Most white people have nothing good to say about the social justice movement.
SJW’s (self proclaimed warriors of social justice) will attribute this to the fact that most (if not all) white people are racist and intrinsically opposed to the notion of equality. While there is undoubtedly a significant amount of racism lurking in America’s basement, and though it may be difficult for an SJW to imagine, people have reasons to disagree with their ideology that extend beyond xenophobia and bigotry. In general, people just don’t like hyper-sensitive political correctness; they don’t like race baiting and identity politics; outrage culture annoys them; they consider the assault on free speech rather revolting; and they then recognize that all of these despised phenomena find refuge behind the gilded halls of social justice
But there is another reason white people distance themselves from the talons of a toxic ideology, and that reason provides the bedrock for all the phenomena listed above.
Most white people have abandoned the social justice movement because it treats white people like children. And not just like any old kids, but silver spoon, Billy Madison style children, who have temper tantrums, are always used to getting whatever they want, and have no idea about how the world really works. Thus, white people find themselves in a peculiar position regarding social justice; if they reject it, a swarm of intolerant bullying can reasonably be expected; if they accept and join the movement, they’re forced to sit at the kids table whilst the grown ups do the actual talking.
This essay will seek to explain why ‘allies’ (white people who aligned themselves with social justice) are treated so poorly, and how that can explain the lack of support from white people in general. It will be informed by articles you can find here, here, and here.
What we will find is that, to SJW’s, ‘allies’ are people who know their place, hold their tongue, and stay out of the way. To explain why this is the case, a sufficient understanding of social justice thinking must be established. Examining the now infamous phrases “respect my experience” and “check your privilege” do a lot of the heavy lifting, as the underlying psychology can be accessed in a rather simple dialectic.
Social Justice Psychology
The first thing a social justice ally might discover is that their role in the movement is not heading debates, guiding discussions or even talking at all; and this is because their voice is worth less than the voices of other, more marginalized individuals. To explain this, the smouldering cauldron that is social justice must be filtered out, so that the ingredients can be examined and their respective roles in the end product identified.
Firstly, the social justice movement is one that is captivated with demolishing existing systems of oppression. Moreover, it is fuelled by the personal experiences and feelings of the oppressed. If you ever have the pleasure of attending a social justice rally, you might be bewildered by just how much time they spend talking about themselves. Prepare to be bombarded with a nearly endless parade of personal stories. To social justice types, what matters most is the feeling of alienation, of otherness, that perpetually plagues the marginalized groups of society. As long as these feelings exist, to any subjective extent, that is a gross injustice that requires maximal attention. And simply put, white people do not and can not share that experience.
This is because the social justice movement draws much of its inspiration from a school of philosophy known as postmodernism. This philosophy has much to say about seemingly everything us humans value, including aesthetics, linguistics, literature, and epistemology. But postmodernism as a social theory essentially boils everything down to power; the world is merely but a zero sum contest of various groups vying to control resources by exploiting and manipulating other groups. Suffering from a love of dualisms, they then divide the world into two categories; oppressor and oppressed. The next step is then simply identifying which groups are oppressed and by whom.
Viewing the world in this manner explains the game that is identity politics, as in order to figure out which groups are oppressed, you have to first divide the world into groups. Identity politics, at its most fundamental level, is the practice of reducing people to their societal affiliations. Basically, it says the most important part of your individual identity is the group you belong to. If you’re a black woman, the two most important parts of your identity are the black and the woman parts. If you’re gay, than being non-heterosexual is your defining characteristic.
So, once they have divided the world into groups (be it by race, ethnicity, gender, etc), they can begin identifying which groups are oppressed and which groups do the oppressing.
This process of identification creates a hierarchy of oppression, because some people belong to multiple oppressed groups. White women are oppressed, but not as much as muslim women. Transgender people are oppressed, but not as much as transgenders who are black. Identity politics helps explain why social justice orators such as Yasmin Abdel-Magied, an Australian activist, are able to attain such astonishing success so quickly. Yasmin, being a black female muslim, can claim three separate victim identities and thus has the utmost experiential authority to speak on three distinguishable issues. As a woman, she can talk about sexism; as a black, she can talk about racism; as a muslim, she can talk about islamophobia.
For those of you who have lives that extent beyond thinking about the political mindset of college students, first, I envy you, and second, I understand that all of this can be a lot of take in. Here’s a quick road map to summarize everything I just said; 1. SJW’s use postmodern thinking, which views the world through oppressor-oppressed relationships. 2. They then divide the world into groups and identify whose oppressed and who isn’t. 3. This process creates a hierarchy of oppression, in which some groups are more oppressed than others.
“Respect My Experience”
The phrases “respect my experience” and “check your privilege” are loaded with ideological doctrine, but understanding the psychology of an SJW makes them much easier to discern. Once you understand the above process, you understand why SJW’s don’t really value the voices of white people. To put it bluntly, those dastardly white folk don’t share the genuine feeling of oppression that unites America’s minorities; and even worse than that, it’s because whites are the group actually doing the oppressing!
When a black or any other minority tells you to “respect my experience”, they are telling you that you do not have the authority to talk about what it feels like to be oppressed. It doesn’t matter if you are severely impoverished, discriminated against by police, and/or abandoned by society, because you are merely a constituent of your group. And your group is not oppressed. Therefore, you do not have the right to talk about genuine oppression; especially when there are people who whose voices are much more valid, because they belong to multiple oppressed groups.
What “respect my privilege” really amounts to is an ideological tool used to override arguments from white people. If I’m a white male and we’re debating affirmative action, whatever arguments I present, whatever statistics I point out, are invalid compared to the genuine feeling of oppression experienced by a black female muslim. If I’m an ‘ally’, it amounts to whole-heartedly conceding that I have no idea what it means to be oppressed and should put the voices of those who do above my own.
