Wokeism Is Not New

I was rummaging around again in my archive of old columns from the mid-1990s that never appeared online anywhere, and I found one, from December 1996, that shows the current CRT/”anti-racism” claptrap was rapidly gaining ground way back then:

Still Trendier Than Thou: The Joy of Guilt-Mongering

Nearly 20 years ago the late Paul Seabury of U.C. Berkeley wrote a sprightly feature article in Harper’s magazine about the Episcopal Church entitled “Trendier Than Thou.”  Seabury was a decendant of Samuel Seabury, the first Episcopal Bishop in the United States in the 1770s.  So he was well-placed to comment on the secular leftward drift of the Episcopal Church that included the Bishop of San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral admonishing his worshippers for being “on the side of the greater evils of racism, militarism, and imperialism.”

Fast forward to 1996, and it appears that little has changed.  The mail brings a copy of the Episcopal Church’s 137-page “Resource For a National Dialogue on Anti-Racism,” which it is encouraging parishes to use to observe Martin Luther King Day on January 20. Racial division is of course a serious subject, and religious denominations, more than government, are suited to take a pre-eminent role in alleviating such divisions. Which makes all the more disappointing the relentless political correctness of the Episcopalian document.

For example, the report offers as an example of sexist bigotry “the belief that women should be barred from locker rooms at men’s sporting events.”  (What about men being barred from women’s locker rooms at women’s sporting events, or better yet, fashion shows?  The report is silent.) But most of the report is less amusing.  It equates racism with “social power.”  In other words, it is a problem caused by whites. 

The report beats its breast about environmental racism and church burnings, and suggests that a law be passed requiring that one hospital be built for every prison that is built.  The report goes to great lengths to defend Louis Farrakhan, and fails even to acknowledge his anti-Semitic rants.  The most serious offense of the report is that it trivializes genuine racism by lumping it together with “ageism, ableism, classism,” and even “militarism,” just to prove the 60s aren’t dead yet.

At this point one begins to suspect that schadenfreude is at work.  The authors of this report are clearly giddy about church burnings and episodes of bigotry.  Like the anti-war movement after Vietnam, their life would be devoid of meaning if racial tension actually subsided.  There is no greater joy than guilt-mongering. 

Paul Seabury warned in his 1978 Harper’s article that “the world of the spirit, like that of nature, abhors a vacuum. . .  Once a spiritual order becomes the auxiliary of a secular Zeitgeist, it loses even the utility it professes as its justification. . .”  

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