The world, as the great economist Kenneth E. Boulding once put it, is a very complex system. It is easy to have too simple a view of it, and to do harm and make things worse under the impulse to do good and make things better. This tendency is precisely what gives rise to left-wing totalitarianism, which negates freedom in service of equality and appeals to those who want simple answers to complex socio-economic questions. This desire for simple answers is so strong that, even after the horrors of Soviet Russia, Maoist China and other dialectical experiments, such ideologies continue to appeal to Western academics.
Today, the dominant strain of reductive thought is Wokeism, marked by a perceived awareness of issues concerning social justice. Wokeism can accurately be described as a mutation of Marxism, with the proletariat and bourgeoisie substituted for particular ethnic and sexual groups, and with political revolution substituted for “the long march through the institutions”. As with Marxism, Wokeism negates the individual in service of a binary narrative that classifies people as either victims or oppressors, and is fundamentally hostile towards the values of the Enlightenment – namely, reason, science, liberty and toleration.
In this brief article, we will examine the core assumptions of Critical Race Theory – a cornerstone of Wokeism, which has infected the minds of senior civil servants and corporate executives alike. Indeed, the uncritical acceptance of this ‘theory’ by political and business leaders has led to the twin evils of unconscious bias training and diversity quotas, which demonise white people and infantilise ethnic minorities in equal measure. We will take a scalpel to this profoundly regressive ideology, which threatens to erode the everyday humanism keeping our social fabric intact. In the astute words of Douglas Murray:
It is clear where Critical Race Theory ends. It is not in harmony and fairness. It is a system that attaches electrodes to the brains of a tolerant, liberal and diverse society and then fries them. It is time we stopped it.
Critical Race Theory
For most people, racism is understood as prejudice, discrimination or antagonism against someone based on their race, ethnicity or nationality; it is the problem of certain individuals within any given community. For those who subscribe to Critical Race Theory, however, racism refers to a systemic relationship of unequal power between white people and “people of colour”. White people are born into a system that idealises “whiteness” and privileges them over non-white people; hence, all whites are consequently racist, and all non-whites victims of racism. There are thus two fundamental assumptions of Critical Race Theory:
1. Racism is systemic. White supremacism is the foundation of Western society, directly informing its values and institutions.
2. White people are born into this system, and are thus inherently racist. As the Woke sociologist Robin DiAngelo puts it in White Fragility:
White supremacy is something much more pervasive and subtle than the actions of explicit white nationalists. White supremacy describes the culture we live in, a culture that positions white people and all that is associated with them (whiteness) as ideal.
White people raised in Western society are conditioned into a white supremacist worldview because it is the bedrock of our society and its institutions.
Racism is the norm rather than an aberration.
White people who are not explicitly racist are governed by an “implicit bias”; thus, in any given situation, it is impossible for racism to be absent. A white person may be actively racist by perpetuating racial prejudice or discrimination against non-whites, or passively racist by failing to notice racism in oneself or others and thus failing to address it. Whatever the nature of an interaction between a white person and a person of colour, the former is to be presumed guilty of racism, and the latter a victim of racism. In the ‘anti-racism’ entry for New Discourses, we are given a hypothetical example of implicit bias in practice:
For example, if a black customer and a white customer entered a store at the same time, and the white sales assistant approached the white customer to offer help first, this could be identified as racism because it prioritized the white person’s needs. However, if the sales assistant approached the black customer first, this could also be identified as racism because it could be read as indicating a distrust of black people and unwillingness to have them browse the shelves unsupervised.
Since the question is not “did racism take place?”, but rather “how did racism manifest in this situation?”, the only way to be anti-racist is to dismantle the system of racism which pervades everything. Thus, the values associated with the group of oppressors who have achieved dominance must be undermined. This includes the rule of law, freedom of speech, individualism, objectivity, the written tradition, and other values which define Western civilisation. The elevation of scientific knowledge over tribal wisdom is not rooted in an earnest pursuit of the truth, but in white supremacy. To quote DiAngelo and Sensoy (2017):
Another unnamed logic of Whiteness is the presumed neutrality of White European enlightenment epistemology. The modern university – in its knowledge generation, research, and social and material sciences and with its “experts” and its privileging of particular forms of knowledge over others (e.g. written over oral, history over memory, rationalism over wisdom) – has played a key role in the spreading of colonial empire. In this way, the university has validated and elevated positivistic, White Eurocentric knowledge over non-White, Indigenous, and non-European knowledges.
I: Systemic Racism
While systemic racism may be taken as gospel by Wokeist ideologues, in reality, its existence is highly questionable. In March 2021, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities published a comprehensive report examining the issue of systemic racism in the United Kingdom. The Commission, comprised almost exclusively of non-white academics, found that the UK is no longer a country where ethnic minorities are systemically disadvantaged. Naturally, this report was immediately dismissed as “whitewashing” by the Woke brigade, for whom evidence matters little. To quote Dr. Tony Sewell from the foreword:
In many areas of investigation, including educational failure and crime, we were led upstream to family breakdown as one of the main reasons for poor outcomes. Family is also the foundation stone of success for many ethnic minorities.
