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Wokeness Emphasizes Race as Much as the 'White Supremacists' It Claims to Combat

AP Photo/Noah Berger

These days we’re painfully aware of the hold that wokeness has on our culture. It’s hard to turn on a TV, read an article, or walk into a classroom without encountering woke opinions. With the abundance of cancel culture, wokes are able to shut down debate or neutralize opposition to their ideas.

One of the hallmarks of the woke philosophy is an overemphasis on race, particularly critical race theory, which stratifies various people based on racial grievances. The common refrain of the wokes is the need to combat “white supremacy,” which they find around every corner and under every rock. If there’s no evidence for racism, the wokes will manufacture it.

The thing is, the U.S. has wrestled with actual white supremacy, both in reckoning with slavery and fighting the difficult struggles of the civil rights era. We’re not perfect now — nor will we ever be — but the “white supremacy” that the wokes love to invoke doesn’t really exist.

In the December issue of Spectator World — in print and online — Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes a bold claim: that the wokes are the real white supremacists. It’s a bit much to me for her to stretch the argument that far, but she does make some good points.

She writes:

What remains of white supremacy today is ridiculous and marginal: skinheads, the Klan, neo-Nazis. The dangers of their cancerous ideas are documented and understood, and our vigilance is fully justified. But to claim, as President Biden recently did, that white supremacy is “the biggest domestic threat we face” is nonsensical, histrionic and self-serving. To compare Jim Crow to requesting voter IDs in Georgia is to implicitly express contempt for the victims of Jim Crow and the men and women who fought against white supremacy.

She makes her most salient point when she explains that the wokes are as obsessed with race as the “while supremacists” they claim to fight:

If white supremacists are racist because they put race at the center of all human interaction, what are the woke? The woke also put race at the center of everything and rank human beings into races. They also obsess over degrees of skin color and place brown-skinned people in the middle of the race hierarchy, as “white-adjacent.” For the woke as for the white supremacist, the white-skinned people are on top — only this time, they’re bad because they’re the top at oppressing other races. And blacks are still placed at the bottom as victims.

It’s a fascinating comparison. Wokes claim that white people and those who would curry favor with them are guilty of stratifying everyone based on skin color and genetic makeup, but in reality, they’re the ones who classify the world by race.

In their desire to rid the world of white-supremacy-that-really-isn’t, they’ve taken over so many aspects of our culture, including language, a fact that Ali points out:

The woke seek unchecked and absolute power. They are advancing from the academy into the other institutions of society. Our language is constantly policed so that it may be “purified” of bigotry and injustice, defined only as the woke define them. A substitute lexicon describes the reality the woke wish to impose, and it is a contamination of language.

Ali concludes by applauding that we’ve managed to remove genuine white supremacy from polite corners of society, but in its place has emerged an equally insidious obsession with race. She maintains that we need to rid our world of the specter of wokeness the way we shook off the ghosts of white supremacy that haunted American life for so long. And she’s right.

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