For a long time I thought that being "woke" always was a positive thing. Sure, conservatives warned of the danger of liberal political correctness, but by and large I thought that fear was overblown.
I still believe that it is better to be overly concerned about racism, sexism, nationalism, and other nasty "ism's" than under concerned.
However, a balance needs to be struck between awareness of social problems affecting minorities and other historically oppressed groups, and an overzealous righteousness where perceived affronts to social justice are criticized in an absurd fashion.
Here's a couple of examples of how I've been cited by the Woke Police here in Salem. Keep in mind that my progressive credentials are impeccable in my admittedly personal opinion.
I always vote Democratic. I've supported Progressive Salem-backed candidates in every election since that organization was formed. My Salem Political Snark blog posts almost always criticize non-progressive policies, though I'm fine with taking shots at fellow liberals when I think this is deserved. I've marched against Trump and in favor of Black Lives Matter.
In short, I'm a mainstream progressive. My three blogs and three Facebook pages I administer are an open book. I doubt anyone could find something I've written that isn't solidly liberal. However, I'm not an extreme liberal.
That's why the Woke Police cited me for several insufficiently woke infractions.
(See here for a review of how the modern meaning of "woke" came into the English lexicon; in 2017 the Oxford English Dictionary defined it as "alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice.")
Yesterday I got a message via Facebook asking about the cover photo on my personal Facebook page, as shown above. Here's our dialogue, with my replies in italics.
Hey there.. so... I was just wondering if you could help me understand what the headdress looking thing is in your cover photo?
Just a mask that I got at the Oregon Country Fair in Veneta one year.
So you don't know what it is or its cultural significance?
No. It just is a mask sold by the creative mask makers who had a booth at the fair. The cultural significance is that I liked the mask and bought it.
Were the people who made the mask of African descent? The reason I'm bringing this to your attention is because you may not be aware that what you've done with that mask might be seen as cultural appropriation. It's very reminiscent of an African ceremonial headdress and face paint.
I don’t believe in cultural appropriation, so this concerns me not at all. I guess by your reasoning I shouldn’t have gotten so many Tango lessons, since this dance style originated in a different culture.
Huh... well okay then. I would kindly invite you to study up on the topic and learn the differences between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange and appreciation. Maybe when I have a moment ill dig up a few resources for you.
I believe in America as a melting pot. My father's parents came from Germany. My heritage is a bit over 85% German and Baltic states. So what? Doesn’t bother me at all when someone wants to have a beer festival. Cultural appropriation makes no sense to me but you’re welcome to embrace it.
Now, I'm not saying that cultural appropriation isn't a real thing. This is why the Washington Redskins pro football team has just been called the Washington team since 2020. Redskins seems offensive to me. But the mask I bought doesn't seem offensive at all.
It's a matter of degree. If Redskins scores 100 on the woke cultural appropriation scale, I'd rate me wearing my mask at a 1. Or even zero.
However, over on a private Facebook group I belong to, Let's Discuss Salem, where Salem-related issues are discussed, today the person concerned about my mask left this comment on a post that I'd shared with the group.
Im just gonna point out that Brian here told me that he doesn't believe in cultural appropriation, it makes me wonder what else he doesn't believe..
Ooh! Scary! A member of the Woke Police, who often bear at least some resemblance to a Maoist reeducation committee back when such existed in communist China, are using my mask infraction as reason to question what other inappropriate ideas might be floating around in my pseudo-progressive head.
Why, I might be a closeted Trump supporter. Or maybe a Proud Boy who keeps my bear spray, baseball bat, and paintball gun hidden from my liberal friends, which could be why I need a culturally appropriated mask to hide my identity when I go out beating up Black Lives Matter protesters.
Speaking of the Proud Boys, my other recent run-in with the Woke Police happened after I posted a story on the Let's Discuss Salem Facebook group from the Oregonian regarding last Sunday's battle in Portland between Proud Boys and counter-protesters.
I figured what I said about the Oregonian story would be fairly uncontroversial.
It didn't bother me that most of the commenters on my post disagreed with me. They felt antifa and other counter-protesters should be armed and fight against the Proud Boys. What irritated me were the comments saying that I was complicit in the nasty stuff Proud Boys do, because I didn't think it made sense to fight with them on Portland city streets. For example...
Hi, I’m sorry, but silence is absolutely violence in this case snd I refuse to remain silent. If you want to tuck your tail between your legs and retreat, we don’t need you anyways. I will not let these terrorists remain comfortable here. You are a problem, Brian.
Let me make a cup of tea, I cannot wait to read what an old white guy thinks BIPOC people should do when terrorists come to town to kill them.
Brian is basically saying, if you got cancer or a tumor growing on your nose right in front of your eyes, ignore it and it will go away. Of course as a white man, you can ignore hate and still live comfortably. The same can't be said for others.
The comments got so bad, a friend defended me.
Can we please stop the personal attacks on my friend Brian Hines? He and I (obviously) disagree on a number of topics, but he is a kind and thoughtful person. I am grateful for his posts here, which help make this an open forum and not an echo chamber. I am here to learn and debate, not to watch people who are here in good faith be harried and driven out.
Well, that's the goal of the Woke Police.
They're motivated by an almost religious zeal for ideological purity. If you don't agree completely with their take on social issues, then you're a traitor to the progressive cause. Geez, all I said was counter-protesters shouldn't arm themselves and get into fights with the Proud Boys.
