Woke Oppression

Woke Oppression

We have, thus far, defined Wokeness as “compassion for the oppressed.” This definition, however, is not as straightforward as it might appear. In the previous essay we outlined the three elements of Woke compassion: critical awareness, political advocacy, and social activism. With this understanding of Woke compassion in mind, we come to the following definition: Wokeness is critical awareness of, political advocacy for, and social activism on behalf of the oppressed. But who are the oppressed? And just as importantly, who are their oppressors? Let us now seek to understand oppression in Woke terms.

The Oppressor/Oppressed Dynamic

While the following idea will be discussed in more detail in future essays, it is important to state that Wokeness is a manifestation of cultural Marxism. This means that the principles of Marxism, particularly the oppressor/oppressed group conflict as the foundation of history, underlie Wokeness, even if they are applied in different ways. Cultural Marxism is the application of Marxist theory to cultural institutions like family, religion, art, education, law, etc. In traditional Marxism, where the conflict is primarily along economic lines, the oppressors are the upper class and the oppressed are the working class. Cultural Marxism takes this power-conflict out of the material world, the world of economics, and places it in the psychological world, the realm of thoughts, motivations, and desires. Thanks to the work of Sigmund Freud, the Frankfurt School, Antonio Gramsci, Wilhelm Reich, and others, the Marxist history of group conflict is now internalized and personalized. The result is that now one is free to see the oppressor/oppressed dynamic at work in every aspect of society and culture, and especially in one’s own personal life, often simmering just below the surface, in the subconscious of both groups and individuals.

Because of cultural Marxism, one is free to see the oppressor/oppressed dynamic at work in every aspect of society and culture, and especially in one’s own personal life.

“The psychologizing of oppression and the placing of it at the center of the history of human society plays directly to the idea that history is something to be overcome. After all, [according to Marx] the history of humanity is the history of oppression and victimhood. In Marx this was understood in economic terms, but from the mid-twentieth century onward it became psychological.”[1] If oppression is psychological, then it is also personal. If it is personal, then it is also subjective, an experience of one’s interior world. The oppressed person is now understood to be the victim, not only of acts of oppression against himself as an individual, but of all historical acts of oppression, persecution, bigotry, etc. committed against the group with which he identifies. For example, in Cultural Marxism, African-Americans perpetually belong to the victim class because of the history in America of African enslavement. This is true regardless of whether or not individual African-Americans wish to understand themselves as victims or oppressed. There is no opting out of the oppressor/oppressed dynamic in Wokeness. One can, however, be booted from one’s privileged position as victim by having the wrong politics, as the Los Angeles Times made clear when they opined that Larry Elder, a black conservative running for governor of California, was “the black face of white supremacy.”[2]

The interior world, with its dysfunctions and brokenness, is a core concept of Christianity. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly warns his disciples to be on guard against the sins of both the heart and mind. Lust is adultery in the heart, he said. Rage is murder in the mind. Wokeness and Christianity would agree that the manifest evils of the exterior world begin in the interior worlds of human beings. Where they differ, however, is that Christianity neither denies nor centers historic (and current) oppression. Instead, oppression is understood as the temptation of the powerful to wield their power in a way that benefits themselves to the detriment of others. It is a sin often, but not always, committed by those in positions of authority. It is not a totalizing explanation of human history because it is not sin itself. It is, rather, one of many acts of wickedness and rebellion that fallen humans commit against one another and against God himself. Oppression is one sin among many. This does not diminish the evil of oppression; it simply removes the explanatory power that Marxists of all stripes want to give it.

The Woke Oppressor

In order to understand Woke oppression, we must begin by identifying the Woke oppressor. As Wokeness is understood through a cultural lens, and therefore in identarian terms, we must understand the Woke oppressor in the following five identity categories: race, gender, sex, sexuality, and religion. In brief, the Woke oppressor is white, cis, heterosexual, male, and Christian. Let us examine each of these more closely.

The Woke Oppressor is white, cis, heterosexual, male, and Christian.

