Originally published Jan 2021.
If there's one thing I'm NOT afraid of, it's being 'cancelled'.
If being cancelled means me living in integrity as a human being who thinks for themselves, CANCEL ME TODAY!
I repeat; I am not afraid.
What I'm truly afraid of is existing in a world that forces me to submit to an ideology without question, otherwise I'm to be shamed (or pressured to shame myself) and cast out of the community.
A world that tells me that because I inhabit a black body; I will forever be oppressed and at the mercy of some omnipresent monster called 'whiteness'.
That because of the colour of my skin; I am a victim of an inherently racist system by default - and me rejecting the narrative of oppression means that I am in fact, in denial.
*You know, as someone that comes from Zimbabwe, a country where the general population is truly oppressed, it perplexes me that oppression is now being worn as an identity piece in most parts of the West, especially by those who claim to be 'progressive'*
What I'm truly afraid of is existing in a world that forces me to consider the colour of my skin and my gender (and that of others) at every fucking turn, instead of living by Martin Luther King's teachings and prioritising the content of mine and other people's character.
I dread the prospect of a world where context, nuance, critical thinking, meritocracy, mathematics, science, and rationality are considered tools of 'white supremacy', and the rule is that you're not allowed to question or argue this senseless statement - especially if you're white.
A world that is conditioning you and I to believe that we will always be trapped in some weird hierarchy because of our race, our genitals, our physical abilities, our neurodiversity, our sexuality, and our politics.
And that if we do not agree on every single thing, it's a sign that we are interacting with an enemy - or at the very least, someone to be wildly suspicious and judgmental of...instead of another complex human being worthy of being seen and heard.
I wish this world I’m speaking of was just a figment of my imagination, but we are already inside it. Our suitcases have been unpacked here for quite some time.
This absolutist, authoritarian world is being fiercely crafted under the guise of 'social justice', and I want no parts in this. I AM OUT.
As someone that, politically speaking, leans left on most things (although I'm neither left or right) - the current state of affairs and this push for obedience at all costs is NOT what I signed up for.
I never signed up to be hit over the head with disempowering narratives that tell me that I need to refer to myself as a 'person of colour' (how is this different being called a ‘coloured’ person?), a minority, a marginalised person, and BAME (UK version of BIPOC).
I cannot stand any of these terms.
Please, if we ever need to address my racial identity, which we really don't need to do as often as you might think...BLACK works just fine, it's not a dirty word.
And remember; it's okay if the language I mentioned before is affirming for you, we are allowed to disagree - but for ME, it does nothing but give me false reminders of my supposed oppression...which rubs me the wrong way entirely because I AM NOT OPPRESSED.
I think it's key that we begin to accept that black people don't all share a singular experience, nor do we share the same brain.
Shocking, I know.
'We are not a monolith' has become a common statement within communities that identify as marginalised, and while I wholeheartedly agree, we're definitely not a monolith...
I've noticed that despite this being a popular mantra - when someone 'steps out of line' or dares to think differently...it's a different story. You will often have the pleasure of being told that you are in denial and have some kind of internalised disorder;
'internalised racism', 'internalised anti-blackness', 'internalised misogyny', 'internalised sexism', 'internalised homophobia', 'internalised transphobia', 'internalised white supremacy'...
Meaning NOTHING can be questioned.
Fun. Culty. Vibes.
Honestly, I want better for us because it's all getting a bit much in these social justice/woke spaces, and it scares me to know that it's become controversial to address any concerns or express a differing viewpoint.
It's becoming dangerous to address reality. You either agree and comply, or you shut up.
I'm so happy that these are conversations that are now happening with many black people in my life, including my family who spend very little time online, are willing to have healthy debates, and couldn't give a crap about identity politics. These are the people who have really helped me free myself from the dogmatic thinking.
It's necessary for me to mention that I'm having these conversations with black people because some individuals think that it's only white people who are pushing back against wokeism, and it's far from the truth.
