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How do we think about the "woke" debate? Show more Show less

Proponents of so-called "woke culture" describe the term as having an awareness of inequalities, social issues and injustices. Yet, others are less convinced - suggesting that it has a more sinister undertone. These critics draw crude parallels between its values and those of authoritarianism, which have allegedly turned it into what President Trump calls "childlike fascism". Should we be woke to the pitfalls of this ideological movement?

"Wokeness is flawed" Show more Show less

While the cause is noble, it suffers from flaws in its approach and structure.
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The binary view of injustice in the woke debate undermines its cause

Wokeness is simply being aware of injustice, but this is where its problem lies. There is no moderation in its ideology. Rather, the more "woke" one is, the better. While awareness in its purest sense is encouraged, there is no overarching idea of how to overcome the issues it highlights.
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Context

The Argument

The first step in fighting inequality is recognizing it. Unfortunately, "woke culture" doesn't move past that step. While its goals are admirable, there are serious questions about its efficacy in affecting change. At the moment, woke culture has an undue focus on privilege and oppressive structures in society. That is why its critics primarily see it as a very loud practice in virtue signaling. It certainly hopes to create changes that dismantle oppressive structures, but their lack of policy and abundance of criticisms slows progress.[1] In many ways, wokeness does not allow for any effective change due to its absolutist attitude on how to achieve it.[2] Two social justice groups could both want to decrease poverty in urban minority communities, but if one does not fully fit into the progressive narrative, woke culture dismisses it as a right-wing shill. In reality, real change is gained through coalitions of groups with common goals. Woke culture, in its current form, does not allow for any compromise on how to achieve its goals, and that may come at the cost of those they defend. As President Barack Obama suggests, “People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids, and share certain things with you.”[3] Whether its a restructuring of the movement or completely abandoning it, the left's proponents of wokeness need to adapt to the critiques of their methods. Without changes, perhaps critics are right in the cause's inability to create substantive changes in society.

Counter arguments

Did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. carry around a book of laws and reforms he wanted? No. Few of the most successful social and civil rights causes have had a unified or concrete policy agenda. Before the movement gets there, we need to expose and become more aware of all the oppressive systems in society. Through that exposure, we can gain broad support for the dismantling of institutions that perpetuate inequality. Some of those bridges will need to be crossed when we arrive there. Compromise is what has established the status quo. By capitulating the right, liberals in the past have only served to lengthen the oppression of minorities. Through wokeness, and calls for radical change, those compromises and systems will be dismantled in order to form a more just society.

Framing

Premises

[P1] Woke culture does not have any clear outcomes or policy goals beyond broad platitudes of "equity." [P2] Wokeness is too uncompromising in its worldview. [P3] Changes will likely need to be made to the movement for it to remain a viable path to reform.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Not every social justice cause has a unified approach or clear policy outcomes. It is trying to affect positive change in any way. [Rejecting P2] Compromise has only gotten us so far, and there is still too much inequality in society. We need radical change. [Rejecting P3] Changes will happen dynamically, and the woke movement is already gaining support. It is fine how it is.

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/07/opinion/wokeness-racism-progressivism-social-justice.html
  2. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/02/bloomberg-flunks-wokeness-test-it-doesnt-matter/606634/
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/31/us/politics/obama-woke-cancel-culture.html
This page was last edited on Sunday, 21 Jun 2020 at 19:25 UTC