Thursday, November 25, 2021

Quite a Week for Wokeism

Virginians decided this month that wokeism is so offensive they want a governor who will eradicate it from schools.

Of course, these are citizens of the same state that hanged the rebel Nat Turner, then cut off his head, disemboweled him, flayed him, and sold souvenir purses made of his skin.

They don't cotton to upstarts.

Wokeism is certainly all about being an upstart.

Upstart is a 16th-century word denoting "one newly risen from a humble position to one of power, importance, or rank; a parvenu." It was borrowed from the Old Norse upp—meaning "to a higher place"—and the German stürzen—meaning "to hurl."

Wokeism is about being hurled to a higher place.

This has been quite a week for wokeism.

On Tuesday, during a guided tour of the House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts, I was informed by the docent that the home was "built on the backs of five slaves," an absurd claim given the owner was an extraordinarily enterprising merchant seaman. It was the seaman's wealth that built the lavish house—and that allowed him to own five slaves. The slaves were the seaman's house servants. He didn't involve slaves in his business.

On Wednesday, The Women’s March formally apologized for a fundraising email it sent donors. "We apologize deeply for the email that was sent today," the organizers said. "$14.92 was our average donation amount this week. It was an oversight on our part to not make the connection to a year of colonization, conquest, and genocide for Indigenous people, especially before Thanksgiving." The apology comes so close to mockery, it defies explanation.

And today, the Tate Britain had to defend itself against critics who accused it of "cancelling Hogarth" and promoting "wokeish drivel." The museum's new exhibition, Hogarth and Europe, features wall labels which insist that Hogarth's art was only made possible by the slave trade. Hogarth in fact earned most of his keep selling political cartoons. He disdained slavery.

I'm all for hurling POC to higher places; but wokeism sometimes sounds just silly.

It's silly to attribute everything to slave labor, just as it would be silly to attribute everything to the discovery of fire, the invention of the wheel, the domestication of horses, or the heroism of St. Paddy.

Shit's more complex than that.

Consider, for example, the steps our Founding Fathers took to end the slave trade:
  • Northern states abolished slavery in the 18th century. Vermont abolished slavery in 1777; Pennsylvania, in 1780; New Hampshire and Massachusetts, in 1783; Connecticut and Rhode Island, in 1784. By 1860, free states outnumbered slave states.
  • Washington enacted the world's first national anti-slavery law. The Slave Trade Act of 1794 prohibited the outfitting of ships for slave transit in any US port.
  • Adams strengthened the law. By signing the Slave Trade Act of 1800, Adams prohibited the transit of slaves by US flagships and US citizens aboard foreign flag ships.
  • Jefferson stopped the importation of slaves. By signing the Act Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves in 1808, Jefferson ended the trade altogether.
  • Monroe criminalized the slave trade. By declaring the trans-Atlantic slave trade an act of piracy, Monroe sought to punish illegal slave-trafficking.
  • Tyler pledged to use the Navy to stop slave traders. By signing the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, Tyler agreed to use US Navy ships to interdict slave traffickers.
These are only a few of the "inconvenient truths" wokeism can't abide.

There are a whole lot more.

HAT TIP: Thanks go to historian Glen Williams for citing, via email, the Founding Fathers' anti-slavery legislation.
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