Another revelation from our dive into the data was just how stuck some groups from the White majority are. As a result, we came to the view that recommendations should, wherever possible, be designed to remove obstacles for everyone, rather than specific groups…
Put simply we no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities. The impediments and disparities do exist, they are varied, and ironically very few of them are directly to do with racism. Too often ‘racism’ is the catch-all explanation, and can be simply implicitly accepted rather than explicitly examined.
The evidence shows that geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion have more significant impact on life chances than the existence of racism. That said, we take the reality of racism seriously and we do not deny that it is a real force in the UK.
The Commission was keen to gain a more forensic and rigorous understanding of underlying causes of disparities. However, we have argued for the use of the term ‘institutional racism’ to be applied only when deep-seated racism can be proven on a systemic level and not be used as a general catch-all phrase for any microaggression, witting or unwitting.
In the United States, many would point to the disproportionate percentage of young black males incarcerated in private prisons as evidence of institutional racism. However, while this disparity is indeed striking, the actual reason for it is that private prisons exclude people with high medical care costs from their contracts with the government. Younger inmates, who skew more black, do not have the costs of older inmates, who skew more white; thus, the majority of inmates end up being black. Profit is the motivation here; the racial component is more incidental. To quote former civil rights attorney Gloria Browne-Marshall:
What I take away from it is how prisoners are looked at as commodities. It’s all about how the private prisons can make the most money.
For less considered Wokeists, the evidence for institutional racism is not based on facts at all, but pure ideology. Take, for example, the argument that because the majority of people in the United States government are white, the United States government is a tool of white supremacy. This is precisely the sort of reductive logic which the Nazis used to justify antisemitism – namely, assuming that the ultimate motivation for human behaviour is the hegemony of one’s race. Writing in Mein Kampf, Hitler invokes the Jewish identity of the leadership of the Social Democratic Party as evidence of a global Jewish conspiracy:
When I recognized the Jew as the leader of the Social Democracy, the scales dropped from my eyes. A long soul struggle had reached its conclusion… I took all the Social Democratic pamphlets I could lay hands on and sought the names of their authors: Jews. I noted the names of the leaders; by far the greatest part were likewise members of the ‘chosen people’, whether they were representatives in the Reichsrat or trade-union secretaries, the heads of organizations or street agitators. It was always the same gruesome picture. The names of the Austerlitzes, Davids, Adlers, Ellenbogens, etc., will remain forever graven in my memory… Only now did I become thoroughly acquainted with the seducer of our people.
In terms of academia, it is absurd to characterise Enlightenment epistemology as racist. The written tradition is favoured over its oral counterpart not because of racism, but because it is more effective for preservation. Verba volant, scripta manent – spoken words fly away, written words remain. Similarly, history is favoured over memory as the latter is more prone to error. As regards rationalism over ‘wisdom’, it is surely better to base our beliefs on reason than ancient superstitions. In a letter to the Royal Society of New Zealand, Richard Dawkins castigates the institution for incorporating Maori “ways of knowing” into science curricula:
The world is full of thousands of creation myths and other colourful legends, any of which might be taught alongside Maori myths. Why choose Maori myths? For no better reason than that Maoris arrived in New Zealand a few centuries before Europeans. That would be a good reason to teach Maori mythology in anthropology classes. Arguably there’s even better reason for Australian schools to teach the myths of their indigenous peoples, who arrived tens of thousands of years before Europeans. Or for British schools to teach Celtic myths. Or Anglo-Saxon myths. But no indigenous myths from anywhere in the world, no matter how poetic or hauntingly beautiful, belong in science classes. Science classes are emphatically not the right place to teach scientific falsehoods alongside true science. Creationism is still bollocks even it is indigenous bollocks.
The Royal Society of New Zealand, like the Royal Society of which I have the honour to be a Fellow, is supposed to stand for science. Not “Western” science, not “European” science, not “White” science, not “Colonialist” science. Just science. Science is science is science, and it doesn’t matter who does it, or where, or what “tradition” they may have been brought up in. True science is evidence-based not tradition-based; it incorporates safeguards such as peer review, repeated experimental testing of hypotheses, double-blind trials, instruments to supplement and validate fallible senses etc. True science works: lands spacecraft on comets, develops vaccines against plagues, predicts eclipses to the nearest second, reconstructs the lives of extinct species such as the tragically destroyed Moas.
Among black academics, there is an increasing recognition that it is not systemic racism which is keeping people down, but belief in systemic racism. Indeed, if you teach black children that the deck is permanently stacked against them, you are effectively telling them not to try. From Thomas Sowell and Larry Elder to Kemi Badenoch and Coleman Hughes, black leaders who reject Wokeism abound. This includes the late Joe R. Hicks, a political commentator and community activist. In his address to the Oxford Union in May 2015, Hicks explains how 21st-century America is fundamentally different from that of slavery and Jim Crow:
II: Implicit Bias
For the sake of argument, let us assume that systemic racism does exist. Does it therefore follow that individuals should be defined by it? No, for there is such a thing as agency. Witness the mass protests of white South Africans against apartheid, for example, or the throngs of white Americans marching against segregation. The notion that a white person’s viewpoint necessarily comes from a racialised frame of reference may be popular among Woke academics, but it has no basis in reality. In a 2018 paper, psychologists Mitchell and Tetlock are highly critical of the Implicit Association Test (IAT), used to measure implicit bias:
It is our contention that, when the public rhetoric about IAT research is compared to the details of the underlying research, the social and scientific significance of this research becomes much less apparent… On issue after issue, there is little evidence of positive impacts from IAT research: theories and understandings of prejudice have not converged as a result of the IAT research; bold claims about the superior predictive validity of the IAT over explicit measures have been falsified; IAT scores have been found to add practically no explanatory power in studies of discriminatory behavior; and IAT research has not led to new practical solutions to discrimination.