What is worrying though is how many more of us feel afraid to talk to our own friends, our partners, our spouses, our colleagues, our family - of fear of being branded as 'wrong-thinkers'. How are we supposed to understand each other if we're living in constant fear of saying the 'wrong' thing?
It's even harder if you're white because there's usually someone just waiting to call you racist. And according to the woke manual, if you're white you're supposed to just accept that label. If you do question it or defend yourself, it's taken as confirmation that you ARE in fact a white supremacist.
If you DARE express any fears or signs of being rightfully upset, you'll be accused of 'centering your white feelings', and of exuding 'white guilt' or 'white fragility'. With all disrespect, I don't understand the purpose of these cultish, degrading, racist terms.
How are they helping us move forward? Is this true social justice? How is this helping the black community? How is this shaping a world where you and I aren't judged by the colour of our skin? Are we really trying to eradicate racism with racism?
The LITERAL definition of racism is "prejudiced against or antagonistic towards a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group". And yet some people have suddenly decided that white people cannot experience racism, nor are they permitted to dispute this insane claim.
This then leads to most white people choosing to not say anything at all (which creates resentment because that's the nature of suppression & self-censorship), and some choose to comply and pretend they are on board with anything and everything (whilst also secretly resenting that they can't truly express their thoughts, ideas, feelings, etc).
To me all of this confirms that when it comes to 'wokeness', critical social justice, and the beast that is cancel culture, you will never win. You will NEVER get it right. If you choose to stand back, 'educate yourself’ privately and quietly; you'll be accused of being violent via your silence...
And if you speak out, ask questions, or express valid confusion from the dehumanising generalisations and character assassinations; you'll be denounced for centering your 'white feelings'.
This sounds like psychological warfare to me.
I can't be the only one that also finds this language eerie.
This is cult behaviour!
And for saying the above I'm sure someone out there will lovingly label me a 'white apologist'...
This is where we're at people.
And like I said at the beginning, when it comes to this - I am unafraid.
This is my open letter detailing some of the things that have led me to this point, because if there's anything that this past year has taught me; it's that my wellbeing and that of those around me (including the collective), is infinitely more important than any temporary discomfort that might come from me doing what I know to be right.
I also want to let you know that I'm not writing this to convince you of anything, your agreement is welcome but it's not a requirement. I'm not writing this from a place of animosity or anger.
I'm not writing this on behalf of any individual, group, movement, organisation, or community. I am not an activist, a social commentator, a feminist, an academic, or any other label apart from the ones I claim publicly.
I am writing this to free myself.
I am writing this for myself.
And for you if you need it.
Just like you; I am entitled to my own opinions, I have every right to question things that don't feel aligned with my values, morals, ethics, and beliefs. I have every right to push back if I recognise that I'm being forced to comply with ideologies and practices that don't make sense to me (which is how I've felt this past year).
I don't want to live my life in a fearful and paranoid state. I don't want to spend my life thinking that everything that doesn't go my way is because of my skin colour, I don't want to spend the rest of my life unable to have insightful conversations with those that think differently to me...I really don't.
I'm tired of hearing that because I'm black I should feel victimised. That because I'm black I should agree with everything that black people do and say (surely NOONE should have this expected of them).
None of these narrow definitions of human existence or blackness help me. None of it helps my community. It's keeping us small. It's keeping us stuck, afraid, and defensive. I reject the idea that I am a victim. I reject the idea that I am oppressed.
I reject the idea that white people only exist to oppress and should be reminding me of their privilege every 2 seconds, while simultaneously telling me that they are above me.
How is this helpful!? If anything, it's deeply offensive and condescending.
There's no question about it; being black is a beautiful part of who I am, but it's not all I am - not even close. My identity (race, gender, sexuality, body parts) will never be more important than my humanity, my spirit, and my wholeness. EVER.
Because of this, I fervently reject the idea that all white people are racist and must be shamed into confessing their sins and admitting complicity in all of their ancestors indiscretions...simply because of the colour of their skin. I reject this bullshit idea that every white person walking this planet is 'inherently racist'.
