There is a current underlying, unchallenged belief that in arguing that ‘woke’ culture is negative, you must also believe that the progress of minorities is a negative. Allow me to lay out a progressive argument against the woke trend. 

When we talk of the new ‘woke’ generation, we are talking of a band of people who have decided that offence can be found in all things. That freedom of speech is only a negative. And above all, that disagreement is a bad thing. I do not for one second question they’re intention to facilitate the rights of minorities. I question whether their actions are achieving their intentions. 

How to make real change 

In focusing on the minutiae of the past, we are missing a discussion about doing things that would actually help. To look forward is to make progress. If the suffragettes had focused on toilet signs, where would we be now. Instead of focusing on a change in the curriculum, or police officers in schools, or the cost of sanitary products, the argument has been about Winston Churchill’s statue; and this fundamentally has to be missing the point.

Imagine if instead of getting worked up about a tweet or the mistaken use of a gender pronoun, we used political capital for improving street lighting to make women feel safe or banned gay conversion therapy. This would have represented true progress and more importantly, it would not have alienated those who see the woke movement as ridiculous. By pushing the centre ground of the country towards the right, as the woke brigade do, politicians see this new form of social conservatism as a vote winner and so implement socially conservative policies. Quite the opposite of what the movement set out to achieve.

Now, I understand there will be points made against this; one being that just because someone aligns with outdated views, it doesn’t mean we should indulge them. In response, I say you are absolutely correct. But, you must ask yourself what will make someone like that change their views. Will it be shouting at them and calling them ‘racist’ or sitting them down and making them aware of their outdated position?

Ignoring the individual

The notion defended by Martin Luther King was for a world where a person’s character, not their racial background, came first. This has been the progressive standpoint for years and has resulted in a less racist society. However, the self-defined ‘woke’ person now argues that race is in fact your most defining characteristic. Clearly a regression. Never would I have thought that agreeing with Martin Luther King could be seen as anti- progressive! This position has two consequences. Firstly, in taking this primitive view, we ignore the person and their particular merits. People are no longer seen as individuals, but are instead lumped together into a collective race. As Kemi Badenoch recently pointed out, in treating people of colour as a group rather than individuals, we take away their right to disagree and think for themselves — the most import right of all.

To paraphrase Andrew Doyle, being gay is like being left-handed. It’s a simple fact, not the primary part of one’s personality. And secondly, the above stance delegitimises any achievement made by a minority — a dangerous result. When achievement becomes viewed as a consequence of an artificial leg-up rather than the product of one’s hard-earned accomplishment, it looses its worth.

Cancel culture

Now we move on to the most damaging aspect of woke culture for minorities: cancel culture. This is when you no longer want to engage with someone, so you block their voice. Okay, I’m being a touch cynical! Put simply, it seems that if you disagree with Helen Lewis on the issue of trans rights (as I do), then you no longer need to critique her point (as I would). You can take a much easier route and not engage with her — otherwise known as cancelling. But the easier route isn’t necessarily the right one. When we take the confrontation-free option to deplatform, cancel or end debate, we simply stop thinking constructively. This way we no longer have to defend our reasoning and bring our argument up to scrutiny. Stopping progressive debate has been known to inflict lasting damage precisely on the people we wish to defend: minorities.

As someone who strongly believes in equality and the rights of minorities, and who has been appalled by Trump’s race-baiting, I can only come to the conclusion that woke culture is a serious backwards misstep. We must return to the simple but crucial argument that the world should be a place where race, gender and sexual orientation do not make a difference to one’s life chances.

If the above is a controversial statement, then you need to ask yourself where in the world we’re going to end up.

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