- Victor C. Bolles
The Cult of Woke
I have found that it is hard to understand the passion that many people have for the many aspects of the far-left progressive agenda that have been bundled into the concept of being woke. Being woke originally was considered to be the awakening of people (primarily blacks but also others in the progressive movement) to the fact that the greatest problem in America was systemic racism based on the white supremacy on which this country was supposedly founded.
This belief was first formulated in Critical Race Theory in the 1960s which was, itself an outgrowth of Critical Theory that was based on Marxism. Marxism divided the world between workers and capitalists. But when many Western countries were able to prove Marxism wrong by achieving labor peace through economic growth and moderate regulation, leftists developed Critical Theory that divided the world between the oppressed and the oppressors. Critical Race Theory identified the oppressors as white people and the oppressed as everyone else.
For many years Critical Race Theory remained an obscure belief popular among leftist academics without much traction in the real world beyond the ivory towers. But after the fall of communism in the Soviet Union, Critical Race Theory became a convenient place to hang your leftist hat and it soon gathered all sorts of leftist activists. There is now gender theory, queer theory, colonial theory, etc. Throw in climate change and you have just about every issue the left is pushing.
The rise of Black Lives Matter gave credence to the narrative of white supremacy and systemic racism that allegedly oppressed the black community despite all the progress that American society had made in the second half of the twentieth century to reduce racism and discrimination against blacks. Add in the continuing economic disparity between whites and blacks and you have a toxic stew of issues to motivate activists and their fellow travelers.
But these critical theories that make up the woke agenda are all based on the same faulty foundation of Marxism. Marxism has never worked, and all these new adaptations try to cure or cover up the empirical evidence of Marxism’s and socialism’s failure. Critical Race Theory rejects empirical evidence and the use of the scientific method to search for the truth. Instead, it substitutes narratives, lived experiences and personal truths, claiming science is just another part of the racist system that oppresses blacks and other minorities.
I found it difficult to understand how people could believe in such theories. To my mind, and perhaps to the minds of most of my readers, theories must be tested against empirical evidence. Theorists must devise experiments to test their hypotheses and if the evidence does not support the theory the theory must be modified in light of the new evidence. The 1619 Project presents an alternative history of the United States that asserts that, among other things, the Revolutionary War was not fought for freedom but to preserve slavery. Many historians have protested that there is little evidence to support this assertion. But the author of the 1619 Project basically says, you have your theory of what to believe and I have my theory of what to believe.
It is like a Christian with a Bible in hand saying to a Muslim, this is the book I believe, and the Muslim puts forth the Quran and says, this is the book I believe. And it struck me. Antiracist Wokeism is not a legal or political theory. It is not an economic theory or an ideology. It has all the hallmarks of a religion. Adherents don’t believe in evidence but in narratives. What else is the Bible but a compendium of narratives? This explains the narrative of police violence against blacks despite statistical evidence of its rarity. This explains defund the police despite polls that show most people in the black communities want a greater police presence. This explains the violence of the cancel culture. They are not protesting conservative thought, they are protesting heresy.
Most Democrats and Democratic leaning independents don’t support the woke agenda with a religious zeal. The demands for diversity, equity and inclusion don’t sound unreasonable. In fact, they sound positive and uplifting. Many well-meaning people put Black Lives Matter signs in their yards (at least until the HOA told them to take them down). So, what if Wokeism is like a religion? We have freedom of religion in the USA. And many religious people often do good works in the name of their religion. We have the Salvation Army. Methodist hospitals. Catholic schools. Maybe we could use a little more diversity, equity and inclusion.
But there is a difference between good works and forced conversion. Islam was spread by Muslim armies. Priests were right behind the conquistadors. And scientists, like Galileo, had to face the Inquisition.
We have freedom of religion in the United States, and if Wokeism is a religion then progressives are welcome to practice their religion and even proselytize their religion. But the US also has a Constitution, and that constitution says. “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
And if Wokeism is a religion based on faith and not a theory provable by corroborative evidence, then why the hell is the Department of Energy’s Office of Science (of all places) requiring applicants to file a plan Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research, to “describe the activities and strategies of the applicant to promote equity and inclusion as an intrinsic element to advancing scientific excellence.” That sounds like a religious test to me.
And if Wokeism is not a religion but just an unproven theory, then why the hell is the government implementing government-wide a highly controversial program based on an unproven theory. The government should at the very least require that progressive proponents of CRT and antiracist training prove that these theories have any validity. Which they can’t because they don’t.
And it is not just government departments (and our armed forces) that are being required to implement these programs. Anyone who receives any money from the government has to comply as well. Any college or university that receives funds from the government is required under Title !X to also comply and colleges and universities routinely require applicants to prove how they are implementing DEI and antiracist policies in their work or research. A noted exception is Hillsdale College, which refuses to accept government money so that it can remain true to its educational goals without government interference. And these woke religious tests are also coming to your work, your professional organization or union, and to your kids’ school.
If the cult of Woke could be considered a religion, it would be entitled to certain protections but must also live by certain restrictions. There is supposed to be a separation between church and state, but it now appears that Wokeism is the new state religion (something the Founders were opposed to). But Wokeism is not a religion, and its proponents must stop acting as if it were. And the rest of us need to stop treating the Woke agenda as if it were a religion. Their unproven theory is subject to query and investigation just like any other theory and criticisms should not be considered evidence of racism (or apostasy of the new religion).
By the look of the yards signs in my neighborhood for the upcoming school board elections, the American people have found Wokeism lacking. Hopefully the new congress after November can put a stop to the creation of this new state religion being pushed by the left-progressives in the Biden Administration.