The most important characteristic of Woke oppression is whiteness. The villain that Wokeness seeks to conquer is white – white people, white culture, white supremacy, even whiteness itself. To be white, according to the apostles of Wokeness, is to be irredeemably racist. White people are the oppressors of everybody else in the world, as evidenced by Wokeness’s two basic racial categories: White people and people of Color. In this construction, white people hold all the social and political power, wielding it in a way that benefits themselves only. This exercise of power is what perpetuates the system of white supremacy, and why, in Woke doctrine, only white people can be racist. Robin DiAngelo states this clearly when she writes, “Critical scholars define racism as a systemic relationship of unequal power between White people and people of Color.”[3] It is impossible, therefore, for a person of Color to be racist, even when they actively and publicly profess race-based hatred and ill-intent toward others, because they start from a position of oppression and powerlessness.[4] Racism is the manifestation of racial power, not racial hatred. Only white people can be racist because only white people enjoy the privileges in the present of their long hold on world dominance in the past. As Ibram Kendi says, there are only two default positions for any person, racist or anti-racist. Everything and everyone that is not actively and intentionally anti-racist is racist. The de facto position for every white person, therefore, is racist. Oppression is always manifested whiteness.

The second characteristic of the oppressor is cisgender, or simply “cis.” This is the state one is in when one’s gender identity matches one’s sex, or to use Woke terminology, “sex assigned at birth.” A male who identifies as a man and a female who identifies as a woman are both considered to be cisgender. To be cis is to be a part of the oppressor class because, historically, cis people have erased non-cis lives by treating their cis-ness as if it were the default human condition. Or, in other words, cis people have historically not even considered the possibility of non-cis people’s existence. (Non-cis could refer, here, to a broad swath of gender identities, including trans, non-binary, etc.) Most human societies have normalized cis identity, that men are male and women are female, creating an oppressive culture of cisnormativity to the exclusion of trans people, and others.

Racism is the manifestation of racial power, not racial hatred.

The third characteristic of the oppressor is male. In this case, the oppressor’s sex is understood in a way that sex is not understood through the cis/trans lens. When applied to the oppressor, sex is fixed. This is because the male sex represents the Patriarchy and its long, historical subjugation of women. (Again, “women” here is to be understood in a way that does not apply to the cis/trans dynamic, but instead specifically to the traditional meaning: human females.) For example, when Ellen Page, the actress, became Elliot Page, the actor, she did not become a member of the oppressor class despite her now being a white man. Instead, her femaleness in regards to sex continues to be assumed, despite the impossibility of saying so, long after her transition to manhood. Males have long stood in the way of female advancement, actively subjecting them to second-class status through intimidation, abuse, arrogance, petulance, and outright misogyny. In most cultures, the flourishing of its females has been, at best, an afterthought, but more often than not this was never taken into consideration by men, who for all intents and purposes have had an exclusive hold on power throughout history. Women have been valued for what makes them different from men – childbearing and rearing, homemaking, physical attractiveness, and virtues like compassion and mercy – but have historically been barred from participating in the “man’s world” of economics, industry, and politics.

The fourth characteristic of the oppressor is heterosexual. Like cisnormativity, heteronormativity – the cultural expectation that heterosexual orientation and behavior is the norm – has dominated the history of every society. There are two simple reasons why heterosexuality is, or has been, considered normal. First, the vast majority of people are heterosexual. Despite recent trends among young people, the historical rate of heterosexuality has held constant at or above 95%. Being heterosexual is, according to the numbers, as normal as anything else, even more normal than right-handedness. The second reason for heteronormativity is the unique advantage that heterosexual unions have over other unions – the ability to produce and bear offspring. Heterosexuality is necessary for the propagation of the human species. These two basic biological facts give heterosexuality significant cultural cache, resulting in a clear power imbalance over homosexuality and other non-traditional sexual expressions. The implication is that there is no room in a society for LGB+ people, and hence their lives and experiences are erased by the hetero majority.

The fifth characteristic of the oppressor is Christian. As the dominant religion of the West for the past 1500 years, Christianity has done more to shape the power dynamics, and therefore define the oppressor and oppressed groups, than any other institution. To the Woke, Christianity’s most egregious sin is its emphasis on traditional sexual ethics and family life. These are intolerable and unforgiveable because of the harm they have caused in marginalizing and erasing non-heterosexual and non-cis people. The cultural expectation of adherence to Christian dogma since the time of Constantine has also resulted in the persecution, and at times genocide, of other religious groups. Christianity, which purports to be a religion of grace and compassion, has instead treated heretics with a heavy hand, persisted in the marginalization of out-groups, opposed scientific advancement, and perpetuated – and even justified – bigotry of all kinds. In sharp contrast to its founder, Jesus of Nazareth, Christianity, when in possession of power, has used that power to oppress people all over the world.

To the Woke, Christianity’s most egregious sin is its emphasis on traditional sexual ethics and family life.

