Watch out –- I just flipped through an “O” (as in “Oprah”) magazine and am loaded for bear.
Yes, I just came home from the beauty salon, the one place I “carry out my research” on women’s magazines, and I’m sorry to say that Oprah is doing her best to “mainstream” identity politics and political correctness in her March 2019 issue; on the cover it says “Great AWOKEnings --- the power of opening yourself to someone else’s experience.” It’s all about being “woke,” which is very, very important. So I borrowed the issue and have it sitting open next to me right now.
Even though it's my nature to be extremely open to other people’s experiences, I had to check this out. Starting on page 100, there’s a spread called “How WOKE are you?” Subhead: “It takes courage, compassion, wide-open eyes, and an equally open heart –- but if you can heed the call of your conscience, if you can look bravely and honestly within, you can help nudge the world toward a better place.” Okay, that part sounds good, so let’s get started. To kick off our discussion, here are a couple of sentences worth singling out from just the first couple of paragraphs:
“If you’re white, are you --- by virtue of your skin’s inherent privilege --- part of what keeps them [other people] from living better? If you’re a person of color, are you aware of the mechanisms that deny you similar privilege? To engage with such matters --- regularly, vigilantly --- is to be, in a word, WOKE.”
This part of the spread has no byline that I can find, so I guess it was written by Oprah and/or her editorial board. It imparts the message that being WOKE is tireless, relentless work that must be done to achieve an awareness of what it takes to “see and say what has gone unseen, unspoken.” Conversations with those different from ourselves. Conversations with...ourselves. The “mandate” to not look away “from any of it.” The world must be safe and fair for all. Difference should be celebrated, not feared. Humans must have respect, access, a chance. (“Great news,” it reassures those who agree. That means “you’re a good person.” Congratulations.)
But it goes on. “Ours is an age in which progress is under siege,” it says, most likely a veiled reference to President Trump and all the deplorables such as myself who absolutely could not vote for aspiring Felon-In-Chief Hillary Clinton and instead supported him, “but also one in which social justice and social media have melded into a force strong enough to topple villains (be gone, #MeToo perps) and lift up heroes (go, Parkland kids, go!). In the ‘60s, we marched, now we hashtag (AND march; an estimated 5 million strong at the 2017 Women’s Marches).” Good lord. My main take-aways from the Women’s Marches were p-hats, outspoken anti-Semites, and Ashley Judd’s ghastly reading of “Nasty Woman” about blood on the bedsheets. But I digress.
Turn the page, and in an idiotic piece called “Fear and Loathing,” Charlie Schneider, a Brooklyn writer who is white (as if I cared) but of indeterminate gender (ditto), “wonders how many other white people feel it, too: the humiliation of being forced to face your privilege.” In case you don't force yourself to read the whole thing, here’s just a taste: “Many white people, while well meaning, may nonetheless feel entitled to their privilege without realizing or wanting to admit it...Imagine how it must feel to someone new to the idea of white privilege, not aware of systemic racism or its insidious effects, to be confronted about their whiteness. They might become angry, or maybe something worse: proudly defiant, more secure in their prejudice. I ask myself how I can reach someone like that.”
At the risk of sounding “proudly defiant” and “more secure” in my “prejudice,” I have to say that I have looked at this “woke” thing and the concept of intersectionality up one side and down the other for quite some time and have concluded that this is simply no way to deal with race relations. It seems extremely counterproductive, even damaging, which I think is actually the purpose of some who are pushing it. (Not everyone wants us all to come together, you know.) It urges “non-privileged” people to address any given situation with the assumption that they’re oppressed and to see racism where there really, truly might not be any. That’s just plain abusive, as abusive as frightening a child by telling him that the world is going to end in 12 years. But leftists do that, too.
At the risk of sounding defensive, I have to say that I have always enjoyed having conversations with people different from myself, not to become more “woke” but because it’s always fascinating, ESPECIALLY with people who come from a different ethnicity or background. I also have always enjoyed having conversations with myself, because I am quite fascinating as well. I was extremely fortunate to be born when and where I was, with a functioning brain and parents who encouraged me to use it, but I do not feel “entitled” to anything and don’t believe anyone else is, either, even in a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to make up for past wrongs.
There’s no mathematical formula that can compute how much privilege, or lack thereof, a person has had in life. I’m white, but I’ve had to deal with tragedy, illness, disappointment. I say this not to gain sympathy but to make the point that everyone’s life is different and too complex to be viewed just through the prism of race/gender/orientation, etc. We all need to approach life with strength and forgiveness, whatever we –- or our ancestors –- have been through. As for respect, I don’t think it necessarily goes to the person who demands it in the loudest voice.
I don’t care about having the approval of the people who write these articles, or run the seminars, or teach the college courses. They can call me deplorable, part of the problem, even racist –- whatever they want to –- but they will be wrong. Sorry, but if that’s what they think, they are just flat-out wrong. I know myself and the way I feel about people who are different from me, and they do not.
The Academy Awards --- yes, I managed to sit through the whole 3-1/2 hours, even longer if you count the red carpet --- were less about movies than they were about identity politics, with numerous heavy-handed references to this “community” and that “community.” Sorry, but this is where we are going off the cliff. I really don’t consider myself to be part of any community, unless you mean that I’m an American, or maybe a Texan, or in an artistic community (which is full of diversity). News flash: In modern-day America, being white is not a club. I have a general idea of what’s in my DNA but don’t know for sure and don’t care. I've been witness to some racism but even as a young child saw it for what it was. I consider myself to be part of one race, the human race.
At the risk of sounding “proudly defiant,” I think we’d all be better off from this day forward if more people thought that way.
It’s not politically correct to talk like this, but so what? At this point, I don’t care who approves of me. I sure don’t care if Berkeley wouldn’t want me to come speak there, although it will be Berkeley’s loss. There’s no defensiveness on my part, no guilt, no fear. Just honesty, and fair-mindedness, and the hope that 20 years from now, this sham of identity politics will seem just as outdated, ridiculous and wrong-headed as segregated water fountains seem to us today.
NOTE: I was hoping to provide a link to this article but haven’t been able to find the magazine content online. If you go to Oprah’s official website, though, guess what you CAN read: An exclusive excerpt from Michelle Obama’s BECOMING.