Tuesday, May 10, 2022

 When “Wokeness” Boomerangs!

For centuries African-Americans have dealt with profound injustice in immoderate amounts. Ironically, however, extreme emphasis on this injustice, which is promoted by the most "woke" among us, can boomerang and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


The Thomas theorem — well known among sociologists — points to how that happens. In substance the theorem describes how, when a situation is defined as true, it is true in its consequences. That's why outcomes often depend as much on the individual’s perception of the situation, as on the situation itself. Become convinced you are a utterly powerless victim, you will be. And this is precisely how immoderate emphasis on injustice, untempered by any other considerations, boomerangs. 

Anyone who is oppressed, American-American or otherwise, will learn to discount their own agency, their ability to overcome, if they become mired in the sticky goo of poor me-ism. They will even discount their own contribution to what happens in their lives. When that occurs no victimizers are required; no necessity for an oppressor. The oppressed will have taken on that job themselves.

Consider the civil rights anthem, "We shall overcome." The emphasis of this powerful song is on "WE," not someone else. Civil rights leaders certainly did not sit around waiting for "the man"to lift the yoke. They led African-Americans in lifting it off themselves. And it is precisely this kind of single-minded effort that is absolutely crucial for anyone who is oppressed.

I spent 50 years of my life as an educator, for example. And one of the most frustrating aspects of my career was watching too many African-American youngsters turn their backs on the opportunities schooling offers. Some were even hostile to it and not only refused to learn, but did their very best to keep others from learning.

 It's certainly true that school curricula, policies and procedures are often out of step with these kid's reality. But the fact remains that slave owners punished ANY schooling of slaves for a reason. Now kids with this negative attitude require no such oppression. They maintain the oppression themselves. And all of this self-righteous, self-serving, hand wringing by the excessively "woke" only makes it worse. Whatever our school's shortcomings, and they are many, especially for kids who are poor, they still offer opportunities. Sometimes the very best opportunities these kids will ever have. But only for those who eschew self-pity, focus on their own agency, and seize the day.

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