The “woke” progressives imagine themselves as the vanguard of a new utopia formed by liberating the oppressed. That fantasy, however, merely inverts a similar illusion European colonialists held more than a century ago.
Just as the mostly white “woke” view their ultimate mission as emancipating the non-white and the non-heterosexual from oppressive structures, mostly white colonialists viewed their ultimate mission as civilizing the African, the Asian and the Latin American from backward cultures.
In other words, “woke” politics is nothing but an updated version of the “white man’s burden.” Both are patronizing, condescending and racist, since white people deem themselves to be the folders and shapers of the downtrodden, non-white masses.
Rudyard Kipling, the British poet who supported imperialism, devised the phrase “white man’s burden” as the title of his 1899 poem. Kipling demanded that colonialists end famine and disease, build the roads and ports necessarily to modern civilization and teach Western values. But doing so, Kipling wrote, would invoke considerable personal cost – including their charges’ ingratitude and resentment.
In the process, Kipling called those charges “Your new-caught, sullen peoples/Half devil and half child.”
Kipling’s ideas bred controversy in his own day, as two political cartoons from 1899 illustrate.
One shows Uncle Sam and John Bull, who symbolizes Britain, stooping under the weight of baskets filled with figures representing various African, Asian and Latin American peoples. Sam and John are trudging up a rocky mountain toward a golden figure called “Civilization.” The other shows individual natives stooped while carrying the heavy figures of Uncle Sam, John Bull and others representing European powers.
Kipling likely is not studied at Rutgers University’s Graduate Writing Project, which recently joined the embrace of “woke” folly by effectively declaring grammar to be racist.
In a memo dated June 19, Rebecca Walkowitz, the English Department’s chair, instituted “critical grammar” into the graduate program’s teaching methods.
“This approach challenges the familiar dogma that writing instruction should limit emphasis on grammar/sentence-level issues so as to not put students from multilingual, non-standard ‘academic’ English backgrounds at a disadvantage,” Walkowitz wrote. “Instead, it encourages students to develop a critical awareness of the variety of choices available to them w/ regard to micro-level issues in order to empower them and equip them to push against biases based on ‘written’ accents.”
In other words, standard English grammar is not a tool to enhance personal expression. It is a tool of a white supremacist culture to oppress non-whites.
Introducing “critical grammar” is merely one of a series of initiatives for graduate and undergraduate students designed “to stand with and respond to the Black Lives Matter movement,” Walkowitz wrote. Those initiatives, she continued, involve fostering “critical conversations for Writing Program instructors around the disproportional impacts of Covid-19; state power; racism; violence; white supremacy; protest and resistance; and justice.”
The memo’s date is deliberate, as Walkowitz noted. June 19 is “Juneteenth,” the day in 1865 when Union forces in Texas announced emancipation to the last group of enslaved blacks.
Leonydus Johnson, a black libertarian and speech pathologist, described Rutgers’ politicized approach as “insulting, patronizing, and in itself, extremely racist.”
“The idea that expecting a student to write in grammatically correct sentences (is) indicative of racial bias is asinine,” Johnson said. “It’s like these people believe that being non-white is an inherent handicap or learning disability.”
Condescending to non-whites on the basis of language or culture can enable personal mediocrity. Making that accommodation, in turn, not only discourages developing personal excellence and confidence through mastering a difficult skill. It promotes intellectual co-dependency.
“That’s racism,” Johnson said. “It has become very clear to me that those who claim to be ‘anti-racist’ are often the most racist people in this country.”
Rutgers’ “woke” directives also reject any notion of a national community forged through a common language. Instead, they encourage separation based on ethnicity as expressed through language. In the process, they declare that ethnicity is the most important value. That, too, is racist.
But “critical grammar” is grounded in such racism. It emerged from the neo-Marxist Frankfurt School as part of “critical theory,” a social philosophy.
“(A)nalysts working in this tradition align themselves with the interests of those opposed to dominant order of society,” wrote the University of Calgary’s Robert M. Seiler. “They ask questions about the ways in which competing interests clash and the manner in which conflicts are resolved in favour of particular groups.”
So what does this have to do with language?
“One of the chief constraints on individual expression is language,” Seiler wrote. “A class society is dominated by a language that makes it very difficult for working-class people to understand their situation and to get out of it. It is the job of the critical theorist to create new forms of language so that the predominant ideology can be exposed and that competing ideologies can be heard.” (Emphasis in original)
In the process, the “predominant ideology” is destroyed, thereby freeing its captives. Neo-Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse advocated a complementary idea: Allowing only “progressive” voices to express themselves freely while denying that same opportunity to opponents.
Johnson exposes “critical grammar.”
“One of the most infuriating aspects of the radical left is the persistent attempts to try to redefine things,” he tweeted. “They have done it with gender. They have done it with racism. They have done it with liberalism and socialism.
“They just completely hijack language and fabricate word meanings in order to craft their fake reality. Because if words mean what they have always meant, they have no argument. It is becoming cliché to say it, but this kind of nonsense is straight out of 1984.”
Johnson’s last reference is to the numerical title of George Orwell’s dystopian novel, in which a socialist dictatorship redefines the English language to indoctrinate and stifle independent thought.
One more thing links the civilizing colonialists of previous centuries and today’s liberating “woke” progressives: failure. In their wake, both leave entrenched political corruption, poverty and societal disintegration.
Johnson has seen enough.
“It’s wild that a few years ago, I was on the left,” he tweeted. “Believing and wealth distribution, in wealth distribution, racial victimhood, ‘hope and change,’ all of it…
“That’s one of the reasons I so forcefully combat this stuff. Because I used to believe in it. That used to be me.
“I know that poison first-hand.”