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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer
Saturday, November 19, 2016
Trump’s America: Social Justice Warriors Need to DO One Thing They Hate
From transactivists to #blacklivesmatter, social justice groups have taken a serious shellacking over the past 10 days. And despite years of indulgence by a pliant left, the election of Donald Trump suggests that the current era of identity politics is rapidly reaching its expiration date.
For many, it won’t come soon enough. Enabled by the academy and coddled by Hillary Clinton, social justice warriors have been given free rein over a liberal elite too scared — or simply too lazy — to know any better.
Fueled by a mix of intolerance and entitlement, the left has cultivated a culture of closed-mindedness that’s left little room for individual thinking and intelligent discourse. Shaming skeptics and silencing critics, they railed against microaggressions and demanded safe spaces. But along the way, the social justice crowd forgot one key thing — no space is ever safer than the American ballot box.
Now at the dawn of the Trump presidency, progressive groups must begin to consider what they’ll do next. At the moment, many are boycotting schools, donning safety pins and marching nationwide — warning against a forthcoming administration they’re convinced will dismantle everything from abortion and same-sex marriage to affirmative action and environmental protections.
Of course, many of these concerns are certainly valid and must be monitored aggressively and with vigilance. But when the dust settles — and it inevitably will — activists will be left with little choice but to evolve their tactics or risk irrelevance.
But if they truly want change, the left needs to move beyond a feelings-based platform for something far more tangible and effective.
At best, social justice folks should trade their victim-based ideology for a movement far more rooted in accountability and achievement rather than suffering. At the very least, progressives must learn to contend with — and ultimately sympathize with — feelings other than their own.
And then there’s the tone-deaf gem from New York magazine writer Rebecca Carroll, who began a Q&A with CNN commentator Van Jones by declaring: “It feels to me like race is always the last thing to be addressed in conversations about elections.”
In fact, it’s folks like CNN’s Jones, a black journalist whose print and digital work acknowledges white pain, who are truly bridging divides by actively listening to communities beyond their comfort zones.
Trump in the White House may be the social justice movement’s harshest lesson of all
“I hear pain in your voice…and there’s something underneath there,” said Jones to a fervent white Trump supporter in his recent Web series, “The Messy Truth.” Jones’ mix of empathy and humor dismantles the most sacred tenet of the social justice doctrine — that people who disagree are compelled to be enemies.
A conciliatory tone was also adopted by President Obama. “We have to remember that we’re actually all on one team,” he said to crestfallen Clinton supporters. Earlier, he also called for “a sense of unity, a sense of inclusion and a respect for institutions, our way of life, rule of law and a respect for each other.”
For years, much of the social justice canon relied on the “haves” accounting to the “have-nots.” Whites needed to “own” their privilege, men must concede their dominance, the cis-gender compelled to honor the transgender. Trump’s win proves that this strategy is ultimately unsustainable; that a movement anchored in blame and defeat could never evolve beyond the fringes.
Much like before the election, police killings, sexual assault and bathroom access remain daily concerns for wide swaths of the American populace. But they’re not America’s only concerns; indeed for an equally wide swath, they never were.
And this — far more than a Trump in the White House — may be the social justice movement’s harshest lesson of all.