If you’ve been reading my blog posts in chronological order, you may have noticed that some of my beliefs are evolving. I’m done with the dogmatism around language and the focus on other people’s actions. Call me autistic, call me a person with autism, call me Lucy…as long as you treat me respectfully, I really don’t care, and you can expect the same from me. (The same respect, that is. Not that I don’t care about you.) I noticed that I was becoming quite self-absorbed in the name of “justice,” so I decided to cut it out. I’m shifting my focus from “activism” to being a kind human. In this post, I want to go into more detail about why I’m done with Wokeness.
At the beginning of the summer, my Tumblr feed was flooded with Black Lives Matter posts, and I mean flooded. I hadn’t even realized I was following all these social justice accounts. Actually, I wasn’t following these accounts. I realized that there was a common theme here: the franticness, fear, and panic that users felt after George Floyd’s heinous murder was being channeled into online activism. The main instructions were: sign the petition, reblog this post, click on a link to this other post, which will then link you to 12 other posts on various sites, each of which list 89 things you must do to be a good ally and if you do not, you are complicit in racism. All of it. Everything. I texted my friend:
I’m just trying to be a good person and educate myself about (anti)racism. It’s also like there is SO DAMN MUCH injustice in the world and I was already super immersed in disability everything.
I started to spiral. I did what I thought I was supposed to do: read this thing, watch that, sign this petition, respond on the group chat, decolonize your bookshelf, go through all your playlists, count your Black friends. The last one seemed off to me. I just wasn’t quite sure that I should take stock of every little thing in my life and change it. Wasn’t this so much more complicated? Didn’t systemic problems require systemic solutions? And was it really a good thing that I had started to see my family and friends less as people and more through the lens of checklists and rules and posters and privilege and oppression?
I don’t mean to be awful I just I don’t know bc I’m trying to educate myself and learn but how can I learn about everything? I know you’re not supposed to say this but…like…not everyone can be focused on police violence and systemic racism? And there’s a difference between being aware/educated/informed and I don’t know
Something about it didn’t make sense, but the moment I had that thought, I heard a voice telling me, That’s your privilege talking. So I stopped questioning myself. I outsourced my critical thinking (emphasis on “critical”) to people on Tumblr who’d never met me in their lives, people who had the authority to determine the content of my character based on the color of my skin, and on whether I hit that “reblog” button.
Like I can’t learn everything about everything
Ironically, it was a Tumblr post that got me off Tumblr. Something to the effect of, “You know those posts that say ‘if you don’t reblog this you’re a racist/sexist/homophobe/transphobe/etc.?’ that’s called emotional manipulation, preying on people’s guilt, shame, and fear and you can unfollow those people.”
K now my feed is just surrealist art, stimboards, julien et al., and autistic humor. Mission accomplished
There’s a lot of emotional manipulation going on right now in the Woke world, actually. Everyone wants me to care about their cause. But we can’t all do everything. Police violence is horrific. Racism is a real and serious issue. And there are so many other equally real and serious problems, like poverty and healthcare access and gun violence and mental illness and physical illness and disability and climate change and immigration and gangs and education and world hunger and drought and it’s hard enough to be an expert in one of those things, let alone knowing enough about them all.
Like I don’t think I’m going to make this my fight because…I’m already fighting a different fight? In a non-violent very loving way? But like…
And then I started to wonder if it was really about knowing. There were so many emails that went out, so many statements from Stanford around June following George Floyd’s death. Don’t get me wrong: it was a horrifying crime, a horrific thing to happen to any human being. But I couldn’t help but think about that vigil that I organized in March, over 650 disabled people murdered by their caregivers in the last five years. There are no emails about that. On my dorm group chat, one of the people I know messaged everyone to say that their friend had designed a sticker that said “protect black lives,” that they were really passionate about the message. They were selling it for $4.50, all proceeds benefited bailout funds. A $4.50 sticker. Produced where, by whom? What if that time and money had just gone into volunteering? How much of this was a performance?
That’s what [name] and I were talking about, how Wokeness is like the bar of being a good person and if you do the right things and say the right things and optics, then you’re considered a Good Person but it’s superficial and there’s no room for disagreement. Actually I think microinvalidation is the term that was coined basically to delegitimize the delegitimization of opposing opinions
Systemic problems require systemic solutions, and screaming at people is not a systemic solution. To understand police violence, you need to understand the history of race in America, mass incarceration, the legal system, poverty, and tons of other things that are super simple and can definitely be reduced into hashtags without losing an ounce of complexity.
That was sarcasm.
if offense is the metric for wrongdoing logic goes out the window
It’s estimated that between one third and one half of the victims of police brutality are disabled. And arguably, disabled people are being hit the hardest by this pandemic by virtue of being disabled. Why aren’t we talking about that?
I like how the top three signs in yards in Palo Alto right now are black lives matter, destroy castilleja, and we are very proud of our graduates
Maybe because disabled people are disabled, which means – again, by definition – that we are less able to protest, advocate, and even communicate. Maybe because disability isn’t static and a person can become more or less disabled over time, so it’s pretty hard to divide the world into ableists and anti-ableists. And maybe because humans are fallible, because however good our intentions might be, we can so easily get whipped up into a panic of frenzied action, and in doing so, we might convince others – and ourselves – that we are more capable of defining justice than we actually are.
I want to go to a protest one of these days with a sign that says “I don’t have an opinion but I do have a sign”
You can believe that Black lives matter without agreeing with or supporting Black Lives Matter.
You can believe that people have different experiences of gender and that these experiences are meaningful and worthy of respect while still acknowledging that biological sex exists.
You can believe that disabled people are limited by society without arguing that disability is entirely a social construct (and without ignoring people with severe disabilities in the process).
You can believe that it is never okay to shame someone for how they look and that our society’s beauty standards are tremendously damaging while still acknowledging that very high body weight is correlated with poor health.
You can believe things that are far too complicated to fit on a sticker, and you can question those things. It’s the questioning, I think, that matters most.
So this is why I’m not Woke anymore. The Woker I became, by reading the right books and doing the right things and saying the right words and snapping at the right times, the less I thought. I had just turned into a human sponge, sopping up the ideas around me without any trace of critical evaluation. And in doing so, I hadn’t come to a better understanding of the issues I cared about. I’d just been presented with a distorted interpretation of these issues through a Critical Theory framework in the service of a political ideology with which I don’t actually agree. And that wasn’t what I’d signed up for. As James Lindsay explains in one of his podcasts, social justice isn’t what’s on the box. It’s marketed as – well – justice. Justice for all these different groups of people, and of course I want justice, of course I’d like to be a part of that movement. But then it ends up being a much more cynical ideology that goes to war with reality and dismantles structures of logic and polarizes the country. I’ve had enough of that.
I guess you could say I’m privileged. Or just lucky. So I’m determined to work towards a less ableist future and help people understand autism and support other autistics and celebrate autistic culture and community, but it’s not a matter of fighting. I’m not being wrong or oppressed. And the main thing that changed wasn’t other people – it was me.
If you’re interested in what I’m describing, the abandonment of Wokeness towards a new, more just social justice, I’ll leave you with some hyperlinks. And more reflections on my departure from the Woke world in the weeks to come.
- “A Better Anti-Racism” by Coleman Hughes
- “How White Fragility Talks Down to Black People” by John McWhorter
- Bret Weinstein’s BlackHorse – Black Intellectual Roundtable
- “Hurtling Toward Totalitarianism: A Call to Action In Defense Of All We Hold Dear” by Julian Christopher
- “We Can’t Just Oppose Racism: We Must Transcend Race” by Inaya Folarin Iman