I am here to report that the struggle as we know it has gone off the rails. Over the past month, in the absence of a social life due to the pandemic, I have spent countless hours on the live audio chat app Clubhouse with mostly Black people talking about all the issues Black people talk about these days. These conversations have left me disillusioned and skeptical of the current moment in our culture, one ostensibly defined by an increased commitment to rooting out racism, white supremacy and patriarchy but that in practice entails much that bewilders and alarms me. As someone who hitherto subscribed to the attendant ideas and philosophies, spending a lot of time speaking to fellow travelers has convinced me to take an Ambien and be more skeptical of those who claim themselves to be woke.
What has driven me to this decision? you may ask. A kind of fundamentalist puritanical “Black liberation” ideology that has elements of a religion or a cult. A resistance to nuance and complexity in debating ideas and in discussing history, politics, economics in any way that dares question the simplistic and popular narratives of the day. The obsession with “whiteness” as a kind of mystical primordial malevolent force in the world, on whose doorstep every last ill and injustice, however large or small, since the dawn of time must be laid. A reductionist tendency to observe all human interactions through the lens of oppression and hierarchy and to apply the hammer of critical theory to every nail, peg and flower in sight. And worst of all, the embrace and fetishization of a Black identity almost supernaturally rooted in pain, suffering, and trauma over injustices past and present, real and imagined. Connected to this is an embrace of paranoia, siege mentality, conspiracy theory and falsehoods as long as it is in service of wokeness.The bow on top of this box is a certain enforcement of groupthink, a vitriol and rancor to be weaponized and deployed at anyone (especially if they are black) who dares to push back against the above orthodoxies.
The prevailing mindset on Clubhouse is as follows: the world is entirely built on and depends on the oppression of Black people, and that is the hidden force that is responsible for everything wrong in the world. This anti-blackness permeates all aspects of life and if there is any social ill in the world, it can be linked to an oppression based on hierarchies that white supremacy and capitalism at the root of. Anyone who is not Black(certainly anyone white) is on the side of “whiteness” , is out to get you and should be treated with distrust and fear. The increased visibility and occurrence of interracial coupling is not a result of changing attitudes and more diverse societies, but a conspiracy to destroy the black community and black family. Capitalism, as opposed to being a system of organizing production with a checkered history and significant flaws like any other before it is in fact a white supremacist project engineered with the intention to kill and oppress black people. The solution to this is a kind philosophical and geospatial separatism that requires us to reject every aspect of society as it currently is configured because it is controlled by “whiteness” and the world is anti-black. Some of the room titles on clubhouse will convey a sense of this prevailing sentiment:
“Why Black men are choosing foreign women over black queens”
“When the race war starts, who will the lightskins call?”
“Fatness and fitness: is weight loss intrinsically fatphobic?”
“Black babies were used as gator bait. Y’all Think y’all Are safe?” (A discussion on how the coronavirus vaccine is actually not a vaccine against a raging pandemic but some sort of weapon by the powers-that-be to exterminate black people).
“Are black men weak for dating white women?”
“Do Black people really need white people for liberation?”
“Should black people leave AmeriKKKa immediately?”
“Y’all don’t wanna be free. Y’all wanna be white. Pray for these brainwashed, suffering white-supremacist clout chasing celebrities. Harriet Tubman would have left a lot of you n****** behind.”
In each of these rooms, the participants rail against white supremacy, patriarchy colorism, capitalism, fatphobia, and every ill in the world. One could say those are valid things to rail against. However, as soon as any one voices an opinion that differs from the orthodoxy or that is deemed to be insufficiently condemning of these ills, the tone is excessively stringent and punishing to the offenders . The usual offenders are of course, white people, biracial and light-skinned black people who are beneficiaries of colorism, Black men who date interracially, African immigrants to the US who are content to navigate their way to the best of their ability through within the current white supremacist paradigm and are insufficiently loud in their rejection of it, among others.
