Seeking Out Conflict

Social Justice activists are dismissive of people who say, “why does everything have to be about race?” For people of colour, they claim, racial discrimination permeates every aspect of their lives. Only white people have the privilege of ignoring those issues.

They seem to despair of anyone ever being able to understand each other or forming healthy relationships across the racial lines they have identified. They see racial divisions as insurmountable. It’s a surprisingly defeatist attitude for such an assertive and dynamic creed. On a BBC 3 documentary, recently, I saw a young black man, in some distress, saying, “White people have no idea what it’s like to be black in Britain today. No idea.” To which I wanted to say, with sympathy and kindness, “All white people? How do you know this? Give us a chance, Honey, some of us might be more empathetic than you think.”

Instead, activists pursue conflict and try to win arguments, even though no one is ever persuaded to change sides by force of logic or rhetoric (or, indeed, by passion. Racism is illogical and emotional. As long as the Klansmen refuse to admit you are right, they win.) 

I’m not sure winning is even the point of Social Justice activism. Their thoughts on what to do with victory seem vaguer than a U.S. military exit strategy. Perhaps they both rely on the same foundational trope of western cultural narrative: destruction of your enemies automatically brings resolution. This message is reinforced by countless Hollywood westerns and revenge thrillers. 

Activists don’t seem to go into how we would practically build a functional, fairer society. Who needs to do what? I suspect their campaigns have been infected by the ego-centrism of the internet and social media. A good day’s work seems to involve staying true to yourself speaking your truth in the face of opposition. You don’t have to actually convince anyone, you are simply reinforcing your own identity by expressing yourself. 

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