Woke oppression is identarian oppression. Therefore, the five primary characteristics of the oppressor, according to Wokeness, are white, cis, male, heterosexual, and Christian. Possessing one or more of these identity markers places one within the oppressor group, while possessing all five firmly marks a person as the oppressor par excellence. Those at the intersection of all five oppressive identities should expect to find themselves in the crosshairs of Woke rage.

The Oppressed

It is time to turn our attention to the oppressed groups as the Woke understand them. But first, it is important to identify one particular group that does not qualify as oppressed within Wokeness but does so in virtually every other religion or ideology, and that is the poor. This is not to say that the Woke do not care for the poor, only that they do not care for a certain subset of the poor, and therefore do not care for the poor as poor. Unlike in classical Marxism, being poor is not enough to qualify oneself for oppressed status. In Wokeness, one can be poor and still meet all five identity requirements for oppressor status. The poor whites of Appalachia, for example, qualify as oppressors in Wokeness, not as oppressed, and therefore the Woke do not have critical awareness of, politically advocate for, or engage in social activism on their behalf. As Oprah Winfrey has said of poor whites, “No matter where they are on the rung or ladder of success, they still have their Whiteness.”

The most significant oppressed group in Wokeness is African American, particularly those who are descended from African slaves. This group of people has, obviously, been subjected to more oppression and injustice than almost any other group of people in human history. What American blacks have endured for the past ten to fifteen generations is unconscionable, and will forever be a stain on American history. The effects of slavery, Jim Crow, and redlining can still be felt today, and very few people, Woke or otherwise, would deny this.

The second important oppressed group is trans, by which we mean the group of people who experience something that used to be called gender dysphoria. These people believe that their sex, as evidenced through their bodies, does not match their gender, which is what they feel themselves to be on the inside. People who want to present themselves as the gender they feel they truly are on the inside have rarely been welcome to do so in public. The Woke would argue that this is a form of oppression because it is a socially-enforced form of inauthenticity. Trans people are not free to be their authentic selves.

The third oppressed group is women, which is where things start to get a bit convoluted due to the group just mentioned. Trans people, and especially trans women (male to female) are given primacy over women (or “cis” women) in the oppression hierarchy. This leaves some women, who are derided with the euphemism TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist), feeling as though they have suddenly lost all of the gains that the Feminist movement fought so hard to secure. Be that as it may, being a woman, in the biological sense, is still an important identity marker of oppression status.

The fourth group is the rest of what has become known as the Alphabet Group, but especially the LGB subset. These, of course, are the lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. These groups led the charge for normalization of non-heterosexual relationships and desires in Western culture, and have recently scored significant victories in their fight, not least of which is the landmark Obergefell decision of 2015, which legalized non-heterosexual marriage. Their oppression status remains, but has been downgraded since 2015, and has most certainly taken a backseat to the trans group almost immediately after Obergefell.

The final group doesn’t fit well with the last three, but it does seem to play a significant role in the Woke oppression hierarchy. These are Muslims, but especially Muslims who have relocated to the West. Woke cultural and political leaders always seem to be on the lookout for Islamophobia while also conveniently leaving out Islam when they criticize organized religions. The irony of the inclusion of Muslims in the oppression hierarchy is not lost on most people, as anyone with even a cursory understanding of Islam knows that it is one of the most oppressive religions for women and LGBT people.

There are other groups that can fit into this oppression hierarchy, particularly other ethnic groups like Hispanic (Latinx?) or Indigenous. They tend to be joined with Blacks via the acronym BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color), which is meant to include any non-white groups into a single category of oppressed identity. What is most interesting, however, is who does not qualify for oppression status and why. We have already mentioned poor whites, but as Wokeness evolves so do the identity categories. For example, Asians are now considered white or white-adjacent because of how well they tend to perform academically. This does not mean that they have taken on oppressor status, as whites universally possess, but that they cannot be grouped together in the oppressed class of people of Color.

