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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 an awareness of privilege and inequality" Show more Show less

The term has stayed true to its origins in the American civil rights movement, where it was applied to show awareness of structural inequalities.
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Wokeness is an expression of white guilt

White guilt, or the feeling of culpability in benefiting from inherited wealth and privilege, is ultimately why so many liberals advocate for wokeness. With an awareness of their relative privilege to those they defend, proponents of wokeness aim to correct the inequity that they represent.
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The Argument

If wokeness is motivated by anything, it's white guilt. Regardless of its intent, the expression of white guilt among the left obviously plays a part in forming this progressive coalition. [1] This expression of guilt works as an acknowledgment of historical injustices that have benefited white people. While the goals of woke white liberals may be pure, the motivations for supporting the culture may be less authentic. Still, it works as a corrective to the years of inherited wealth and privilege that white people have reaped the benefits of. Through this admission of culpability, perhaps the privileged can begin to correct the inequities that are plaguing society. without this claiming of responsibility, nothing will change.

Counter arguments

There is nothing inherently privileged about being white. White people still suffer from poverty, poor health, and lack of access to opportunity. Most of the perceived racial inequities are more easily explained by wealth and geography, rather than purely racial dimensions. As Toby Young suggests, we have "confused class privilege with racial privilege."[2] Considering that many white people still live in disadvantaged contexts, it is deluded to carry "white guilt." We would be better served to address wealth disparities and health disparities, rather than racial ones. Therefore, we would be providing solutions to every population, rather than just minorities.



[P1] White guilt over inherited wealth and privilege motivates support for wokeness. [P2] The admission of guilt is key to dismantling the structures of privilege in society that perpetuate inequity.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Many white people do not inherit wealth or have any significant privilege in society. [Rejecting P2] White people today were not directly responsible for any of the mistakes of the past, so to feel guilt is irrational.


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This page was last edited on Thursday, 18 Jun 2020 at 16:27 UTC