She’d been raised in a more conservative household than mine, but never before had politics interfered in our friendship. That summer, though, racial politics had a way of hanging over every interaction and relationship—including ours. I had a hard time accepting that she could possibly have a problem with the woke ideology that I had subscribed to—that everyone I knew had subscribed to. Had I misjudged her? Was she actually a bad person? When she said that most, but not all, police officers were good people, I yelled at her. I said it was irrelevant that not all police were pigs. Anybody who expressed skepticism of the movement and its logic was obviously a racist. We didn’t speak for a time.
Months later, my friend, who went to a different school than I did, got in trouble. It began with a deep, unsettling feeling she had that the teachers and administrators at her school had shifted from educating to indoctrinating students. It wasn’t just that they were so sure about what they believed. It was that they refused to entertain any viewpoints that diverged in the slightest from the party line. She thought that it was scary, with administrators and teachers and students on the lookout for anyone who made a mistake.
Then, there was an incident: one of her classmates recorded two other boys from the school hurling a slur at a gay couple walking down a New York City street. They apparently were trying to be funny, but nothing about it was. The video got around, and both students involved were expelled. There were no conversations with her classmates. They had no opportunity to repent.