It’s important to start off by saying I fully acknowledge Critical Race Theory, Feminist Theory, and the Social Justice movement as a whole. I am a big supporter or #MeToo, and I regularly volunteer with nonprofits doing actual work on these issues and creating positive change in the world.
I am an ally, and the point of this post is to say that the movement is imperfect. That sometimes we make enemies of potential allies for no reason, and that we have at least as much to learn as the people we’re trying to educate with these movements.
Dictionary Definition vs Academic Theory
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines racism as, “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”
They define sexism as, “prejudice (injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one’s rights; especially : detriment to one’s legal rights or claims) or discrimination (the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually) based on sex; especially : discrimination against women.”
As we will see, the definitions of these words used in academic theory and by many misguided advocates of Social Justice differ wildly from the real definitions, to the often toxic and self-destructive detriment of the cause of Social Justice.
The fundamental similarity in the definition of all these terms is that any time you say anything about an entire group of people being better or worse than another group in some way, that is discrimination. Racial discrimination is racism. Gender discrimination is sexism.
If you say all ___ group are ___, your statement fulfills the definition of discrimination.
If you say all black people are ____, your statement fulfills the definition of racism.
If you say all women are _____, your statement fulfills the definition of sexism.
Critical Race Theory
Critical Race Theory is the academic theory taught in liberal arts programs which says that because of microaggressions and pervasive cultural biases, all people who are not part of a minority race are “racists.” There is no doubt that all of these people will have varying degrees of bias, but that is very different from the definition of racism. Using that word as though it is correct is toxic and detrimental to the cause and the movement to create positive change in the world.
I understand the theory and the argument, but the problem is that there is a big difference between a white person in Alabama who is out there burning crosses and calling people racial slurs on the daily and a white person in California who believes in equality and is volunteering with nonprofits doing real good on the daily.
If the goal is to create positive change in the world, then ignoring the difference between these two people and calling both of them the same word “racist” is just absurd. It turns allies into enemies. It puts the would-be activist outside the conversation and makes the whole cause irrelevant and self-destructive. Ignoring the fact that some white people are not racist is toxic to the movement and to the cause.
Black Lives Matter shutting down a Bernie rally, even though he was literally getting arrested with MLK during the civil rights movement is absurd and self-destructive. This was the only candidate who even cared about the movement, and the only one who spent years of his life fighting the same cause, and these activists turned his fans against their cause for no reason. This behavior on the part of some Black Lives Matter activists was toxic to the movement and to the cause.
Feminist theory is another academic theory which states that all cis-men are sexists. The theory makes the same claims from Critical Race Theory of microaggressions and pervasive cultural biases as the basis for its claim that all cis-men are sexists. There is no doubt that these people will all have some degree of bias, but that is entirely different from the definition of being a sexist. Using that word as though it is correct here is clearly also toxic and detrimental to the cause of creating positive change in the world.
Much like the race example, there is a big difference between a cis-man in Alabama who sincerely believes that women should not be working or have authority, or have independence or sexual liberation, and w cis-man in California who believes the opposite and spends their time volunteering to further the cause of Women. Ignoring the difference between these two people is toxic to the cause and the movement.
The #MeToo movement started as a way for people to discuss sexual harassment and assaults they had suffered in order to break the stigma and find justice for these experiences. The problem is that what started as a way of exposing sexual assaults (A serious felony which should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law) eventually descended into many cases of people using it as a platform to seek public retribution for things like “unwanted advances.” Many commentators have recently speculated that because of how absurd many of the claims have become, it will lead to MORE sexism and bias against women in the workplace because this movement has caused women to appear alarmist and dishonest. That is clearly toxic to the cause and the movement and makes the problem worse, not better.
Let’s be clear, there is nothing wrong with an unwanted advance. If someone gives you a compliment or proposes something you are not interested in, you can simply say “no thanks” and go on with your day. This is a normal and healthy part of interpersonal communication going back to the dawn of time. If that person doesn’t take no for an answer and forces themself on the other in a way that involves actual physical contact, then it becomes a serious crime which should be prosecuted. Putting declined advances on the same pedestal as sexual assault is toxic and self-destructive. It harms the cause and the movement, and creates biases which harm everyone.
What Ought We To Do?
Moving forward, there are a few simple things we can each do to make real progress happen and stop the toxic self-destructive behavior:
We should all continue to do everything we can to improve the situation as much as possible for people who are the subject of biases and unfair conditions by volunteering our time with local nonprofits doing actual work on these causes.
Be careful not to call people names or shoot yourself in the foot while talking about these important issues. Remember that the goal is to create positive change. How does calling someone a sexist or a racist help?
Reposting memes does not make you a social justice advocate. Put your money where your mouth is and subscribe to donate at least a few dollars monthly to nation-wide or global nonprofits doing actual work on these important issues. Here are a few examples. Give $5 a month to one of them. Take a real step beyond thoughts and prayers to actually make change happen in the world:
- The ACLU
- Fight For $15
- The National Organization For Women
- Planned Parenthood
- The Southern Poverty Law Center
If you have another favorite organization which deserves monthly contributions, suggest it in the comments!