The “woke” phenomenon is largely driven by white liberals who are more left-wing than the minorities they think they are helping — and whose views of Jews as “privileged” are driving a new antisemitism on the American left.
That’s the gist of a recent article in Tablet, an online Jewish magazine, by political science Ph.D. student Zach Goldberg.
The article, “America’s White Saviors,” uses detailed polling data to describe the rise of “wokeness” — which he notes is “originated in black popular culture” but has become a white ideological shift “that is remaking American politics.”
“As woke ideology has accelerated, a growing faction of white liberals have pulled away from the average opinions held by the rest of the coalition of Democratic voters—including minority groups in the party,” Goldberg writes.
“The woke elite act like white saviors who must lead the rest of the country, including the racial minorities whose interests they claim to represent, to a vision of justice the less enlightened groups would not choose for themselves.”
Goldberg is not unsympathetic: “[T]he moral emotions that liberals are more apt to feel, such as guilt, empathy, and compassion are necessary for a just and healthy social order,” he says. But the “woke” may be doing more harm than good.
He expands, for example, on the irony that “woke” white liberals are often at odds with minorities (original links):
[B]lack and Asian Democrats and liberals are significantly more supportive of restrictive immigration policies and less positive toward racial/ethnic diversity than their white counterparts. Black and Hispanic Democrats and liberals are more sympathetic toward Israel than the Palestinians (likely due in part to the fact that they tend to be more religious). They are also more likely to part ways when it comes to contemporary social and gender-identity issues, including views of the #MeToo movement. In all, though they do converge on some issues, the attitudes and policy preferences of the woke white left are unrepresentative of the “marginalized communities” with whom they are supposed to be allies.
Some of the bias among “woke” white liberals towards other groups comes from the rise of social media, which has increased awareness of suffering in other parts of society. In fact, Goldberg argues, social media may have led white liberals to imagine more suffering than actually exists: it “can warp people’s perception of reality is by leading them to overestimate the danger from certain threats.” (Breitbart News has noted the exaggeration of claims of hate crimes, for example — some of which may be genuinely motivated by concern for targeted groups, but some of which drives a partisan agenda.)
White liberals are still favorably disposed to Jews, Goldberg writes, but their support is “conditional”: because they perceive Jews as a “privileged” group, by virtue of their perceived success, they also view Jews with some degree of suspicion, especially if associated with Israel. Goldberg notes: “As Jews have become beacons of whiteness in the liberal political imagination—to the point that Israel is considered a white state despite having a slight nonwhite majority—they have come to be associated with an oppressor class.”
Moreover, he could have added, Israeli statehood is perceived as a privilege (President Barack Obama even told Israelis that it was not “fair” that Palestinians had no state, though they had the same historical chance to create one), and therefore anything Israel does to protect itself — especially against a threat that is perceived as less “white” — is seen as morally objectionable to the American left.
In essence, Goldberg seems to suggest, Jews are acceptable to the left as long as they renounce their privilege, which includes abandoning their support for the State of Israel, even when it is targeted by regressive and violent forces.
Goldberg’s analysis helps explain the emergence of an antisemitism in the Democratic Party that is tied to anti-Israel sentiment — one that is largely unconscious of how prejudiced against Jews their party’s rhetoric has become. (As Goldberg writes: “The danger is that ‘woke’ white activists acting on behalf of voiceless minorities have had their perceptions distorted by social media-tinted caricatures that obscure more objective measures of reality and end up silencing or ignoring what the voiceless groups, themselves, have to say about what policies are in their best interest.”)
Conservatives have not undergone a similar ideological shift, Goldberg adds, meaning that the “woke” white liberals have a distorted perception of political reality: “For liberals, the lack of awareness of how fast and far their attitudes have shifted fosters an illusion of conservative extremism.”
As a solution, Goldberg writes, the “woke” white liberals support radical immigration policies that, many hope, will bring about a demographic change that reduces white Americans to minority status — the theory being that minority groups will help usher in a more “progressive” age.
Meanwhile, the gains that Jews — a persecuted and enslaved group within living memory — have achieved in American society, and the world, are at risk precisely because they have succeeded within the system the “woke” want to destroy.
Read the full Tablet article here.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.