All white people are invested in and collude with racism . . . The white collective fundamentally hates blackness” (Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility).
“The way in which people have constructed whiteness, and even their identity, or even the identity of white people, prevents them from seeing this white terrorist threat for what it is” (Ibram X. Kendi, interview 01/12/2021).
Though Kendi’s remarks are less demoralizing than DiAngelo’s, they still emphasize the battle lines between white and black – not anti-racism as a (rainbow) coalition of conscience against racists, but anti-racism as a battle against “whiteness.”
The two takes on whiteness, in any event, are clear. The post-1960s anti-racist angle was that whiteness was neither here nor there, not a blessing and not a scarlet letter. In the coalition of conscience, whites and blacks joined hands to combat racism and racial inequality, without probing into the color of the hand next to you and whether that color meant secret sins that needed to be called out. The post-woke angle, on the other hand, is that whiteness is indeed the problem. It comes dangerously close to recapitulating the old blackness vs. whiteness dichotomy favored by Bull Connor and the racist segregationists that liberals fought so hard against in the 1960s.
Some of you might find anti-racist inspiration in the woke discourse, and I suspect I might find some myself if I push into it harder, but the overall thrust is a hard sell for me. The idea of teaching children, black and white, the Robin DiAngelo quote above, and how that might affect them socially and psychologically, is frankly a little chilling. The other angle on whiteness, the angle that I have identified as post-1960s (as opposed to post-woke), the angle I associated with that decades-old quip of Cornel West (my more up-to-date readers can comment on whether his position has changed since then) – that’s the angle I like. It allows all people of all races to celebrate each other, to work hand-in-hand to fix continuing racial inequality, each able to express one’s own heart robustly, with full confidence in oneself and one’s fellows in the coalition, not cowering in self-doubt about one’s own goodness or casting suspicious eyes on those around you.
Best that each of us, black or white, express the power of beauty and goodness in the heart without impediment, in the brazen manner of William Blake, or better yet, Walt Whitman:
I celebrate myself, and sing myself…
My tongue, every atom of my blood…
Nature without check with original energy…
The smoke of my own breath…
Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,
I and this mystery here we stand.
I know I am solid and sound…
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow…
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,
I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!
(Song of Myself)
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Never trust any ideology, left or right, that emphasizes division between races rather than our shared humanness.
Never trust any ideology, left or right, that uses shared humanness to avoid viewing and fixing racial inequality.
Never trust any ideology, left or right, that encourages us to visualize and bring out the bad in each other rather than the good in each other.
Never trust any ideology, left or right, that encourages you to prejudge anyone of any color by their race.
Never trust any ideology, left or right, that says we should respect walls of separation between races.
Never trust any ideology, left or right, that ignores the human consequences of wealth inequality and environmental destruction.
Never trust any ideology, left or right, that ignores the human consequences of unequal access to education, health care, and natural resources.
Never trust any ideology, left or right, that says that we cannot fully identify with all our fellow human beings because some stupidly reified concept of race prevents it.
Never trust any ideology, left or right, that says we cannot creatively identify with people from other demographics in our artistic expressions. When putting oneself in the shoes of other races and demographics becomes the #1 cultural sin, we have pretty much lost everything the Civil Rights movement fought for.
Never trust any ideology, left or right, that suggests we should not celebrate cultural cross-pollination in every direction, continually playing with each other’s cultural stuff, continually wearing the other’s shoes – black, white, female, male, every ethnicity and sexual orientation – incorporating, collaborating, and sharing a laugh when the cross-pollination becomes clumsy, as it often will. Better to throw open all the doors and windows than to build walls around your turf.
Never trust any ideology, left or right, that vilifies one race or demographic to elevate another.
Never trust any ideology, left or right, that says only people who “look like me” can relate to my struggles.
Never trust any ideology, left or right, that does not inspire you to celebrate our differences without denying our shared humanness.
Never trust any ideology, left or right, that does not welcome different and dissenting opinions to the table.
Never trust any ideology, left or right, that obscures the fact that we are all on the same spaceship Earth with limited time and a shared fate; whatever our surface differences, we will sink or swim together as the mothership flourishes or founders.
Never trust any ideology. Turn off the news and love your neighbor.