UPDATE: I was just informed that this blog post, which I shared on Let's Discuss Salem because it obviously pertains to how issues are discussed on that bastion of wokeness, has been deleted from that Facebook group. I told the administrator that it was strange that numerous comments criticizing me personally were allowed, yet this well-reasoned critique of political correctness was banned. Guess I hit a nerve with the Woke Police. I invite Salem residents who are on Facebook to head over to Let's Discuss Salem and join the group. If enough reasonable people become members, we could change the climate of the group for the better. FURTHER UPDATE: It seems the Let's Discuss Salem administrators deleted my Facebook posting before reading this blog post, which doesn't surprise me. I've now been told that after they finished reading this blog post, it has been deemed racially insensitive. I've asked how this could be.
That puts me in some damn good non-violent company. Like Martin Luther King and Mahatma Ghandi. Of course, having said that, the Woke Police now probably will charge me with runaway egotism, comparing myself to King and Ghandi.
This is the problem with having a black and white view of the world. Nuance, shades of gray, moral ambiguity, political compromise -- that doesn't appeal to people on either the left or right who believe that how they see things is how everybody should see things.
However, since excessive wokeness is related to political correctness, the good news is that the people who found fault with me on Facebook aren't at all representative of the country as a whole. Here's excerpts from an October 2018 story in The Atlantic, "Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture." If that link doesn't work for you (I'm a The Atlantic subscriber), The Hidden Tribes of America report described in The Atlantic story can be read here. And below is a PDF file of The Atlantic story.
Download Large Majorities Dislike Political Correctness - The Atlantic
Note the last paragraph about how the 8 percent of Americans who are progressive activists, and are most likely to support woke political correctness, are viewed by most other Americans as falling prey to a "preening display of cultural superiority."
On social media, the country seems to divide into two neat camps: Call them the woke and the resentful. Team Resentment is manned—pun very much intended—by people who are predominantly old and almost exclusively white. Team Woke is young, likely to be female, and predominantly black, brown, or Asian (though white “allies” do their dutiful part). These teams are roughly equal in number, and they disagree most vehemently, as well as most routinely, about the catchall known as political correctness.
Reality is nothing like this. As scholars Stephen Hawkins, Daniel Yudkin, Miriam Juan-Torres, and Tim Dixon argue in a report published Wednesday, “Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape,” most Americans don’t fit into either of these camps. They also share more common ground than the daily fights on social media might suggest—including a general aversion to PC culture.
The study was written by More in Common, an organization founded in memory of Jo Cox, the British MP who was murdered in the run-up to the Brexit referendum. It is based on a nationally representative poll with 8,000 respondents, 30 one-hour interviews, and six focus groups conducted from December 2017 to September 2018.
If you look at what Americans have to say on issues such as immigration, the extent of white privilege, and the prevalence of sexual harassment, the authors argue, seven distinct clusters emerge: progressive activists, traditional liberals, passive liberals, the politically disengaged, moderates, traditional conservatives, and devoted conservatives.
According to the report, 25 percent of Americans are traditional or devoted conservatives, and their views are far outside the American mainstream. Some 8 percent of Americans are progressive activists, and their views are even less typical. By contrast, the two-thirds of Americans who don’t belong to either extreme constitute an “exhausted majority.” Their members “share a sense of fatigue with our polarized national conversation, a willingness to be flexible in their political viewpoints, and a lack of voice in the national conversation.”
...Most members of the “exhausted majority,” and then some, dislike political correctness. Among the general population, a full 80 percent believe that “political correctness is a problem in our country.” Even young people are uncomfortable with it, including 74 percent ages 24 to 29, and 79 percent under age 24. On this particular issue, the woke are in a clear minority across all ages.
Youth isn’t a good proxy for support of political correctness—and it turns out race isn’t, either.
Whites are ever so slightly less likely than average to believe that political correctness is a problem in the country: 79 percent of them share this sentiment. Instead, it is Asians (82 percent), Hispanics (87 percent), and American Indians (88 percent) who are most likely to oppose political correctness.
...The one part of the standard narrative that the data partially affirm is that African Americans are most likely to support political correctness. But the difference between them and other groups is much smaller than generally supposed: Three quarters of African Americans oppose political correctness. This means that they are only four percentage points less likely than whites, and only five percentage points less likely than the average, to believe that political correctness is a problem.
...If age and race do not predict support for political correctness, what does? Income and education.
While 83 percent of respondents who make less than $50,000 dislike political correctness, just 70 percent of those who make more than $100,000 are skeptical about it. And while 87 percent who have never attended college think that political correctness has grown to be a problem, only 66 percent of those with a postgraduate degree share that sentiment.
Political tribe—as defined by the authors—is an even better predictor of views on political correctness. Among devoted conservatives, 97 percent believe that political correctness is a problem. Among traditional liberals, 61 percent do. Progressive activists are the only group that strongly backs political correctness: Only 30 percent see it as a problem.
...So what does this group look like? Compared with the rest of the (nationally representative) polling sample, progressive activists are much more likely to be rich, highly educated—and white. They are nearly twice as likely as the average to make more than $100,000 a year. They are nearly three times as likely to have a postgraduate degree. And while 12 percent of the overall sample in the study is African American, only 3 percent of progressive activists are. With the exception of the small tribe of devoted conservatives, progressive activists are the most racially homogeneous group in the country.
...It turns out that while progressive activists tend to think that only hate speech is a problem, and devoted conservatives tend to think that only political correctness is a problem, a clear majority of all Americans holds a more nuanced point of view: They abhor racism. But they don’t think that the way we now practice political correctness represents a promising way to overcome racial injustice.
The study should also make progressives more self-critical about the way in which speech norms serve as a marker of social distinction. I don’t doubt the sincerity of the affluent and highly educated people who call others out if they use “problematic” terms or perpetrate an act of “cultural appropriation.” But what the vast majority of Americans seem to see—at least according to the research conducted for “Hidden Tribes”—is not so much genuine concern for social justice as the preening display of cultural superiority.