Apostates are often the best source of information about the faithful and the faith. And so it is with British/Zimbabwean writer, speaker and consultant, Africa Brooke. Until recently, Brooke was an enthusiastic member of the woke, whom she now calls a “cult.” But the events following the murder of George Floyd turned her head. She’s now written an open letter disavowing the woke and their movement, that’s definitely worth the read. Although much of what she says has been said before, hearing from one who was, until recently, a true believer, gives her letter a weight others lack. She’s lived in the belly of the beast and, horrified, got out.
Brooke found that, to be a card-carrying member of the woke, one must submit unquestioningly to the woke ideology. Questions, contradictory facts, seeing gray instead of simply black or white are all verboten and, if indulged in, will subject one to shaming, “bullying, doxing, stalking, and harassment...and sometimes ends in suicide.” She not only saw that, she took part in it as well.
What is the cult of the woke? It’s a
movement that encourages groupthink, outrage on demand, fear and violence, revamped segregation, fabricating history, cancellations masked as accountability, self-centredness...
normalisation of racism towards white people, the disempowerment of black people masked as social justice, the constant redefining of existing language, ignoring self-responsibility, constant pathologizing, oppressed vs oppressor mentality, and the pressure to conform and comply
Not a pretty picture. Anyone who embraces wokeism/social justice ideology/critical race theory/etc. should read those words and ask themselves whether that’s a healthy or productive movement. It’s what’s been taken up by countless people in politics, business and government, but evades basic questions.
Brooke is not so reticent. She implicitly asks (and answers) one question I’ve long wanted to – “will it work?” After all, if the goal truly is to eradicate race-based disparities in American society, wouldn’t the woke want to get behind something that’s likely to achieve the goal? Wouldn’t they abjure anything unlikely to succeed?
How are they helping us move forward? Is this true social justice? How is this helping the black community? How is this shaping a world where you and I aren't judged by the colour of our skin? Are we really trying to eradicate racism with racism?...
I honestly struggle to see how shaming others (or shaming yourself) for having white skin is an essential part of fueling true social change. Surely this is regressive? It also sounds a little like the very thing we've spent years moving away from...
None of these narrow definitions of human existence or blackness help me. None of it helps my community. It's keeping us small. It's keeping us stuck, afraid, and defensive. I reject the idea that I am a victim. I reject the idea that I am oppressed.
Indeed. The woke approach of calling every white person, and everything a white person does or says “racist” isn’t likely to benefit anyone. Neither is the disempowering and objectively false notion that all blacks are forever oppressed. Will it work? If we all embraced wokeism, what would be the likely result? Would the black crime rate decrease or black earnings increase? Would black kids do better in school? Would black women suddenly begin marrying before having children? How would any of those things come about?
The simple fact is that, whatever one thinks of woke ideology, it offers no avenue for constructive change. According to Brooke, that’s not even the point.
My biggest realisation has been that most of these people that pose as Social Justice Warriors, Activists, Agents of Change etc. - don't actually want to improve and repair society. They don't want a better world. For some the goal is to make things worse.
A lot of the people I know in these spaces have brands, careers, and management teams from this. Their livelihood depends on them playing this role, which often means that they will continue to find everything wrong with society instead of making consistent efforts to unite and truly empower…
A lot of what I'm seeing in the woke/critical social justice spaces is not about creating a better world, it seems to be about punishment and revenge.
Brooke is black and knows plenty of other blacks who want no part of CRT or the woke mentality. They reject the need to see all blacks as the same and all of them as oppressed. They know they’re not. But apart from their rejection of the woke, they tend to embrace something else.
I dread the prospect of a world where context, nuance, critical thinking, meritocracy, mathematics, science, and rationality are considered tools of 'white supremacy', and the rule is that you're not allowed to question or argue this senseless statement - especially if you're white.
Yes, those things Brooke lists are neither “white” nor “tools of white supremacy.” Memo to the woke: black people value them too. Brooke and those she respects want a world of compassion and understanding, of recognizing each person as unique and responsible for their own actions, good, bad or indifferent. She honors Martin Luther King who, if he were around to witness the fiasco of wokeism, would be appalled.
How many open letters – like Brooke’s, like the one last June signed by 163 well-known writers, academics, etc. and published in Harpers - need to be written, how many decent people need to be fired, how many need to be shamed, how many buildings burned, how many people need to be assaulted before we have our Emperor’s New Clothes moment and call a halt to the destructive, know-nothing fantasies of the woke movement? How long before we finally hang on wokeism its proper descriptor – Stalinesque?
Until we do, count on the fact that society will continue to fracture into tribes, public discourse will continue to devolve into blind hatred and nothing – nothing – will improve.
Thanks to Africa Brooke for putting her shoulder to the wheel.