“Like fighting an addiction, being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination,” says Ibram X. Kendi, author of best-selling How to Be an Antiracist, which now informs various public school curriculums and government and corporate HR offices eager to burnish their anti-racist credentials. “White people raised in Western society are conditioned into a white supremacist worldview because it is the bedrock of our society and its institutions,” writes popular diversity consultant Robin DiAngelo in White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism.
St. Augustine was apparently wrong when he wrote in City of God that pride, the “craving for undue exaltation,” is the “beginning of sin.” In 2020, the greatest and most original sin, we’re told, is racism. And Americans, especially white Americans, are its greatest perpetrators. If this is true – and far be it from me to call it erroneous, reductionist, and patently absurd and thus risk being labeled a racist myself! – we Catholics require a revised examination of conscience. It should be based on the Ten Commandments of Woke, brought down from the heights of wokedom by prophets like Kendi and DiAngelo.
First Commandment: As Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King noted earlier this year, “statues of the white European they claim is Jesus” are a “gross form of white supremacy. Created as tools of oppression. Racist propaganda.” Thus we must ask: ”When I claim that God, because he is immaterial and transcendent, is not a male, do I realize this implicitly means he is not BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color)? Have I acknowledged that by worshiping Jesus, a male, that I am in effect perpetuating patriarchal power structures?
Second Commandment: Words are violence, woke activists declare. “Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sick, alter your brain – even kill neurons – and shorten your life” explains a July 2017 New York Times op-ed. Thus we must ask: “Have my words, or even lack of words, communicated racist ideology? Has even my anti-racist language in any way actually been racist?”
Third Commandment: White fragility can interfere with BIPOC persons’ attempts to relax, Washington Post editor Karen Attiah has noted. Thus we must ask: “Have I refrained from excessively bothering BIPOC persons, but still bothering them enough to prove my commitment to the cause? Have I devoted sufficient time to stopping and reflecting on white fragility? If I am a male, have I meditated on how my biology contributes to oppressive, racist norms?”
Fourth Commandment: One’s patrimony is marked by egregious sin. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said of a statue of Fr. Damien of Molokai: “This is what patriarchy and white supremacist culture looks like!” So are statues honoring St. Junipero Serra. Thus we must ask: “Does my honoring of self-sacrificing saints contribute to the oppressive patriarchy? Have I sufficiently criticized those who have come before me for failing to live up to the subjective, shifting standards of contemporary wokedom? Have I sufficiently rejected my own heritage?”
Fifth Commandment: “Systemic racism is violence,” assert woke activists. Thus we must ask: “How have I participated in institutional, structural racism against BIPOC persons, such as where I choose to work, live, worship, think or breathe? How has my unconscious bias caused ineradicable harm to others? Have I demonstrated sufficient contrition for evils committed generations ago by ancestors whose names I may not even know against other people’s ancestors whose names they don’t even know?”
Sixth Commandment: According to black feminist theory, the devaluation of American black women is rooted in slavery, our nation’s “original sin.” Thus we must ask: “Have I lusted or committed adultery that contributes to the objectification and commodification of BIPOC bodies? But have I also, when appropriate, celebrated their sexual objectification and commodification, if it is also empowering, such as the new hit single by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion?”
Seventh Commandment: “1619 Project” matriarch Nikole-Hannah Jones declares that American capitalism is built on the backs of black labor and the theft of indigenous persons’ land. Thus we must ask: “Have I acknowledged that because my ancestors, or perhaps other American persons’ ancestors, exploited black labor or took Native American lands, that my property is not actually mine? Have I performed the necessary virtue-signaling to communicate that while I very much would like to keep all of my property, that I’m very sorry that it’s mine?”
Eighth Commandment: White people deceive themselves by pretending they are not racist or contribute to racist outcomes, argues DiAngelo. Thus we must ask: “Have I deceived others, or even myself, by trying to not be a racist, when I am obviously a racist? When acknowledging that I don’t realize how I am being a racist even when I try not to be a racist, have I realized that even this is a lie about lying about my lies of racism?”
Ninth Commandment: Our #MeToo era censures the male sex for systemic perpetration of sexual abuse and mistreatment of women, while also promoting the most pornified generation in American history. Thus we must ask: “Have I coveted other men’s wives, but refrained from acting on it? Have I celebrated others’ sexual awakening. . .while keeping a healthy distance?”
Tenth Commandment: George Washington University professor Jessica Krug called herself a “cultural leech” because she fraudulently posed as an Afro-Puerto Rican for professional success. Thus we must ask: “Have I coveted the professional opportunities available to those who make their fortune off grievances, anti-racism, and white fragility?”
This is our new woke examination of conscience. Of course, like the concupiscence stemming from original sin, the stain of racism and prejudice is impossible to eradicate, no matter how sincere or frequent your confession. Indeed, argues feminist writer Ruby Hamad, even white women’s tears are oppressive. Never worry. I will be joining Kendi, DiAngelo, Hannah-Jones, and Hamad in offering lucrative books, seminars, and speaking tours to remind you of your continual need to confess your sins against wokeness.
Absolution, sadly, remains pending.
*Image: The Penitent St. Peter by El Greco, 1590-95 [San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA]