In some quarters it’s being said that 2020 may go down as the year “woke culture” died—if more people start seeing recent events for what they truly are, then we just may get our wish.
As recently reported by Rolling Stone, six women of color have quit Elizabeth Warren’s campaign for the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nod. Among other things, the women complained about being made to feels as if they were there merely as tokens for the sake of campaign optics.
While it’s easy to hang such complaints around Warren’s neck, who herself has a history of shamelessly appropriating Native American culture for the sake of furthering her own interests in law school, it takes an entire campaign staff, and its leadership team, to create such an environment, even if Warren herself must ultimately be held accountable for the climate that is created in her name.
Meanwhile, here in Canada, photographic evidence emerged last year of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau having worn blackface and brownface on multiple occasions, from high school through to his stint as a teacher at a private school in British Columbia. Given that he had grown up with a father who was instrumental in bringing about multiculturalism as a government policy and as a cherished Canadian value (to the extent the average Canadian understands what it actually means), I can’t think of a single excuse for any of the current Prime Minister’s black and brownface shenanigans, especially the most recent instance, at a time when he would have long passed through the political correctness gauntlet that is academe.
These revelations caused a stir in the media at the time, but for the most part Trudeau came through it unscathed, and went on to win the 2019 election, albeit as a minority government. His usual cheerleaders in the state-run and state-subsidized media gave him a pass. If Conservative leader Andrew Sheer had done such a thing, you can be sure that those same outlets would be calling for a public hanging on the front lawn of Parliament Hill.
In addition to the blackface fiasco, Trudeau has been shown to have an unsavory attitude towards women who happen to stand their own ground in the face of his attempts to influence them, as witnessed by his treatment of Jody Wilson-Raybould last year when she refused to treat SNC-Lavalin with kid gloves amid pending corruption charges. This is jarring in light of Trudeau’s public routine of playing “male feminist” for the cameras.
All of the above only further confirms to me that political correctness has always been (and always will be) about nothing more than overtures and pandering, rather than (or even in lieu of) any genuine change of heart. It is why we see political leaders gather visible minorities around them for the sake of a photo-op, only to make them subsequently feel like minority mannequins (in Warren’s campaign), or to mock them among behind closed doors (Trudeau in blackface).
Don’t think for a moment that political correctness is the exact same thing as anti-racism, or feminism. In its own way, “woke culture” is insidious, in that it dehumanizes minorities by keeping them at arm’s length and on standby in case of media coverage, as if they were merely objects of convenience. (“Break glass in case of political opportunism.”)
“Political correctness” as a concept is also suspect, as it refers to social and political expedience, rather than any sort of moral high ground--what a society deems to be “politically correct” changes over time, and is constantly in flux. Just as it would have been “politically correct” to own black slaves in the 1800’s, or it was also “politically correct” in 1930s and 1940s Germany to join the Nazi Party.
Suffice to say that political correctness in and of itself is not inherently noble.
I’m not saying that all who subscribe to politically correct manners and policies are closet racists, misogynists, or anti-Semites—however, we need to start seeing pandering for what it is, and stop letting “politically correct” social cues blind us to actual intolerance.
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