Vigilantes go after a rapist. A transgender woman is attacked by total strangers. Two versions of the same incident. One was backed by testimony and a guilty plea. The other was championed by an outraged public. Welcome to Woke America.
About six or seven years ago, there was a brutal assault on a black transgender woman in a city not far from me. Without question, the media and a slew of campus-based activists picked up her story and ran with it.
As she told it, she chose to go for a walk one day. While smoking a cigarette, she was attacked by a group of total strangers who figured out she was transgender and decided to rob and beat her.
This is the world we live in, seemingly everyone insisted. Rallies hit the campus circuit around the state as middle class whites appropriated her pain and wailed for protest selfies or news reel. This happens every single day.
Case closed. No further investigation necessary. Overnight, she was transformed from a complex human being into a two-dimensional symbol justifying every bizarre and unrelated demand campus activists could come up with to shout at their university administration.
This woman — who likely never attended a single college class — was now the reason that universities needed more funding for black and gender studies classes. This woman — who considered herself a woman, not a non-binary person — was now the reason that universities needed non-gendered bathrooms to stop more violence like this from happening.
She was why universities needed to hire and tenure more black women, and why universities needed to establish counseling services specifically for “colonized” students. The list went on and on.
Within a matter of days few had the patience to wait, new information began to emerge on the now popularly sainted victim of the attack. In a twist that would give Freud pause, investigators turned their attention to the victim and her story, ultimately finding cause to charge her with the statutory rape of a minor, which was then hypothesized to lead up to a retaliatory, not random, attack against her. As the justice system tried to sort out updated charges, her campus-led followers stuck to their guns.
Any questions about who to believe — the alleged survivor of a random transphobic attack, or the alleged minor she assaulted — were met with accusations of white supremacy and transphobia. Any recognition that people can be more complex than either absolutely good or absolutely evil (both functions of identities) was evidence of more of the same.
Social media posts popped up everywhere demanding that “white allies” funnel their money into her bank account (or a bank account of an alleged friend of hers) to help her fight the “white supremacists” falsely accusing her of charges which she never publicly contested and to which she ultimately pled guilty.
I don’t know how to communicate the immense ideological pressure to not question her initial story, the contradictions she herself provided to it, or the fact that a statewide activist subculture was incensed at the thought of any sort of empathy for the minor she allegedly raped.
If you did — and to their credit, a handful of Communist Party members did — that was it. You were publicly piled on across social media, labeled a “white supremacist” and “transphobe” — and toxic trash if you ever tried to get back into any sort of justice work, because, for instance, you actually care and aren’t a white supremacist or a transphobe.
Seeing a teenage black boy called a “white supremacist” by college students whiter and objectively wealthier than him was really it for me on this one.
I threw myself out.
It took me months to speak to anyone about this case, although I fumed on it internally before then. When I finally did bring it up to others in “the movement,” I connected with two women struggling with how to heal from being raped by black assailants but choosing not to involve the police out of a sense of antiracist obligation to oppose policing.
Somehow in their minds, they were hung up on trying to compute how their attackers could be actual rapists rather than just solely the victims of white supremacy and a society biased against them. I’m not a psychologist, but it sounds pretty fucked to be at a point where you’re convinced that the only legitimate power dynamic between you and the man who raped you is that you are oppressing him.
Maybe these are all just extreme examples, or “anecdotes” in the woke vernacular. I’m not the kind of person who keeps screenshots or conducts extensive interviews with every activist I meet. But I’d wager that I’m talking about a phenomenon which others have observed too.
To be honest, I thought to write about this incident last week after watching the way the Western world re-scripted a centuries-old conflict between two Middle Eastern populations into one where the side they support is “brown” and the side they hate is “white.” There’s no line the “brown” side can cross that’s too far, and not an iota of empathy to be shared with the “white” side which they hope to destroy.
It’s the same reductive mindset that sees a rapist as a victim on the basis of their skin color or gender identity alone. It’s not about accountability or consequences for criminal actions. It’s sadly not even really about ending sexual violence or racism.
It’s about a two-dimensional worldview where everyone and everything is either black or white, good or evil, oppressor or victim.
And at the end of the day, I know that this worldview is insane.