Indeed, the ‘theory’ in Critical Race Theory should be understood in the same vein as ‘conspiracy theory’. Proper scientific theories are open to falsification; the Theory of Evolution, for example, could be falsified if modern-day fossils were found among those from the Precambrian Era. Critical Race Theory, however, is impossible to falsify, for it reinterprets any evidence against a white person being racist as confirmation of their racism. This is precisely how conspiracy theorists operate, discounting anything that disrupts their narrative.
In the real world, it is not those who fall under a particular label that are inclined to oppress others, but rather those who are obsessed with labels. Historically, collective guilt has always been wielded by tyrants to eliminate their enemies. The Soviet Communists labelled peasant farmers who resisted the confiscation of their land as kulaks; the Nazis labelled Jews, Slavs and other ‘non-Aryans’ as untermenschen; and Islamofascists such as ISIS label non-Muslims and ‘heretics’ as kuffar. As Kierkegaard said, “Once you label me, you negate me.”
Collective guilt always ends in a bloodbath, and Wokeists are no exception to this. The murder of five-year-old Cannon Hinnant in August 2020, for example, was a direct consequence of labelling white people as inherent oppressors. Rather than “white silence being white violence”, it is those who scream this mantra who appear to be the most inclined towards violence. Witness the recent surge in the killing of police officers; from July 2019 to July 2020, felonious officer deaths in the United States jumped by 28 percent.
The flipside to collective guilt is collective victimhood, which is similarly oppressive. Labelling entire groups as victims – as Wokeists do to blacks and others – only serves to exacerbate inequality. It encourages members of these groups to blame all their ills on some external force, to not examine their own faults and make the necessary changes to improve their condition. Anti-Western resentment is primarily why the Muslim world, for example, is in such a dire state. To quote the Iraqi-British academic Kanan Makiya:
Old habits die hard. They die hardest of all among people who have made it their duty to awaken pride in self and a sense of collective identity by blaming all ills on some “other” – a foreign agency or “alien” culture outside the community one is trying to extol, and often more powerful and dynamic. The painful thing to observe is the unrelenting stridency of the Arab intelligentsia’s attempt to blame every ill on the West or Israel. The language gets more unreal, hysterical, and self-flagellating, the less the Arab world is actually able to achieve politically and culturally in modern times.
In his celebrated ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, Martin Luther King Jr. stated that people ought to be judged not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character. How absurd and tragic it is that almost 60 years hence, the proponents of social justice have discarded this noble vision and reverted to racism. Indeed, it is profoundly racist to suggest that whites are inherently wicked, or that blacks are alienated by rationality. Small wonder, then, that some of Wokeism’s most vociferous critics come from countries with black majorities. Commenting on Robin DiAngelo’s profile in the New York Times, Nigerian reader Itunu writes:
I’m a Nigerian living in Senegal, and I suppose living in a place where everyone looks like me is a privilege in itself. So perhaps my critique is colored by this privilege, but I must admit that I’m deeply offended by some of the claims of her training. Rationality and writing are ‘white values’? Is anyone else seeing how condescending and disempowering it is to be told that our fate as black people rests in white people finally deciding to change their ways? Jackie Robinson was ‘allowed’ to play. What about: Jackie Robinson fought and won his struggle to play. Let’s fight for greater equality without upholding and rehashing racist tropes and stereotypes.
If we want to defeat racism, then we must get over our obsession with race. We must stop seeing each other as victims or oppressors, and recognise that we are individuals with agency. We must stop looking for racism where it doesn’t exist, and start focusing on issues of substance. We must stop teaching students that Christianity is racist by virtue of being European, and educate them on the reality of Islam. We must stop undermining the values that racism attempts to poison, and reclaim them for humanity. Until then, all we can hope for is to replace one form of injustice with another. To finish with a quote from Jonathan Church:
When the Scientific Method is subordinated to the eradication of ‘racialized’ perspectives, we cease to learn about the hows and whys of social and economic disparities across racial groups and instead become immersed in the propagation of ideas that lack support from social science research. At which point it becomes difficult to dismiss concerns that progressive activism is not about social justice at all, but about ideological intolerance and conformity, driven by agendas reminiscent of Marxist thought and activism. ‘White fragility’ has become the new ‘bourgeois’ – an accusation sufficient to invalidate any heterodox opinion at a stroke.
The bigotry of low expectations – a major symptom of Wokeism.
This article was written by co-founder Kareem Muhssin, with support from other Alliance members.