“Check Your Privilege”
The other demand one must satisfy to become a social justice ally is conveniently summarized in the phrase “check your privilege”. As with “respect my experience”, there is an extensive amount of hugely consequential assumptions packed into a single phrase here, and though they run on the same algorithm, they are designed to elicit different results.
Harkoning back to postmodernism, social justice types are convinced we live in a white supremacist society. Though equality before the law is protected, there are invisible societal forces that are exclusively designed to maintain existing inequalities. Since everything is power, and that power is zero sum, whites keep themselves on top by pushing everybody else down. Moreover, whites are only able to accomplish this insofar as white people actually act out these systems.
Thus, because we are living in a white supremacist society, white people, since the day they are born, are indoctrinated with white supremacist forms of thinking. They internalize certain ideas about blacks, about women, about the economy, without even realizing it, and thus perpetuate forms of oppression.
This is what “check your privilege” really means; you have implicit beliefs that shroud your thinking and guide all of your actions in the direction of oppressing minorities. The relationship this concept shares with original sin is quite striking; there is something inherently wrong with you; no matter how hard you try to be good you will fail, and all you can do is give yourself over to the faith. The faith, in this case, being the altruistic leadership of those with experiences of oppression, who want nothing else but to usher in an egalitarian utopia.
It seems we are at a point where the shroud of nuance and incoherence that characterizes social justice thinking is beginning to fade away. “Respect my experience” says your voice isn’t worth much; “check your privilege” says it’s probably wrong anyway.
Now that these two concepts are understood, we can begin to piece together the puzzle that is the expectations placed upon a social justice ally.
Expectations of Allies
Firstly, to be an ally, you must admit that you get everything wrong. All white allies “in many ways fail at it everyday”. After all, the privileged life you have lived is founded upon the backs of all those oppress, and each time you move your foot you just dig your heel deeper into their spine.
The next step is attempting to empathize with those who are oppressed. Keep in mind, being a white person, you will never be able to have genuine empathy for those minorities you work with. But nonetheless, a good ally is one who is “constantly asking myself what it means to be white in this situation”. The social justice interpretation of ‘what it means to be white’, of course, simply amounts to ‘how is my skin colour benefiting me at this moment’. As an indoctrinated white supremacist who has become desensitized to benefiting from horrific societal oppression, you really don’t know and can’t know ‘what it means to be white’. Therefore, just assume “it’s always helping you”. After all, non-whites know what it really is like to be white better than anybody, right?
Thirdly, don’t try to actually to do anything yourself, since you will inevitably mess things up. Remember, everything you do and have always done in some way perpetuates systems of oppression. Since you might not recognize these systems, you should just assume that you are making things worse when you are merely trying to help. But why should I bother explaining this, when the National Association of Student Administrators (quite the title) put it so succinctly in 2006; “Some who genuinely aspire to act as social justice allies are harmful, ultimately, despite their best intentions, perpetuating the system of oppression they seek to change. Different underlying motivations of those who aspire to be allies can lead to differences in effectiveness, consistency, outcome, and sustainability.”
Since you shouldn’t do anything yourself, all you can do is enable and justify the platforms of those who have experienced oppression. It is important that whites “support the leadership of people of colour”. Be faithful to your social justice overlords; do not question them, do not criticize them, as only they have experienced oppression and only they know how to fight against it. If you feel tempted to criticize the tactics of a person of colour, remember that all you are doing is perpetuating oppression and that your privilege is obscuring your vision. Remember that “when the term ally becomes a way for privileged folk to determine how we grieve, when we should take action, what is considered worthy of national attention, and who is given agency, allies transform back into disempowering forces.” A true ally is one who realizes that they actually don’t know best.
Even if the recognition that you will make things worse by voicing your opinion fails to deter you, remember that your voice isn’t worth as much as those who belong to an oppressed group. Since you don’t have an experience of oppression, you lack the feeling of alienation upon which the social justice movement is founded. In a movement fuelled by experiences of oppression, you have little to offer. Thus, whenever you decide you think you should be heard, remember that a) you’re making things worse by talking, and b) you’re taking the platform away from someone who has a much more valid voice than you.
What white allies can do is recognize “that their place is at the margins, not at the center”. They need to “relinquish their seat at the table to make room for those with lived experiences” (postmodernism, anybody?). The only people with valid voices are the oppressed, and the only people who can be holistically opposed to systems of oppression are the oppressed. So what the whites can do is shut up and get out of the way.
Lastly, after doing all of this, “don’t expect a pat on the back” for merely “doing what you’re supposed to do”. A true ally doesn’t need gratification or validity, because a true ally recognizes that they can’t actually help the movement, but they can just try their best not to hurt it.
The worldview of a social justice fundamentalist involves dividing the world neatly into manichean categories, and thus discovering that the whites are oppressive, tyrannical rulers who must be stopped. This is why white SJW’s are called allies; because all other white people are enemies.
One reason, among many, white people detest the social justice movement is because of phenomena such as this. The social justice movement has demeaning, racist, and paternalistic attitudes towards whites.
Most people are sensible enough to recognize that the social justice movement is not nearly as benevolent as it claims to be in the first place. But if they are tempted by the powerful anecdotal rhetoric of what it feels like to be oppressed, they are reminded that unless they kiss the feet of people of colour than they are still the enemy. The only people who can genuinely act altruistically in the name of equality are those people who belong to marginalized groups, and if white people refuse to accept that their role “is to support, not lead” than they are no better than their oppressive and insatiably greedy fellow whites.
Ironically, the social justice movement has succeeded in making white people become the ‘other’. And given their resentful attitudes towards whites, it really does seem like that was their intention all along.