You can’t be an “intellectual” professional and be woke
At my Alma Mater, a political organization decided to ask the incredibly biased question of whether the Black Live’s Matter movement was good for race relations. The question itself sounds eerily similar to the criticisms levied by a tacit white population against the civil rights movement of the 1960s. However, the fact that neo-liberals are incredibly dense isn’t news to me. What shocked me is when a well known social justice activist from my campus, who happened to be the co-founder of the organization, gave a defense of the organization’s query. He argues that the mere act of questioning is not in itself harmful to the cause, but instead allows for frank discussion to be had. And part of me wanted to agree with him. As a former collegiate debater, I felt that the sparring matches of logic and evidence often provided a hidden truth talked about afterwards. Debaters, surprisingly enough, agree on quite a bit and the discussions that happened outside of the debate round were often the most illuminating discussions I had ever had the pleasure to listen/take part in. But even I knew that this was wrong.
The decision for the Michigan Political Union to have a panel without a single representative from the movement was ignorant and disingenuous. Hearty debate occurs when both sides can be aptly represented. Furthermore, the question invites the sort of skepticism bred in the media concerning the movement. The general opinion of America is the movement essentially amounts to a bunch of pissed off black people who need to get over it. And that’s putting American opinion mildly. Minority issues, by their very nature, are often misrepresented by organizations that cater to a “general audience.” General often can be coded as white, wealthy, and male. The Michigan Political Union should have anticipated that the movement would take their query as a personal attack and instead of attempting to shut the movement out of the discussion, allow them to play an integral part. But it didn’t. And in its mind it kept its puritanical approach to debate, when in actuality it reinforced institutional bias that often discredits minority voices simply because they are unpopular and grossly under researched.
After looking at what I considered to be a gross injustice occurring at the political union, I was even more shocked to see this former activist defend them. As I said before, the debater in me believed in the therapeutic process of debate, but the minority in me knew too well that certain topics needed to be handled with care. The fact that this former activist had little to no criticism for his organization confirmed something I always secretly felt while living in the bubble of elite academia. I am a poser. He is a poser too. If you’re living in a posh apartment in Bushwick, occasionally ordering chop cheeses, while also patronizing a wine and cheese bar right next to the bodega, then you’re a poser too. Even as minorities, when we become disconnected from the struggles the majority of minorities face, then we begin to value bourgeois principles such as “intellectualism” over our own people. We don’t realize that the intellectualism we have been fed subtly subverts our very existence, becoming in a way a new chain by which we are bound.
I am guilty of this. My writing is often pretentious. I am blessed to work five days a week in a low income neighborhood so all my students and their families humble me and educate me. To all my friends working in Washington, Microsoft or what ever shining corporate tower on a hill, remember you are ignorant. So please save your deification of intellectualism for people like you because the poor do not have time for it. They know truths you are very much ignorant about.