Over at one of my favorite blogs, Shadow to Light, you’ll find an insightful post from yesterday titled “Trying to Understand How Social Justice Advocates Think.” Blogger Mike there read through an essay from social justice advocate Nora Berenstain and found two themes to comment on:
- Tribalism: “Berenstain not only demonstrates tribalistic thinking, but seems to revel in it,” being “hyper-focused on race” (which does not appear to be an overstatement on Mike’s part), and setting one tribe against various other tribes, including “woman of color philosophers,” Black women, trans women, Black trans woemn
- Feelings: “It becomes clear to those of us on the outside looking on that emotion has become an essential component of postmodern philosophy. This is easily detected by the way Berenstain conflates words with actions.” Mike highlights frequent instances where Berenstain says there is “harm,” “violence,” “unsafe spaces” and the like in the words of an academic exchange. “Berenstain lives in a mental reality where words are violent,” he says, “where writing a peer reviewed article is an example of enacting violence.”
It brought to mind the question I raised in a Stream article last week: haven’t these social-justice-warrior academics noticed their solutions to racial tension and inequality won’t work?
In last week’s article I said their solutions were hopeless because they don’t adequately address the moral problems of guilt and future behavior. Not even close. This Shadow to Light article brings another problem to light: feelings-based tribalism is inherently weak. It’s really weak.
It’s weak because it fosters (“revels in”) divisiveness.
It’s weak because it can only bring one tribe on board at a time.
It’s weak because there are some very large tribes that remain out of reach of this kind of thinking. One might even say mercifully out of reach, since it’s such a divisive approach in the first place. Aside from that, though, there are large pockets of the population that will remain forever immune to this social justice advocacy, which leaves the warriors with no recourse but to stand at a distance and tell these nasty people how awful they are.
When You Run Out of Guilt, Pour On Shame
It’s weak because it’s so transparently self-righteous, as they stand at that distance shaming those who won’t listen to them, along with even those who do listen but happen to be white, male, straight, “cis” (a new word I can’t quite get used to, since there’s an old word that does the same job: “normal”), or … or … or …
There’s only so much guilt to go around, but when guilt runs dry you can always pour on shame instead. Then watch everyone who accepts the shame bow their heads — adding weakness upon weakness — and everyone who rejects the shame reacting in strength against them.
I could go on, but here’s my point: Do they really think they’re doing any good? How? Don’t they see how hopelessly divided — largely by their own choice — they are from the rest of the world; and if they can’t reach the world they’re not going to accomplish a thing?
Oblivious To Lessons Learned
How do their efforts even make sense? I’ve been told — I don’t know this from direct experience or observation — that the world of academic humanities is very self-contained. I know from research I’ve read that it’s extremely homogeneous. It makes me wonder if the only world they really know is so small, they think what they’re doing is making a dent in the actual world. If so, they’re oblivious to reality.
Besides that, I wonder just how much faux-gnostic-enlightened self-righteousness there is behind all this SJW activism.
I would think that if they really want to make a difference they would call this a lesson learned, and recognize that as bright and educated they are, they haven’t come up with anything close to a real way out of our racial problems, and that it’s time to look somewhere else.
Image Credit(s): sixteen05design (altered).