Woke Hypocrisy

There are three specific instances of Woke hypocrisy in these matters that deserve mention, each one having to do with Woke silence when, according to their own rhetoric, they should have been speaking up. The first is the human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province. China’s atrocities against this religious and ethnic minority group have been well-documented, and there is little doubt that the Chinese government is engaged in a horrific and prejudiced pogrom that is still on-going as of this writing. One would expect Woke outrage at these blatant acts of persecution and oppression, but the outrage has hardly materialized, especially when compared to the outrage and violence that followed the police shooting of, for example, Jacob Blake. (Not to mention the outpouring of adulation and support, including from the current president and vice-president, for Blake, whose innocence in the matter is highly suspect.) On the contrary, ultra-Woke corporation Disney filmed part of its live-action adaptation of Mulan in Xinjiang province, mere miles from the Uyghur concentration camps, and even thanked 8 government agencies in the movie’s credits, one of which has since been sanctioned by the United States government. The Uyghur’s are experiencing everything the Woke pretend to care about, and yet the Woke have not taken up their cause. Apparently, if the villain isn’t white, the Woke won’t fight. It is hard to conclude otherwise.

If the villain isn’t white, the Woke won’t fight.

The second instance of Woke hypocrisy is another example of Woke silence, this time regarding the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. When President Biden ordered the departure of US troops from Afghanistan, a power vacuum was created that the Taliban soon filled. This fundamentalist Muslim force quickly overran the Afghani government, and at the time of this writing control the country once again. Due to their strict adherence to Muslim doctrine, the Taliban, among many other things, do not allow girls to attend school past the age of 12. This means a sharp and sudden end to the education of young women in the area, something that one would expect to rile the Woke to action and advocacy. But as with the Uyghurs in China, girls in Afghanistan simply don’t move the Woke needle. Each of these are clear examples of extreme oppression, but the Woke, who are notoriously misinformed about the levels of oppression in America[5], can’t be bothered with the plights of Uyghur Muslims or Afghani girls.

Thirdly, Woke hypocrisy rears its ugly head in regards to American abortion policy. Ibram X. Kendi, one of the most powerful Woke voices in the culture, particularly in matters of race, has a lot to say about racism that has been institutionalized at the level of public policy. “A racist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between racial groups. An antiracist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial equity between racial groups. By policy, I mean written and unwritten laws, rules, procedures, processes, regulations, and guidelines that govern people. There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy. Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups.”[6] According to information available on the CDC’s website, in 2018, “non-Hispanic White women and non-Hispanic Black women accounted for the largest percentages of all abortions (38.7% and 33.6%, respectively)…. Non-Hispanic White women had the lowest abortion rate (6.3 abortions per 1,000 women) and ratio (110 abortions per 1,000 live births), and non-Hispanic Black women had the highest abortion rate (21.2 abortions per 1,000 women) and ratio (335 abortions per 1,000 live births).”[7] The most recent census data available for the United States shows that African Americans make up 13.4% of the population, while whites make up 60.1%.[8] While more white women than black women obtain abortions overall, the population distribution shows that black women obtain abortions at a significantly higher rate than white women. Abortion policy in America is racially inequitable, skewing heavily toward the termination of black babies, and is therefore racist. Yet it is not the Woke who are clamoring for an end to, or even modification of, American abortion laws. Instead, the Woke hold abortion as a fundamental right of “pregnant people.” Then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016 went so far as to call abortion “sacrosanct.” Yet according to the doctrine of Wokeness it is clearly a racist policy that, since Roe V. Wade was established in 1971, has led to the termination of over 14,000,000 black pregnancies, or approximately 31% of the black population in America today.[9]

A Christian Response to Woke Oppression

Despite the sheer hypocrisy of Wokeness in regards to the Uyghur genocide, the plight of women in Afghanistan, and the abortion rates of black women, (as well as hypocrisy in many other areas) the Woke are right to call out oppression for the evil that it is. The world in general, and the Church in particular, should be grateful for how attuned the Woke are to matters of oppression. However, this does not mean that the Church should accept the Woke framework of an identity-based oppression matrix rooted in cultural Marxism. As stated elsewhere, the discovery or proclamation of a problem does not qualify one to offer solutions. It is easy to see what’s wrong with the world; it is hard to make the world better.

The Church should not accept the Woke framework of an identity-based oppression matrix rooted in cultural Marxism.

Neither does it mean that the Church should necessarily accept the oppression categories themselves. Many of these categories come from deeply anti-Christian thinkers like Marx, Darwin, Freud, Reich, and Marcuse. Christians should instead be looking to Scripture to understand oppression and the ways in which the powerful tend to abuse their power, interpreting our modern world in the light of God’s revelation. Wokeness maximizes the oppressive power of identity categories, interpreting history as a war between races, sexualities, sexes, etc. The Woke answer to this perceived war is not peace, but more war, ensuring victory for the historically oppressed by moving the locus of political and cultural power from the oppressor groups to the oppressed groups. Wokeness, therefore, exacerbates the fundamental human problem of tribalism and division. It does not resolve the power dynamic; it merely inverts it.

