Supposedly “woke” leftists have a tendency of advocating for social behaviour and policies that mirror those of their opponents on the far right. A particular galling example is the hostility towards romantic or sexual relationships with people of other racial backgrounds amongst some black people. This is the kind of toxic thinking that comes from fixating on collective statuses over individual characteristics. While I agree that refusing to date other black people can be a form of internalised racism, I don’t agree that dating Latinos, white people, Asians, or people of any other racial background is a form of self-hate in and of itself. Insisting that you should only have black romantic or sexual partners feels like a form of racial purism, a mirror image of what one sees from white supremacists who claim that interracial relationships are “white genocide.” Black people echoing the same thoughts is the kind of thing that white nationalists love: supposedly “woke” people advocating for behaviour and policy that dovetail well with their goal of white racial and cultural purity. (I think that complete purity is a wholly quixotic goal with no basis in historical fact, but these people aren’t particularly au fait with history that hasn’t been rewritten to suit their white-nationalist narrative.) Encouraging Philistinism and separatism is not “woke.” Segregation was and is considered a moral ill for a reason. Why, then, are people who claim to be anti-racist advocating for a modern version of “separate but equal” under a “woke” veneer?
Just because someone is black doesn’t mean they’ll have political views that match yours. My parents are hardcore conservative evangelical Christians who will vote for any candidate with an R after their name, including, but not limited to, lowlives like Donald Trump. When I lived with them, they watched Fox News practically every day. Both of them are black. Both of them are old enough to remember the United States immediately after the heyday of the Civil Rights Movement; they’re in their mid- to late fifties and grew up in the 60s and 70s. Both my father’s biological and de facto adoptive parents fled the Jim Crow South for New York in the Great Migration. But yet here they are, voting for Trump and Southern Republican candidates who pander directly to unreconstructed Confederate sympathisers, the empathy-free Religious Right, morally craven Tea Partiers, and white nationalists. The converse is also true; I know countless white people who repudiate racism, would vote for Trump over their dead bodies, and see Fox News as a menace to society. I’m infinitely more comfortable being in a relationship with a left-wing, anti-racist, Trump-hating white person than I would a black person who loves Trump’s policies. Black Trump supporters may encounter the same racism I do, but just experiencing something doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily have a set opinion about that experience, or even perceive it.
Yes, white people as a class should recognise how they benefit from structural privilege and do the work to dismantle it within themselves and in their communities. The same applies to men, westerners of any race, straight and cis people, rich people, non-disabled people, and anyone else who benefits from systemic privilege. Collective accountability is important and shouldn’t be dismissed. Being able to recognise cultural dynamics, however, is not synonymous with claiming that any one group of people is essentially good or evil. Creating a fairer world means dismantling essentialist thinking about people’s ethnic or racial backgrounds, not just offloading it.