The Whiteness of Wokeness
Most people advocating for radical social change on behalf of people of color are not themselves people of color. How do you explain that? Wilfred Reilly, professor of political science at Kentucky State University, has some answers.
How do you explain this?
Most people agitating for radical social change on behalf of people of color are not themselves people of color.
They are overwhelmingly woke, white leftists.
They use the genuine plight of poor minorities as a wedge, a lever by which to change the basic character of American society—a change that most people of color do not want.
Both anecdotal evidence and hard data bear this out.
A good example is the woke left’s obsession with politically correct speech. Ostensibly, this is all in the service of protecting the tender feelings of long-suffering minorities.
However, according to the best publicly available data, most minority groups dislike PC culture more than whites do.
Eighty-eight percent of Native Americans, 87 percent of Hispanics, 82 percent of Asian Americans, and 75 percent of blacks (vs. 79 percent of whites) call political correctness “a problem.”
According to multiple studies, only young, white, college-educated liberal and leftist women strongly support speech restrictions.
A Pew poll about the use of the term “Latinx,”—an attempt to remove gender from “Latino” and “Latina,”—makes this point. Only a quarter of all Hispanics and 38 percent of Hispanic college graduates have even heard of the term. What’s more, only 3 percent ever opt to use it. Many find it ridiculous.
If anything, the pattern here is one of white leftists telling Hispanics to speak in a more woke fashion—and Hispanics refusing to comply.
This turns out to be the rule, not the exception.
Defunding the police, a left-wing cause célèbre for much of 2020 and 2021, is another case in point.
A study conducted by Gallup found that 81 percent of black Americans want the police presence in their neighborhoods “to either remain the same or increase.” Only 19 percent of blacks favored any decrease whatsoever in police presence.
As empirically-minded scholars have long pointed out, anti-police and “soft on crime” policies tend to dramatically increase crime rates in urban minority neighborhoods. In 2021, 12 major cities broke previous homicide records. Meanwhile, the number of arrests nationwide plummeted 24% in 2020, to the lowest in 25 years, according to FBI data.
Then there’s education policy. On charter schools, labeled racist by many liberals and leftists, data show another significant split: Blacks and Hispanics, especially parents, favoring school choice; white liberals and leftists opposing it.
According to recent data from Democrats for Education Reform, 58 percent of black Democrats and 52 percent of Hispanic Democrats have a positive opinion of charter schools. In contrast, just 26 percent of white Democrats favor charters.
Economist Thomas Sowell has observed that in the major American charter networks, among those classrooms in which students of color make up 90 percent or more, kids perform almost exactly on par with the majority-white student population of the nation’s public schools. Some do far better.
In a misguided effort to increase diversity, white leftists have lobbied to lower educational standards for blacks and Hispanics. Yet, evidence suggests that maintaining traditional standards is a much more effective approach.
The average combined SAT score for the sizable and mostly black senior class at the Success Academy charter-school system in 2019 was 1268; 10 percent of the class scored higher than 1400.
Like most charters today, Success Academy is a “pure lottery” school that does not get to pick and choose students. Given that fact and the school’s results—we’re talking about New York City—it is no surprise that minority parents, unlike white Democrats, strongly support charter schools.
The simple truth is that black and Hispanic citizens do not show much enthusiasm for cancel culture, for pulling good (and mostly minority) cops out of their neighborhoods, or for depriving their kids of a sound education in service to woke white notions of equity.
There’s an excellent reason for this. The people who suffer from these radical policies are “people of color.” And most “people of color” know it.
The obvious question that usually arises when someone makes these points is: “So why do 90 percent or so of black Americans vote for the party that supports all these destructive policies?”
The answer is as simple as the query: blacks are constantly told that the only serious alternative to the left is a racist party that wants to put them “back in chains,” to quote Joe Biden when he was Vice-President.
This pitch has been very successful. In short, it works.
If it ever stops working—as I am hardly the first to note—U.S. politics would change overnight.
While we wait and see if this will ever happen, one practical piece of advice remains relevant: If you want to know what individual members of any particular group happen to think, ask them—not those who claim to speak and act in their best interest.
I’m Wilfred Reilly, professor of political science at Kentucky State University, for Prager University.