United States. Wokism, the making of a fake monster

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A demon “undermines the republic and democracy”. Jean-Michel Blanquer launches a think tank to study it, that is to say the imminence and the force of a danger on which the Figaro proves inexhaustible, between “cultural revolution in progress” and “soft totalitarianism”, abounds the American journalist and writer Rod Dreher in the columns… of Le Figaro. It is now time to unveil the identity of the destructive agent: “wokism”, an “ideology” (dixit Alain Finkielkraut) which would fragment individuals by stunting them into an identity (preferably “racial” or gender) and would establish a thought police stalking the straight white man.

Wokism, invention of the American right

Wokism goes hand in hand with “cancel culture”: those who do not think like the new masters are pilloried in the new public place that social networks have become. Born in American universities, this reverse McCarthyism would begin to produce its devastations in France, hence the almost obsessive interest of the Minister of National Education as of the daily life held by the Dassault family. All of them shout for “the importation of American concepts into France”. Except that wokism, precisely, is an invention of … the American right.

Woke, state of awakening and consciousness in the face of oppression

A little history. The term “woke” does exist. Literally meaning “awake”, it comes from African-American slang and positively designates a state of awakening and awareness in the face of the oppression that weighs on ethnic, sexual or religious minorities.

For some, the roots of the expression go back to the 1960s and the civil rights movement. During a speech at Oberlin University on June 14, 1965, Martin Luther King spoke to the graduates of the day about “their great challenge: to stay awake (here ” awake ”) through this social revolution” that the pastor thought. then underway in the United States.

In any case, the word resurfaced during the decade of 2010. Perhaps from the Occupy Wall Street movement, in 2011. Certainly after the birth of Black Lives Matter, in 2013. The first highlighted, through its famous slogan of “1% against 99%”, the explosion of social inequalities. The second denounced the persistence of “systemic racism”, despite legal equality of rights and the election of the first black president in the history of the country. The MeToo movement is sort of the third stage of this rocket.

“Identity politics on steroids”

American universities have effectively served as a catalyst for these militant movements. For decades, they have been pioneers in so-called “gender” or “racial” studies that analyze the complex and sophisticated mechanisms of exploitation. An approach summarized in 1989 by the academic Kimberlé Crenshaw in the term “intersectionality”, which aims to describe a situation in which a person brings together “racial, social, sexual and spiritual characteristics which make him accumulate several social handicaps and make it the victim of different forms of discrimination ”.

Challenge the system in all its facets: the company is not going without drifts. The same Kimberlé Crenshaw also regretted in 2020, during an interview given to Time Magazine, the misuse by certain groups of his conceptual tool: “There was a distortion. This is not about identity politics on steroids. It is not a machine for making white males the new outcasts. “

Disguised as a scarecrow, the woke becomes wokism

Too happy with certain abuses, the American right is part of the whole, transforming a movement of ideas into a “political movement”. The woke becomes wokism, disguised as a scarecrow like, thirty years earlier, “political correctness”. Both draw from the same sources – between French Theory (Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze) and the battle for cultural hegemony (Gramsci) – and challenge the established order even in its words and representations. As in the 1990s, the Conservatives are calling out attacks on “freedom of expression”. Part of the press bites the hook, which is frightened by this “new puritanism” (The Atlantic) and this “illiberal left” (The Economist).

In a recently published article, journalist Michael Hobbes debunks the argument: “Sixty years ago you could say ‘Blacks and whites should not be allowed to marry’ in almost every church, place of worship. work or university in the country. Today, those who think so hesitate to express it almost everywhere. So much the better. It is the whole of American society that is more woke. And this is precisely what frightens the Trumpized Right.

The repressive arsenal of the republicans

After the invention of wokism, here is the instrumentalisation of the “Critical Race Theory”, an academic current born in the 1980s, now accused of stuffing the brains of little Americans with historical untruths. The string is big, but it activates a repressive arsenal of Republicans where they are in power. Here, the ban on broadcasting in schools the documentary I Am Not Your Negro, devoted to the black American author James Baldwin, or the desire of groups of parents of pupils to expel the very seditious Martin Luther King from the library and the march on Washington. There, in Texas in particular, the hunt for words (“anti-racism”, “patriarchy”, “white privilege”, “systemic racism”) and books that speak of it. Wokism is well worth a new McCarthyism.

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