We should all strive to be progressive in regards to social disparities and inequalities. We should all do our best to be aware of the problems any group faces. We should all want to better the world for everyone and we should be enraged when we see racism or discrimination. But that rage should quickly be mitigated with an honest conversation about why the incident occurred and what we can do to avoid similar incidents in the future.
That quick, reactionary rage was productive at one time. It made people aware that some actions and words are intolerable. But, our social media driven society made this reaction counterproductive. Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr created a toxic form of awareness in the form of “wokeness.” This reaction is fueled by anger and negativity and is now useless. Rather than lashing out at the offensive party in the name of moral superiority, an honest conversation fueled by compassion is needed.
Sadly, there is a lot of deeply ingrained hate and bias in America. We don’t need to look any further than the Pulse nightclub shooting, Charleston shooter Dylann Roof or the riots in Charlottesville to see the problem. However, claiming one’s wokeness is not going to solve anything. It does nothing more than put oneself on display. It’s simply saying, “I’m aware that this is a problem,” which does absolutely nothing to solve the actual problem. Sympathy and understanding are much more paramount.
Watch the video for Joyner Lucas’ song “I’m Not Racist.” The video depicts a white man and a black man aggressively rapping at one another. They engage in the raw, brutal conversation on race that America so desperately needs. Both parties fling racist generalizations and stereotypes at one another.
The white man asks why it’s an issue for him to use the n-word and why he should pay taxes to support government welfare programs for people who would rather sell drugs than work. He ends his verse by saying, “But there’s two sides to every story, I wish that I knew yours.” The black man explains why he can’t drive without police harassment and how historical systematic racism keeps him oppressed. He ends his verse by saying, “But there’s two sides to every story and now you know mine.”
It ends with the two men hugging one another. It’s a chilling video because it so accurately hits the racial hammer on the head by exemplifying the conversation and introspection America must undertake, rather than an endless competition of moral superiority and shame. The two men are honest about their feelings which results in an atmosphere of compassion, rather than shame and anger.
When we honestly reflect and share our biases and preconceived notions, we’re able to address them in a productive manner. Furthermore, it’s much easier to understand one another when we look inward and understand ourselves. Despite societal labels, we aren’t all that different. We’re all individuals taking part in the human experience. Once we first understand ourselves and one another and then accept that we’re all a part of one body, it becomes incredibly difficult to judge others.
An atmosphere of moral superiority — wokeness — demonizes bias, discrimination and even misunderstanding. While bias and discrimination are wrong, they cannot simply be met with shame. That only reinforces the problem. They need to be met with understanding. Only when we ask one another why we think certain things can we have an honest conversation on the matter and make progress. Compassion and sympathy must replace counterproductive wokeness if we’re ever to move forward.
James Smith is a 22-year-old mass communication senior from Grand Coteau, Louisiana.