The Christian answer, however, is fundamentally different. In Ephesians 1, Paul reveals God’s will which has long been held in mystery: “To bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”[10] God’s intention is to bring together, in his Son, all that has been torn apart by sin and death. Unity under Christ is the essence of God’s new creation and will define the new heavens and the new earth for all eternity. In other words, God is trying to bring together those whom Wokeness works so tirelessly to keep apart. In Christianity, identity markers, those totems of Woke religiosity, are rendered powerless and meaningless. Paul even goes so far as to call the identity categories of his life before Christ, those things in which he took so much pride, literally shit.[11] Galatians 3:28 paints the picture of Christian unity so vividly: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

God is trying to bring together those whom Wokeness works so tirelessly to keep apart.

In his excellent book Kingdom Race Theology, Tony Evans writes, “God’s approach to racial reconciliation dismantles the oppressor/oppressed distinction (rather than reinforces them) in light of the supremacy of Jesus Christ (Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22-4:1). …Divinely created racial and ethnic differences become secondary and reflective of biblical principles and to spiritual and moral Christlike character.”[12] Specifically, the Marxist power-dynamic of oppressor and oppressed is undone in Christ because he has conquered the common enemy of all humanity, death itself. Death is a result of sin, and the presence of sin in every person’s heart and mind should remind us that, given the right (or wrong) circumstances, anyone can become an oppressor. While the sins of White people against people of Color are historically many, so are the sins of people of One Color against people of Another Color, as are the sins of one group against another within the same racial category. No group is, by nature, immune to the temptations of power, specifically to abuse their power to oppress others and benefit themselves, or even to harm another group in their pursuit of power they do not yet hold. Wokeness, incapable of doing anything in regards to death, character, or unity, will only perpetuate the cycle of oppression through the relocation of power from one group to another. Christ, however, has already defeated the oppressor of all mankind in his resurrection from the dead, and therefore offers all of humanity the only viable path toward unity, which is uniquely found in his victory and wisdom. Our common oppressor has been defeated, and therefore we can only be united under our common Victor, Christ Jesus himself.

What Is Wokeness?

We began by defining Wokeness as “compassion for the oppressed,” but the two important words in that definition needed clarification. Woke compassion, as we have seen, means “critical awareness of, political advocacy for, and social activism on behalf of” certain groups. When the Woke talk about the oppressed, what they mean are certain Western identity groups – specifically, Black, Trans, Women, LGB+, and Muslim – as those groups come into conflict with existing power structures as defined by the identity characteristics of the Woke Oppressor. Wokeness, therefore, is critical awareness of, political advocacy for, and social activism on behalf of certain Western identity groups as those groups come into conflict with existing power structures as defined by certain identity characteristics.

[1] Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020) p. 267.

[2] Erika D. Smith. (2021, August 20). Larry Elder is the Black Face of White Supremacy: You’ve Been Warned. Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-08-20/recall-candidate-larry-elder-is-a-threat-to-black-californians

[3] Ozlem Sensoy and Robin DiAngelo, Is Everyone Really Equal? (New York, NY: Teacher’s College Press, 2012) p. 119

[4] A revelatory example of this is the media coverage of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial as opposed to the Waukesha massacre, which happened in the same state and only a short time after the Rittenhouse verdict.

[5] See, for example, Progressive’s massive overestimation of unarmed Blacks killed by police annually in https://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/partner_surveys/liberal_media_viewers_are_misinformed_about_crime_in_america

[6] Ibram X. Kendi, How To Be an Antiracist (New York, NY: One World, 2019), as quoted by Samuel Kronen, Defining Racism Up: Ibram X. Kendi’s Weird Definition of Anti-racism, retrieved from https://newdiscourses.com/2020/07/defining-racism-ibram-kendi-weird-definition-antiracism/

[7] Katherine Kortsmit, et. al., Abortion Surveillance – United States, 2018, retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/ss/ss6907a1.htm.

[8] Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/RHI225219

[9] Total tabulated based on abortion estimates provided from 1971 to 2017. Information retrieved from http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/usa_abortion_by_race.html

[10] Ephesians 1:10

[11] Paul uses the Greek word skubalon in Philippians 3:8 when talking about his ethnic heritage, his religious heritage, his intellectual pedigree, his zeal, etc.

[12] Tony Evans, Kingdom Race Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2022), p. 49.

Photo by Aaron Lutas on Unsplash

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