I was criticized in this newspaper last week for saying that “woke supremacy” is as bad as white supremacy.
My comments, of course, were not comparing the long history of racial hate to the very short history of wokeism. That would be ludicrous. I am painfully aware that four centuries of racism, bigotry and killings does not compare to the nascent woke movement. As a country, we continue to pay a heavy price for our original sin.
My comments were a sound-bite-length reaction to yet another media figure accusing me of being a token for Republicans. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard that type of slur. I spoke out because I am gravely concerned for our future if we ignore either type of supremacy — both of which are rooted in racism or discrimination.
Criticism has included the suggestion that I and other Republicans are “living proof that neither racial nor gender diversity is a guarantor of progressive, inclusive and broad-minded thinking. Diversity, much in vogue, has its limits.” In other words, my ideology does not match that which they prescribe based on my complexion.
That is woke supremacy. It is the “tolerant” left’s intolerance for dissent. It is a progressive conception of diversity that does not include diversity of thought. It is discrimination falsely marketed as inclusion.
This isn’t the first time the woke folk have come after me. I’ve been called a member of the “coon squad” for sharing my story and conservative vision for America at the 2020 Republican convention. A former leader of the NAACP called me a ventriloquist puppet. I’ve been called an Uncle Tom and a house n-----, among thousands of other insults.
I am proud to be both a Black man and a Republican. Because of those aspects of my identity, many critics have ignored things I have actually done. In the past few years alone, my Republican colleagues and I secured permanent funding for historically Black colleges and universities for the first time in history. We’ve passed bipartisan legislation to help those battling sickle cell disease. We’ve fought for school choice because poor, and often minority, parents are consistently the ones without choice. And I helped author the Republican tax reform that lowered taxes for single moms, doubled the child tax credit and brought Black unemployment to historic lows. That list barely scratches the surface.
Critics discount these accomplishments for the Black community because it conflicts with the caricature they’ve created of what it means to be Black and to be a Republican.
But the victims of woke supremacy aren’t just Republicans. After a recent vote against her fellow Democrats’ attempt to pass a job-killing minimum-wage hike during the pandemic, my friend and colleague Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) received so many death threats that she had to increase security for herself and her partner. I’ve received similar threats. A man — a “woke” Black man — is to be sentenced this month for threatening to gut me “like a fish” and blow me away with his rifle.
Woke culture is speeding our country toward ideological and literal segregation. Already, Columbia University has decided to host segregated graduation celebrations based on race or socioeconomic status. We are living in a society that has allowed “autonomous zones” that effectively prohibit law enforcement from protecting people from crime, and campus “safe spaces” to protect students from others’ opinions.
Carving out public spaces for people of only one race or mind-set? Since when is separate but equal back in vogue?
Two wrongs don’t make a right.
When you give license for one person or group of people to discriminate, you give license for everyone to discriminate. Dividing society along racial lines is everything leaders in the civil rights era fought against, yet leaders of the woke movement are attempting to codify discrimination in law, including by Democrats setting aside funding exclusively for non-White farmers in their recent stimulus package. Blood wasn’t shed on the Edmund Pettus Bridge or the streets of Birmingham so that we could reinvent the mistakes of our past.
Six years ago, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who was not just a civil rights icon but also my friend, asked me to co-chair the march to Selma on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. When I think of my vision for America, I think about standing shoulder to shoulder on that bridge with John and Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, walking forward together.
So, we collectively have a choice: We can continue down the path of toxic woke mandates and virtue signaling that themselves create discrimination, segregation and hate, or we can choose to create equality of opportunity and access to the American Dream for everyone. Because I believe in the goodness of America, I remain hopeful that we will choose the Opportunity Society.