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Evolving past performative politics on a liberal campus

Organizing instead of antagonizing

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Those in the know can tell you that American politics skew to the right, a binary of two pro-capital parties that maintain a stark cultural contrast. Within that framework, one might believe there to be a tremendous amount of daylight between left and right. 

I’m here to tell you that in our political discourse, the dead-center is precisely that: dead. We students have a choice to either abandon or uphold the same inequity we study and critique in class. 

A moment does not constitute a movement. After George Floyd was murdered, I posted a black square on my Instagram feed because I did not know what else to do. Some took responsibility for their complicity to anti-Blackness and some moved to condemn white supremacy and excommunicate the nonbelievers. 

Politics, however, is not a soap opera only existing to reaffirm our humanity. It exists as a group problem-solving tool to address large-scale issues and requires persistence, cooperation, and focus. 

Robin DiAngelo, former UW professor and author of the book “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Race,” would have you believe that racism is a social phenomenon that can be eradicated through corporate anti-racism training seminars. 

This for-profit model of combating racism best encapsulates the liberal dilemma: How can coastal elites maintain their footholds while appearing to act in society’s best interests? By ignoring US imperialism and the global political economy of race and class.

Today we quarrel with “cancel culture.” This issue has been monetized as well. Liberals practice a religion –– they pay taxes, recycle their plastics, and vote for Democrats on Election Day. Then, from the heights of Twitter, they decide who is naughty or nice and who goes to heaven or hell. 

There is no more room for disagreement — just short-term payoffs and righteous indignation through and through. This form of performative liberalism fails to critique itself and cedes power to its supposed challenger –– the conservative movement. 

Sorting people into the “good bucket” and the “bad bucket” will no sooner lead to big structural change than a reality TV show would. Neither will the technocratic modes of policy wonkery, entrusting the destiny of the public to the wiser, specialized elites. 

A popular movement that evolves past performative politics will require the direct participation of ordinary people. If they are continually excluded from the decision-making process, the poor and working class will receive minimal representation. 

Advances in productivity and technology offer not only smart phones, but also complacency. We spend our time scrolling, each of us living in our own personalized fantasy world. But we can and must evolve past the self-fulfilling cycles of liberal woke-scolding and condescension. 

Prior to his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote one final book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community,” that emphasizes this sentiment.  

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic,” King said. “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” 

Reach contributing writer Thomas DuBeau at Twitter: @thomas_dubeau

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(3) comments


"Politics, however, is not a soap opera only existing to reaffirm our humanity. It exists as a group problem-solving tool to address large-scale issues and requires persistence, cooperation, and focus." This is key. I think this is an important article to remind students of the importance of dedication in politics and waging campaigns for specific policy goals. While I don't appreciate campus campaigns to remove problematic individuals (ex. professors) which fail to call for broader shifts in campus democracy, I think this article could lead readers to an incorrect view of activism in the university - many campaigns with defined goals are ongoing, such as the BSU's 7 demands, USAS's current prison labor campaign, the ICA campaign for fossil fuel divestment, etc.

More Inclusive than Thou

Obviously I meant "MLK/LBJ" Liberalism.

More Inclusive than Thou

We need to get back to KLK/LBJ liberalism.

Folks primitive societies lack an equivalent term for "Human being". And it's not at all the case that they don't know that there are like animals elsewhere with which one can in fact reproduce. It's just that there is no special status to these similar looking animals that are not in one's own tribe or clan.

Sadly, we are getting back to that. The more primacy given over to sub-group, the less left for the individual human being.

The human race has never really done anything nearly as good as getting to the point of expecting all of the citizens of a vast nation to be held as having equal rights before the law.

And the US political Left is going back to the concept of different rights and standards to be assigned to different citizens, based upon group affiliation.

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