Do we even know what we're saying? or are we just regurgitating/parroting things, and now it's gotten out of control.
I honestly struggle to see how shaming others (or shaming yourself) for having white skin is an essential part of fuelling true social change. Surely this is regressive? It also sounds a little like the very thing we've spent years moving away from...
The truth of the matter is that my own ancestors have participated in some FUCKERY and I would not want to live the rest of my life being punished for their actions. A lot of what I'm seeing in the woke/critical social justice spaces is not about creating a better world, it seems to be about punishment and revenge.
And it's doing nothing but trampling on the work true Activists are doing and have been doing for centuries!
I do have to take a moment to acknowledge those who are doing fantastic work and making a long-lasting impact in their communities, instead of perpetuating fear and manipulating people's emotions by convincing them they will always be victims.
I'm done with the insidious brainwashing of wokeness.
I'm committed to understanding human behaviour (this is also at the core of what I do professionally), I'm committed to compassion and kindness without excusing that which must be acknowledged.
I'm well aware of the systems we live under. I know what's happening in the world. I've lived it. I acknowledge reality, but I refuse to be a slave to a disempowering narrative that rarely focuses on actual solutions.
I never want to forget that you can still be compassionate with those you don't agree with. And this way of thinking is what I CHOOSE because it makes my time on planet earth better, you don't have to take it on if it doesn't work for you.
I want to live a life that isn't centred around identity politics and all that comes with it, so much more in my life takes priority.
I want to remain open to new ideas, perspectives, and thoughts - so that I can grow, course correct where necessary, and make a genuine impact on a local and global level.
I want to give people the benefit of the doubt and continue using discernment instead of making sweeping harmful (often lazy) assumptions based on the colour of people's skin or their gender.
I refuse to take on the black or white thinking because I've seen and experienced the grave harm that does.
As I move into this next season of my life, I'm more interested in the grey area - where we all exist.
The nail in the coffin for me was all the events that took place last Summer.
Last Summer in the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, I noticed a shadowy part of me emerging and although I didn't judge it, I wasn't comfortable with what was coming up.
All the critical social justice dogma I'd been consciously and unconsciously imbibing over the past 2 years began taking a HUGE toll on my mental health, and I hadn't even realised that I wasn't functioning as a full human being - until it reached it's peak.
The unpleasant internal experience I had is what led me where I am now, which is why I'm a firm believer that welcoming discomfort in is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself.
On social media at that time I was DEEP is various social justice echo chambers that shared more than enough infographics, stories, feed posts, IG LIVES, to make my fight or flight response go nuts. I was in constant fight mode, and wasn't aware.
I was being indoctrinated; this means "to teach a person or a group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically".
I found myself subconsciously looking for things that would piss me off, which is a symptom of wokeness that seems to show up in many people - hundreds of you have shared your own experiences with me in the past month alone and the similarities in our stories are alarming.
Before reacting to things, I did ZERO in-depth research of my own. It's almost as if facts were an unwelcome guest. Anything that didn't align with the beliefs I held about race, sex, gender, politics, etc - I rejected (this was all unconscious). I didn't question the sources I was getting information from, it was all taken as objective truth.
It was ALL reactionary, I was on autopilot.
I didn't realise I had many people on pedestals that they shouldn't have been on in the first place (no fault of their own, I put them there), I was operating purely based on emotions and feelings that gave my nervous system the signal that I was under threat.
And that's the energy I acted and spoke from.
I rashly unfollowed some people on my social media who I'd decided should have 'spoken up' in support of Black Lives Matter (an organisation I have now done my own extensive research on, but that's a whole other story) - simply because (based on my egos time frame) they weren't responding as and when they 'should' have.
I'm sure I re-shared something about 'white silence' being 'violence' (an oversimplified and unfair statement I no longer agree with, and you can watch the lengthy live I did with Rukiat where I go into some of this).
I also publicly shamed an unsuspecting man who had messaged me to question me about my conduct (I immediately assumed he was white...he was mixed race). And even though his approach was not a welcome one, he wasn't unkind to me - which is why I'm not proud of the unkind way in which I reacted...not responded, reacted.
