In my previous post, I said the difference between Liberal and Woke philosophies is that Liberals believe immutable characteristics aren’t important and shouldn’t matter. Wokes believe they’re one of the most important things about anyone/everyone.
The most striking example of this from my real life occurred to me at the World Fantasy Convention of 2017. At a lunch gathering I found myself speaking with two younger ladies and an older gentleman. The man appeared to be in Dr Who (11th Doctor) cos play. At some point the conversation dipped into social/cultural topics. The older man commented (paraphrased, this is from memory) “Prejudice is such a dumb thing. It’s just a bit of melanin in the skin. That’s it. There’s no reason for it.”
The two young ladies fell silent and exchanged a look of utter disgust and revulsion. After a few moments of discomfort, the older man wandered away, clearly getting the hint.
I stayed silent during this exchange too. I felt very bad for the man, but I also felt like this was dangerous territory, and I didn’t want to risk myself to comfort an out-of-touch old who was clearly on the way out. I still feel bad about that. He was simply repeating what all good liberals had been taught since the 60s, up through at least the early 2000s. I was taught, and had often repeated, the same lessons in grade school, high school, and college. They struck me as the correct way to think about humans.
When I went back to my room later that day, I thought about this. Why had the old man been wrong? What was I missing? I convinced myself that, actually, it’s not just melanin. He had missed that people of darker skin colors in the US had a completely different life experience, one that consisted of being oppressed and degraded at every turn by those who were lighter-skinned, and by trying to say “we’re all the same, it’s just a bit of melanin” was completely glossing over that, which was why he was wrong. I still didn’t think he should have been treated as a disgusting thing to shun, especially because the end goal of all humans was to get to the point where we are all the same except for some melanin. He was out of touch, and he should be educated, of course. But the response he received was cruel and disproportionate. He was being a good, liberal, left-wing ally… he was just behind the times.
(Much later I would come to realize that this sort of cruelty was not just tolerated, it was actually pervasive and encouraged by the movement.)
This experience stuck with me, as evidenced by the fact that I still think of it five years later. It wasn’t just the casual cruelty, the willingness to turn on old allies. It was also because something about my justification felt very wrong. Eventually I came to realize that you also couldn’t judge a person’s life experience by their skin color. A rich, upper-class black person in America would suffer less oppression and degradation than a poor white-trash person. Any given dark-skinned person may not even be American, they could be foreign royalty. They could be insanely racist themselves. Any given white-skinned person could be a recently escaped refugee from a fundamentalist cult, and drastically oppressed. The liberal position of not making any assumptions based on appearance was still correct. (Even later I realized that the entire narrative of relentless oppression was a lie in the first place, so the woke position was doubly unsound.)
It was a long journey, from liberal to woke and back to liberal. This was one of my mileposts. Poor Matt Smith. :(
edit: The original post said that SFWA runs World Fantasy Con. This is wrong, they have a seperate con, and I’m embarrased I got them mixed up.
I’m moving to SubStack. Eventually this blog will no longer be updated, so switch on over.