It is important to note that I do not deny the existence of the isms that the woke claim to be fighting. White supremacy, patriarchy, racism, colorism are real. However, I also believe that what is happening is that the reality of these things and the popular mobilization against them in recent years enabled by social media has driven many to be seduced by reductionist ideas and extremist behaviors that are dubious at best, unconstructive and detrimental to our psyches and our societies at worst. I came to this conclusion as I began to engage with the enforcers of this woke ideology. In a room ironically titled “Why black people can’t get along?”, when I laid the problems of many African countries at the feet of the absolutely venal corrupt murderous in many cases leaders, I got a response from the moderator of the room, that actually it was quite problematic to blame African leaders because basically, white supremacy is actually what is responsible for Africa’s problems. I responded incredulously that white supremacy is not responsible for Robert Mugabe, the dos Santos family in Angola, Laurent Kabila and, Teodoro Obiang and countless others in Africa murdering, cheating and stealing to maintain their hold on power, even if they do it at the helm of a resource extraction economy whose customers and originators are Europeans. To deny this is willful ignorance of the truth because we’re more interested in taking white people to task for their history of racism and colonialism. Surely multiple things can be true. The legacy of colonialism and the reality of neocolonialism is a factor in African problems, but many African countries are also been victim to a corrupt, unresponsive and venal elite who aren’t simply puppets of Europeans and have chosen to operate how they do in order to maintain their own power and wealth. For every Thomas Sankara, there was a Robert Mugabe. To deny this is to deny agency to these African leaders, men who are incredibly powerful, incredibly corrupt and in many cases, incredibly mendacious and are definitely no one’s innocent victims! This response made me a target of the woke brigade led by this person. In the same conversation, as she whipped the room into a frenzy and let us know that anything less than the Haitian revolution on American soil was insufficient to get us to the promised land, she said that the word picnic originated from the word “pick a nigger” when lynchings were occasions for food and drink. I told her quite irritatedly at this point that this was patently not true, and she was using falsehoods and conspiracy theories in the service of her radicalism. There is plenty of horrible stuff in the past without making things up for sensationalism. Of course, this made me her enemy. I was told that “Not all skin folk are kin folk, and that Harriet Tubman brought a gun for a reason”.
Similarly, many discussions I participated in on the subject African development tended to go the same way: in the beginning, knowledgeable people on the matter and from the continent in fields of finance, technology, governance, international development would discuss the real, messy interrelated issues on the ground until the woke brigade would slowly take over the conversation. There was only one answer for them: white supremacy. All roads led to it. And when I said, “Hey, wait a minute, maybe the problem of poor electricity in Nigeria has something to do with incentives, corruption, vested interests, governance and technology”, or “I read about the the Futungo, a shadowy cabal of powerful military, business and political figures in Angola who raid the treasury to the tune of billions and imprison and murder opposition leaders. Can we talk about it? ”, I was chastised for not seeing that the real villain here is white supremacy and capitalism and I was just not decolonized enough. From what I’ve read, the challenge of development is one that has been faced and overcome by other colonized people, certainly Koreans and Chinese recently and there is no reason why what worked for them cannot work for us. We are not a different species of human. The answer is simple even if implementing it is difficult. Political and economic institutions that empower the people, ensure property rights and rule of law. Move away from primary resource exports that don’t create a lot of jobs, industrialize, make things of value, sell them on the world market, capture more of the global value chain and be properly incorporated into the global economy, invest the profits from these endeavors in your people. This is heresy to the woke of Clubhouse. The global order is capitalism and capitalism is evil and designed to kill black people and until white supremacy and capitalism are dismantled, the lives of Africans cannot be improved. What does this magical day when white supremacy is dismantled look like? Is it when every last multinational and foreigner is kicked out of Africa? Is there a law on the books that needs to be repealed? Is it when former colonial powers have paid reparations to African governments and apologized loudly enough for their sins? If this even happened, would that magically fix the political and economic institutions of these countries and prevent ethnic factions from warring for control? These are questions no one answers. Instead like the second coming of Christ, it’s more important to profess our belief in the evil of white supremacy; our conviction to dismantling it and perform how much we hate it.
