Woke, PC, and Cancel Culture

The obsession with woke/PC language has gotten farcical, and cost people their jobs and careers. Yes, people should not use hard, explicit racist language. The n-word is off limits, just as it should be. But it’s gotten slightly out of hand. We’re not supposed to use the term “brown bag”? A family member gave me a report entitled “Elimination of Harmful Language,” a study by Stanford. They say:

“The goal of the Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative is to eliminate many forms of harmful language, including racist, violent, and biased (e.g., disability bias, ethnic bias, ethnic slurs, gender bias, implicit bias, sexual bias) language in Stanford websites and code.”

Some examples of words and phrases in the report we should avoid: lame (as in uncool), senile, addicted, handicap parking, guru, tribe, ballsy, freshman, gentleman, guys (as in “hey, guys!”), slave, uppity, convict (noun), homeless person, immigrant, rule of thumb, abusive relationship, prostitute, committed suicide, basket case.

Do you know what has done more harm, caused more pain, and killed more people than these words? Income inequality and poverty. Is Stanford studying that? The unnecessary human suffering caused by a corporatist economy? Waiting for Stanford to fight the big fight will entail one waiting a rather long wait.

Sanitizing the language will not solve the serious, overarching problems. This is the equivalent of taking Aunt Jemima off the shelves. Is she a racist mascot? Probably. But I do not think that the Black Lives Matter movement is about pancake syrup. (Call it a hunch.) It’s about systemic racism. It’s about racist police brutality. It’s about Black America being treated abysmally in this country since day one.

Changing the language will not alter people’s thinking. This is the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis—the claim that language sculpts our thinking—which has been destroyed by careful scholars. The n-word is now culturally frowned upon. So, therefore we live in a racism-free society? Racists instead now use soft language; it’s a wink and a nod, while they display blue-line American flags and don blue-line “hold the line” t-shirts. These symbols say “Leave the police alone.” These symbols say white America is not at fault. In other words, “It’s not MY fault!” Many people get twitchy when the road of responsibility leads to their door. No one is a racist? We must live in a paradise. Racism did not fall from the sky; it is a social malady. If you live in this society, then, I’m sorry, you’re connected.

And those confederate statues? Yes, they honor terrible, racist people. However, (1) these are not important historical monuments, and (2) precious few even know who these guys were. Regarding the first point, these monuments were erected well after the Civil War and their purpose was the opposite of historical. They end up effacing the true brutality of the South. American slavery was a nightmare for people subjected to it; those who maintain otherwise are pitifully ignorant and should consult the scholarly record on the subject. These statues make grand an ugly, vicious history. As for the second point, most of my students can’t even name the Beatles. How on earth will they know some confederate nobody now collecting bird droppings? Tear them down, leave them up, it doesn’t matter, because the monuments don’t really matter.

Concerning the LGBTQ community, it has historically been subjected to cruelty, and that’s the problem. Not pronouns. The “liberal” intelligentsia is obsessed with woke language. But, no one is talking about the working class getting shafted. This whole conversation is being framed by a privileged class that is at its core craven and pathetic. The intellectual class ends up protecting power by changing the subject. They should be talking about real problems like systemic racism and corporate tyranny (and Congressional facilitation of that tyranny). However, intellectuals don’t touch big issues. Just small ones.

It’s a common assertion that universities are hotbeds of liberal, progressive thought. They are not. Intellectuals and academics can always be counted on for political spinelessness. And to support power’s agenda—hardly progressive.

With regard to cancel culture, people are now afraid to speak. The social-justice warriors and their ilk have not addressed the real problems. They have merely created a new one: fear. I have students who are terrified to speak about race-based issues. Professors steer clear of the topic. This is very dangerous. Now we don’t even speak about these issues? Splendid. White supremacists and neo-Nazis must be very pleased.

We should be talking about these subjects. We should be talking to one another about all those subjects we are supposed to keep quiet about. Like, y’know, politics and religion. If handled properly, they can be very helpful and aid us in seeing just how much we share in common and just how much we can improve the country. Isn’t that better than being woke?