What frightened me was the applause I got from over 4,000 people when I called out this man in an Instagram post - I didn't say anything wild, but I did deconstruct his direct message publicly with the intention to embarrass him, not to resolve anything - to embarrass.
I was honestly shocked by how many people used the environment I had created to exercise pack mentality, and to casually shame and scold a stranger - of which I take responsibility for as the person that created that environment.
I now know that publicly shaming someone is a common tactic used in most woke spaces and echo chambers on social media, and it's so normalised. This is the kind of thing that quickly leads to bullying, doxing, stalking, and harassment...and sometimes ends in suicide.
After seeing the responses applauding me, I removed the post and started asking myself some questions; who am I doing this for? why did my interaction with this man need to be publicised? what is really the root of the anger I feel? is this a performance on my behalf?
What research have I done to support the ideology I'm leading with? Are there any alternative sources that can give me more information or provide clarity on the situation I'm reacting to? do I really believe this or am I regurgitating something I read/heard/saw somewhere?
I'm of the thinking that there is such a thing as justified anger, and I believe that all emotions and modes of expressions have their place - but I know myself well enough to know that the way I handled that particular situation was not necessary.
This incident led me start evaluating my own behaviour and doing more research around the cancel culture phenomenon. And it's just one recent example of how some of this stuff has showed up in my life over the past 2 years.
SO, why am I calling 'WOKENESS' a cult?
Well, first lets start by defining what the term woke even means. It's a term that been around for a very long time but has (in my eyes) lost all of its credibility and meaning in recent years.
Woke: a term embedded in US Black History and social justice which originally meant being aware, well-informed, and up to date with what was happening within the community.
"Stay woke became a watch word in parts of the black community for those who considered themselves self-aware, questioning the dominant paradigm, and striving for something better" - and these are the sentiments I will always stand for, however...
This is NOT how it's playing out these days, and you can read this interesting article to get a timeline of how it's evolved over the years, and I'll continue sharing with you the specific pockets of 'wokeness' and social justice that I have divorced myself from.
I can no longer be an active participant in any culture or movement that encourages groupthink, outrage on demand, fear and violence, revamped segregation, fabricating history, cancellations masked as accountability, self-centredness... normalisation of racism towards white people, the disempowerment of black people masked as social justice, the constant redefining of existing language, ignoring self-responsibility, constant pathologizing, oppressed vs oppressor mentality, and the pressure to conform and comply...
And honestly, I have better things to do with my time.
Not to mention, it's killing us.
I also find it very telling that people who are married to these woke spaces will immediately assume that those that are requesting for more compassion, understanding, room for discussion, removal of censorship - only want these things so they can have free reign to be bigots, sexist, 'fascists', racists, homophobes, etc.
As a free-thinking black woman who most definitely wants more compassion, understanding, healthy discussion, empathy, removal of censorship, more tolerance and acceptance when it matters most...I can guarantee you that my final goal isn't so I can be a racist sexist fascist alt-righter extremist.
And if you can understand this, what makes someone who happens to be white any less sincere if they want the exact same thing as me?
Which many people do!
I hope you can sort of see just how oversimplified and flawed this madness is.
I often laugh about the ridiculous nature of it all, but what's concerning is that it's spreading like wildfire, it's causing lasting harm, and it's distracting us from the very real work that needs to be done to tackle injustice and unite us as human beings.
I will stick to my guns by saying that the turn we're taking because of critical social justice and this current strain of branded monetised wokeness - is not going to take us to the promised land (SPOILER: there is no utopia, I'm sorry to break it to you).
As someone who will never stop advocating for human rights (fairness, equality, access to resources, respect, independence - for ALL, not just for people who share my skin tone and gender), I have come to realise that I do not need to be part of any groups or wear any labels to make a positive contribution to this planet of ours.
Read the rest of the letter here.
Learn more about Africa Brooke on her website: https://africabrooke.com