White wokeness: A new factor in our national life

Then I heard the news about universities deciding to stop using the ACT or SAT in consideration for admissions because the tests are biased against blacks. The schools don’t say that blacks aren’t smart enough to score well on the test—that would be vulgar racism—but that black kids cannot afford tutors or the prep classes the white kids use to increase their scores. This sounded as reductive in its assumptions about black economic life as the video about Jamal and Kevin. In each case, black people are depicted as desperate and defeated, with nothing in the way of material or personal resources to pull themselves out of their misery.

“I understand your point,” a white friend said, “but don’t you think blacks are being oppressed?”

That’s when I realized that white wokeness is the new factor in our national life. It has been embedded into the consciousness of whites that all blacks are the same and that they all face impossible barriers to improvement—from fictional Jamal to the standardized tests to the black men being arrested on the nightly news. A growing number of whites believe that these episodes are typical of everyday black life.

Most whites don’t have many black friends who can give them firsthand accounts of what their experiences are with racism. While most blacks do experience some discrimination or racial prejudice, it is rarely violent, and it does not hold them back in a significant sense. Is racism a “systemic” or “institutional” force? For more than half a century, the United States has had no laws preventing black people from doing anything that white people can do, and government agencies and courts closely monitor socioeconomic life for any vestiges of discrimination in housing, employment, or public accommodations.