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One thing wokeness has opened our eyes to is collective guilt. All males are complicit in rape culture.1 All whites are complicit in white supremacy.2 Individuals are not responsible for crimes; they are just acting out the values of their culture. Extend the logic and you will see that when a black man commits a crime, the blame falls on black culture, in which all blacks are complicit; and when an Islamic terrorist strikes, all Moslems are complicit. And here’s a valuable addition for my woke brothers and sisters. I have recently discovered that women and gay people also commit crimes. Extend the collective guilt logic to those groups and, well, we are back in medieval times, where we are all going to hell in a handbasket, without a grim Calvin to save us.
Now that we have reached this pinnacle of religious truth, however, wokers beware! You are under threat. And it’s not conservatives you need to fear. There is an army of scientists and public intellectuals of the liberal sort – Steven Pinker and Jerry Coyne, John McWhorter and Glenn Loury – who are trying to turn us back. Even Obama and Noam Chomsky have taken liberal positions against wokeness. One vile woman is going so far as to twist the Diversity Training Industry away from its proper us-vs-them focus with whites in one box (racists) and blacks in another (victims) into a false narrative that “invite[s] our clients to explore what connects them as human beings.”
In 2021, we are finally moving past the age of so-called Enlightenment. We are finally getting back to where tribal biases can overrule the universal truths and universal rights associated with science and Enlightenment thinking, finally getting back to where tribal identity takes precedence over the idea of shared humanness. We’ve worked long and hard since the 1980s to integrate this neo-medieval world view into our academic, social, and political infrastructure. Don’t let them give us a neo-Enlightenment. Don’t let them put us back into the chains of scientific truth. These are the people who would deny that gravity is a fascist, even though it is plain to see that gravity forces all to abide by its truth, regardless of race or ethnicity. We need tribal truth, not the fascism of science’s universal truths. Don’t let them drag us back to the ideal of universal rights over tribe-based rights. Most of all don’t let them bring back that pre-1980s liberal cornerstone of oppression, “shared humanness,” which would be anathema to the most treasured ideals of wokeness: i.e., tribal bias and cross-racial suspicion.
Wake up, wokes! Liberals are out there, pushing their agenda (free speech, less racialization in our judgments of others) against the woke agenda (stifle dissent, increased racialization in our judgments of others). We’ve increased wokeness in newsrooms, schools, and elsewhere. We now need to consolidate that power and force people into vocal support for our side. Silence is violence. Demand vocal support for wokeness in the workplace, on campus, in the streets, or else. Criminalize all dissent as “unsafe,” as “harmful,” and therefore unprotected by the 1st Amendment. Get to work! The woke revolution is not as secure as you think!
1 ”We are all active contributors to rape culture. All of us. No one is exempt.” (Damon Young, Senior Editor of The Root)
2 “All white people are invested in and collude with racism.” (Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility).
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Interesting. The most common diversity training programs, which typically rely on concepts like white privilege and white fragility, are often perceived (rightly or wrongly) as efforts to shame white people into submission, or as efforts at defining white people into one box (complicit in racism) and defining blacks into another (victims of racism). Unfortunately, when it comes to changing hearts and minds, perception is reality. (I exited university and corporate life before diversity training took hold, so your various experiences with such programs is welcome in the comment section.)
Theory of Enchantment seems to take the opposite approach.
“Looking for an antiracism program that actually fights bigotry instead of spreading it? You’ve come to the right place. We teach love and compassion …. We invite our clients to explore what connects them as human beings.”
This seems so sensible, so uplifting, and so much more likely to dissolve racial divisiveness and get people pulling on the same team, that I’m sure founder Chloé Valdary will get a lot of pushback from the entrenched (multibillion dollar) diversity training establishment. But if Chloe’s approach can warm this vagabond heart so rooted in the Civil Rights/hippie 1960s, maybe her approach can catch on and warm the hearts of the next generation into a new collective flirtation with compassion and shared humanness.
(Note: I suspect her ideas will not win her many university contracts, but the corporate world might be more responsive in this case. It would be a very curious neo-hippie revolution, if corporations are leading the charge of “peace, love, and friendship,” while student movements cling to a more belligerent us vs. them model of racial dynamics 😊.)
Full disclosure: Chloé is from my hometown of New Orleans and that warms my heart too 😊 (I assume that growing up in New Orleans, which is overloaded on both facets of a mixed-race city —  lots of racism, and  lots of cross-racial collaboration and friendship — may have partially shaped Chloé’s approach.)