American Conservatives Need to Wake Up

(Willie Wonka: after revision the Oompa Loompas were no longer Pygmies from Africa)

Here in Ohio and around the nation the issue of “wokeness” is a bell constantly being rung by some conservatives.

‘Woke’ people are those liberals hip to all the repression concerning gender and race, especially in its more subtle psychological forms. It is about pronouns like using “he” or “she” when a person is bi-sexual, and it is about “systematic ” prejudices and barriers rather than very explicit and historically acknowledged overt acts of repression like Jim Crow laws. Well at least its something like that.

I must admit that I am not that good at some of these subtleties. I trip up on the pronoun issue fairly frequently when substitute teaching. Its hard to tell a lot of the girls from the boys (and vice versa) in some of my high schools. I have caught on to that in recent years and try to be more careful, more ‘woke’ about it, I guess I could say.

Much of what is being contended by ‘the woke’ is true and important, I think, but some of it does seem a little nagging , trite, and awkward; this is what conservatives especially jump upon. I do get crossly reprimanded some times when I mistake girls and boys and use the pronoun they do not prefer. In very ‘woke’ meetings among Democrats desired pronouns are often specifically clarified, and some “non-binary” sexual people want to be referred to as “them”!

The conservative columnist who I will focus on below, has recently contended that the objection by progressives to the content of some classic literature is not only trivial but book banning. Discussed in this light was Roald Dahl’s revisions to Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (both the book and the movie) in the early 1970s. To my knowledge, Dahl made these revisions voluntarily and in response to the Civil Rights Movement of the time and more specifically to the complaints of some black organizations. Afterall, the original book said the “Oompa Loompas” were African Pygmies smuggled from that continent in crates by Wonka! Also revised was the repeated and prominent description of several of the “golden-ticket” winners as “fat” and “ugly.” It was toned down, our columnist contends, because modern parents and children are so “sensitive.” (The sissies: unwilling to be shamed and toughened-up like in the good old days!)

I do not refer to myself as ‘woke,’ and it is younger people that seem to, more generally. I do see the point of much of it, particularly the role of “systematic” prejudices. Its not laws and white-sheeted Klansmen that are the bulk of repression these days, but more ordinary and developmental barriers that restrain the open and optimal growth of too many individuals and whole categories of people. Much of what restrains America’s black community, for example, is poverty , addiction, lack of education, and violent acts and expression. These often seem to be self-inflicted wounds in a way; but this is a difficult contention, too big to specifically discuss now.

The following is my response to the columnist recently submitted to the Columbus Dispatch but not yet published:

Conservatives Need to Wake Up

Conservatives are dreaming. They see stolen elections where none exist.  They imagine evil in vaccination and a hoax in the death of a million Americans from Covid. They see ‘murder’ when a woman asserts her bodily autonomy and aborts a pregnancy long before viability.

Conservative USA TODAY columnist, Ingrid Jacques, suffers from similar delusions. She needs to wake up.
In “GOP stands against ‘woke’… but what does it mean?” (3/15 Columbus Dispatch) she contends that Critical Race Theory “has been adapted at the K-12 level” and “is teaching school-children to dislike each other.”

In my 35 years of teaching social studies in the Columbus area, and especially in recent years as a substitute teacher, I have been in many classrooms and in a variety of schools. Never once have I witnessed a teacher teaching students to dislike each other. Never have I seen a lesson plan that I would have explicitly called CRT, nor have I heard a teacher advocate that approach.

Granted, there are lessons taught—and I have authored more than a few of them—that do focus on injustices both past and present. But that is not CRT, it is honest social studies teaching.

Jacques quotes a supposed expert on this topic. Those of us who are awake (‘woke’) to some of these issues think that disparities of achievement between groups are “largely if not entirely the product of oppressive social forces.” But when I see the achievements of Fredrick Douglas, Susan B. Anthony, Paul Robeson, or Ruth Bader Ginsburg for example, I see great talents, effort, and courage. I also listen to their testimony that great prejudices and unjust obstacles had to be overcome in their pursuits.

Barack Obama has recently become the first black president, but what of the first woman president? By the logic of Ms. Jacques, maybe ‘the gals’ are just not capable, or maybe they are just too happy to be pregnant and in the kitchen. Surely it is not systemic bias.

Do I hear a wake-up bell ringing?

I got a real kick out of writing that last paragraph. It seems like a real zinger! And imagine American conservatives continuing in this way their dismal sequence of supposed revelations about what is really going on in this country! They are on one pathetic roll, and they continue to double-down!

“What is wrong with you ‘woke’ people?”
It’s the kettle calling the pot black! Thanks to Matson and Cagle Cartoons for the use.

One thought on “American Conservatives Need to Wake Up

  1. Another thought-provoking article. Thank you.

    Dr. Mark K. Wourms
    Executive Director
    Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest
    502 995-8512


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