I encountered the woke brigade again in discussions about capitalism and socialism. According to the woke brigade, capitalism is an evil system designed to kill and oppress black people and the way to fight it is to hysterically clamor for its abolition. To be capitalist is to be anti-black. Now because anti-capitalist fervor is all the range in 2020 and I’ve also gotten swept up in it, I decided to read more to educate myself on the matter so that I know what I’m talking about when i go to discuss it. What i found was that as with anything, there is of course more to the matter when you dig deeper and don’t just rely on viral tweets for your education. Capitalism is a system of organizing production, it has a historical provenance in that it evolved out of feudalism and mercantilism and is the current phase of how production is organized in the world. It certainly has a checkered history and it’s development is tangled with the abomination of chattel slavery in the Americas. It certainly has flaws in the way the profit motive incentives the oppression of labor, accelerates inequality and promotes ecological destruction. Karl Marx wrote that the first two contradictions would eventually lead to class struggle whose end result would be socialism. I advocated for a clear-eyed assessment of capitalism given this historical context and pleaded to avoid the hysterical absolutist claims of “Capitalism evil, Capitalism hates black people”. In a room titled “Can black people be capitalists?” the idea of the participants seemed to be that black people are a different species of human with whom capitalism is fundamentally incompatible. Cyril Ramaphosa, the other black South African mining magnates and many capitalists across the African continent and even in the United States would be shocked to find out that black people cannot be capitalists. In addition, I learned that Marx discussed capitalism as a pre-condition for socialism in that it is the surplus created by the accumulation of capital in the hands of a few and the exploitation of the proletariat that can then be distributed more equitably through socialism. He didn’t believe we can create socialism from nothing without going through a capitalist phase. Going from a pre-industrialist society in Africa to socialism would be a disaster and might only be possible without the kind of totalitarianism seen in the Soviet Union and China. I was derided for this contribution because well Marx was a European and he was Eurocentric and of course any ideas he had are fundamentally incompatible with black people. Again we see here a rejection of nuance in favor of a reductionist way of thinking in which our skin color determines everything. It is true that the development of capitalism cannot be unlinked from the slave trade and it is icky for many of us, myself included. But asking if black people due to our being black cannot be capitalists is akin to saying “The science of shipbuilding and navigation was perfected as a result of the slave trade. Can black people be sailors?” The answer is yes, silly. Of course not ALL black people can be capitalists because that’s not how capitalism works, just as not ALL white people are capitalists either.
Which brings me to another major point, there is a vein of thinking among the so-called purveyors of black liberation, that reduces and essentializes us just from sharing the same skin color to the same immutable condition regardless of our individual worldviews, talents, predilections and circumstances, or even where on the planet we call home. According to this philosophy, i am not Tope, who is good at X and who has a Y worldview and who comes from Z country, we are an undifferentiated mass of victims, within whom every injustice done to anyone of African descent since 1500 A.D sits awaiting redress. Therefore, i must be outraged about Adele wearing Bantu knots, no matter what the UK context is or how the Jamaicans feel. And if i am not it’s because I’m seeking proximity to whiteness or I’m not decolonized enough or I’m into respectability politics.
This philosophy does the same thing to white people. White people cannot be judged as individuals based on what they think, what they say and do. They cannot be evaluated in context as Americans, Swedes or white Costa Ricans. All are nothing more than appendages of an oppression apparatus called “whiteness” and are to be distrusted and avoided. If you have a more conciliatory approach or a less paranoid outlook or you choose to let them give you a reason before judging them as racists, it’s because you’re a fool, your eyes haven’t been opened to the mysterious all-consuming malevolent force of “whiteness” or you are race traitor seeking access to “whiteness”.
One time I entered a room being led by a Antifa-type white leftist guy on the subject of capitalism: reform vs revolution. I was learning a lot and then the subject of course got to the topic of black liberation. The white guy could not have been more informed on the right things to say and believe on these issues. Yet at some point, someone came into the room to say the following: “I just think it’s violent for white people to insert themselves into conversation about revolution vs reform. I just think it’s incredibly violent, and i just want to tell all black people that white people are not your allies”. We would spend the next couple of hours discussing the validity of this position. I of course thought this was a ridiculous statement because we live in a country where Black people are 13% of the population and any kind of future we conceive that can ONLY be achieved in direct confrontation with the majority of the population seems like a fantasy to me. I then felt like the only sane person in an asylum as i was told that “whiteness is violence” and so even though this Antifa dude is probably more likely than you to pick up a gun for your revolution, his skin color and presence in the space you’re in equates to violence. What struck me was how quickly the Antifa guy was quick to agree that his presence does in fact constitute violence, no matter that he was lockstep in agreement with the others in the room. When I patiently asked for a definition of the “violence” that his presence in the discussion where he was in agreement with all the participants constitutes, i was directed to an Instagram page with the scholarship so i could educate myself, that contains such gems of wisdom as this:
The vein of thinking that produced this page and that finds currency among the people in that room is one that sees Black liberation as dependent on a rejection and negation of anything with the stain of whiteness or white people white origin. That’s why I was told that the Marxist-based critique of capitalism has no lessons for us as black people because it’s Eurocentric. The airplane and germ theory and the enlightenment originated with whites and in the wake of capitalism. Are we to reject these things too? In one of those discussions of African development, I was also told that anyone working in international development is a colonizer as the idea of development and the measures of development are Eurocentric and should be rejected. I don’t find anything Eurocentric about lower infant mortality rates but maybe I’m just not decolonized enough.
This mode of thinking believes that the current human order is something we must define ourselves in position too and berates anyone who caution against it as some kind of traitor. America as a country is a uniquely evil force in the world and there’s nothing redeeming about it because it is founded in native dispossession and black slavery. Never mind that you could say the same thing for almost every country and island from here on down until you get to Argentina. Participation and investment in electoral politics are for fools because America is not redeemable. Barack Obama and Kamala Harris and Stacey Abrams are “coons”, black people that are agents of white supremacist empire for staking a claim to this land, seeking to build coalitions with people of other races and fighting to make it better for all people. This fundamentalist rejection of America denies the truth of many black Americans who see this country as their own and fly its flag despite their fraught history in it. On a discussion on whether “black people should leave America”, an American named Frank told the crowd that he was an American and America is his country and he will stay here. They derisively asked him why he would stay here when there is an opposition determined to fight him. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I put many of these people on clubhouse who reject America so wholeheartedly on a plane to a country in Africa and made them live there for 3 months, they would discover how much more they have in common with Americans of other races than the Ethiopians or Nigerians and would find themselves homesick. They might also learn that identity-based conflict, social discrimination, and patriarchy are present in many African societies as well. But these people will tell you that all those things are actually due to…you guessed it, white supremacy. It’s also a childlike way of grappling with history, one that posits that a world without the USA or before European expansion as one without conflict, exploitation, injustice or cruelty. Conflict, exploitation, injustice and cruelty are simply intrinsic to human societies since the dawn on time. Before European expansion, it was Genghis Khan who ravaged all of Asia, leaving death and destruction in his wake. Only an accident of history prevented him from doing the same to Europe and changing the history of the last 800 years. The USA is not the first empire in human history to project its power and advance its own interests at the expense of smaller weaker countries. So did the Mongol Empire and the Soviet Union, Han China and the Roman Empire, Dahomey and the Oyo Empire. In today’s Middle East, Iran and Saudi Arabia throw their weight around and do shady things in Lebanon and Yemen. In Africa, regional powers interfere in the affairs of their neighbors for their selfish reasons. I mention all of this not to justify conquest or imperialism but to provide perspective that can allow us to be clear-eyed and avoid histrionics. If your activism does not treat the existence of the United States of America as a fait accompli, you’re living in a fantasy. It is only in America that supposedly serious people claim that America shouldn’t exist. I have never heard the most marginalized black Brazilians claim that the Brazil should not exist. I am not interested in litigating things that I cannot change. The United States exists. Europe conquered Africa and the world beginning 500 years ago. It led to untold misery and suffering for countless of us. I have read the history books and as emotionally wrenching as it was to grapple with that history, I have made my peace with that historical reality. I am interested in the past only as much as it can help me understand my present and do something about my present. I am not interested in wallowing in the past and litigating it for a moral crusade. No amount of doing so will change it. It will only hamper me psychically in navigating the present that is all I have any control over.
Perhaps the most bizarre question around which the culture of wokeness goes completely left on Clubhouse is on the issue of interracial dating. I listened in on several rooms with such titles as “Are black men weak for dating white women?”, “Can you be pro-black and marry white?” and “Why are black men choosing foreign women over black queens?”, I observed the normalization of the policing of other people’s romantic and sexual choices and all kinds of aspersions cast on those black people who find love or companionship with white people. Now this discussion was gendered in that it was largely driven by black women. Here I learned that being pro-black did not mean what I thought it was: which was seeking full social and economic equality with citizens of all races in our countries. Instead it means committing to “not marrying with anyone who isn’t black, not having children who are not black, not employing or doing business with anyone who is not black because #allblackeverything”. If that sounds to you like the exact objectives of apartheid South Africa and the Jim Crow South, it’s probably because you’re not decolonized enough or something. I knew better than to go up and say the things I believe, which is that no one’s preferences or choices should be policed or prosecuted, even if they are problematic. I believe that the world is only going to continue to collide and get more interconnected and people will continue to mix and that this separatist fantasy is only just that. Is it true that Eurocentric standards of beauty in media and popular culture may inform the dating preferences of black men? Yes. Is it true that there is a way that black men are fetishized in the popular imagination in ways that are problematic? Yes. Is it true that black women are given short shrift in the desirability economy? Yes. These are all facts. Yet when I see a black person (man or woman or non-binary) on the street with a white partner, I don’t consider it within my rights to even think about why they are together and if it may be “problematic”. Because it is none of my business. I don’t believe I have a claim to them due to the fact that we have the same color of skin or even originate from the same country or have a shared experience of discrimination. They may be Colombian or Eritrean or Luxembourgish. They contain a multitude of attitudes, affinities, interests, experiences and values that may inform their attraction to whoever, white, Indian or Javanese. It would be absurd of me to interrogate their choice of a partner let alone shame them for it. They would be well within their rights to punch me square in the jaw for doing so. Even if they only date white people because that is straight hair and blue eyes is what they find attractive. Even if that belief is based on conditioning. Even if the person has “self-hate”, as the accusation goes. I, as a person who likes himself, will not take their choice as an insult on my person. Why would I want to litigate their choice with them? To compel them to date me instead? Why would i want to compel a person who doesn’t want to be with someone like me to date me? How sad and desperate. Now if this person were to say “I don’t date black men/black women because All black men/women are trash. ” Then and only then would I be finally be justified in prosecuting them for disparaging an entire demographic in broad strokes. I did not go up there to say this, but some of my fellow men did not know better and went to defend their freedom to pursue their romantic desires and to wonder why these women were advocating segregation. They were shouted down with derision by the echo chamber, accused of “preferring to be with white people”, and of course “gaslighting”. I did not go up there because on more than one occasion, I have had the bewildering experience of getting accused of “gaslighting” for disagreeing with a woman and telling her so.
In the clubhouse vein of debate, human interactions are never just simply that. They are always exercises in oppression and hierarchy. When I protest against the derision and anger that I feel is unjustifiably directed at me when I disagree, I am accused of “tone-policing” and told that actually wanting to disagree with courtesy comes out of a colonialist white supremacist socialization to be polite….or something. However, when my voice takes on an equally sharp tone, I am “silencing black women”. When I interrupt a woman accidentally in the back-and-forth of a debate, there’s no way I could have done so innocently, or even because I’m just rude and argumentative, it’s because “capitalism devalues the labor of black women”. When I made the mistake of telling people on the app I was in Costa Rica, the woke echo chamber told me that it was of course “problematic” and because of my “colonizer privilege” that I was in Costa Rica during the pandemic . In their view, Costa Rica is not a highly developed country whose government put in place measures to allow foreigners to come in to their country that I agreed to as an individual. Since nothing exists outside of oppression and hierarchy, my escape for sun and fun is me perpetuating colonialist violence against the poor oppressed Latin America country who have been coerced by capitalism and American imperialism to let me and my tourist dollars in.
Worst of all in all of this, is the self-victimization where in any and all phenomenon in the world is evidence of the oppression of black people. It is in the air and under the couch and behind your ear. I listened to six-hour discussions about how Black British actors coming to Hollywood and playing black American icons is perpetuating the erasure of black Americans. A completely race-neutral phenomenon, where British people (white and black) have been conquering Hollywood was an avenue for Black Americans to hurl invective at Black Brits. No white people ever sat in a room to talk about white Brits playing Spiderman or Abraham Lincoln or Rick from the Walking Dead. I listened to bitter violent ad-hominem between women of different melanin levels about how the casting of light-skinned women in tv shows was part of a plot to erase black women. I heard someone say in that room that if it came down to a Holocaust of black people, the light skinned and the biracial would choose to be white. What that exercise in doomsday scenario exploration served is beyond me. In the room about whether one can be pro-black and marry white, a woman came up to the stage to talk about “how saddened and heartbroken I am to know that China and India have more people than the entire continent of Africa”. I literally screamed with pain into my phone. For this woman, so wrapped in the warm blanket of the narrative of oppression at every corner, demographic trends 1000 years in the making are actually proof of the conspiracy to rid the world of black people via interracial dating. Never mind that Africa has the youngest population and is actually in the midst of a population boom. This is what the culture is now. An entire new generation is being indoctrinated with this mindset. The weird fetishistic language that is used to describe it. Co-opted and advanced by performative white liberals seeking approval (See Jessica Krug). Talk of “black pain” and “trauma” and “black death” and “black bodies”. (What the hell is a black body. I’m a person!) To be black is to be wretched and downtrodden. Anyone that is not skinfolk is your enemy. The world seeks the death and destruction and always has. And when you watch people adopt a punk rock-aesthetic version of black consciousness, that requires them to perform rage at society all the time, enforcing the gospel, punishing heretics and the insufficiently devout, you wonder if there is a certain comfort that is provided by wrapping oneself in this warm blanket of rage, and a certain moral reward that comes with being a noble sufferer, a martyr. You wonder if more than anything, the worst effect of racism and its legacy is that it has made people not like themselves, and instead of seeking the professional or spiritual help that allows one to come to terms with oneself, they have taken refuge in the religion of wokeness and have sought salvation in a fanatical devotion to enforcing its dogmas.
Lastly, the tweet that made me realize I was not alone and that inspired me to write this: