Ghosts of our past, dreams of the future: The regression of social justice movements

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When we entered the lecture hall, it looked like any other Laurier public lecture — a panel of speakers sat at the front near the lectern, faced by rows of curious individuals awaiting a critique of the many social justice movements vying for attention nowadays. We came in very stoked to this three-hour lecture.

It is difficult to believe that people can have such hatred for others. This hatred was different. It was more sinister and far more malignant. These people were more bigoted in the sense that they were erasing people whose voices have already historically been unheard or ignored.

The speakers began by questioning the nature of social justice in what appeared to be a meaningful way — they focused on who is left behind in these movements and how they rob people of their identities, confining them to rigid labels.

And then, the speakers took a sharp right towards the concept of Cultural Marxism.

This antisemitic conspiracy describes multiculturalism, progressive politics, and political correctness as tools of evil liberals to undermine Western civilization, nuke the nuclear family, and doom capitalism to oblivion.

Their words oozed out, gluttonously sugar-coated in white privilege and selfishly ram- ming entire demographics into the periphery, women, criminals, and minorities labelled enemies of the West.

Then, logic prevailed, albeit briefly. The speakers started by stating the value of individualism in their eyes with quotes such as “we are all our snowflakes,” and “social movements eradicate individual identity.”

A logical critique of social justice is that it clumps together the identities of individuals in social movements, creating a generalized and often stereotyped voice of change, leaving the thirst for individual needs unquenched.

We are one people, for sure, but that is not the way that people saw the world in the past. Those ideas are not right, but they are also not dead. The experiences of the people that were oppressed based on these imaginary differences are very real, as are their consequences.

This can be seen in all areas of current society, from the lack of prescription of pain management drugs for people of colour to the classification of every non-white person as a person of colour.

When we say we don’t think racism is real, we mean that we don’t think race is a natural division among people.

We don’t think race is real, but we know enough people created and followed this theoretical concept that it became a fundamental belief of many societies. When the speaker stood at the front of the room and made this claim, he seemed to say that he did not believe that the concept of race is real or that it affected and continues to affect people’s lives to this day.

Yes, race is a valid basis for any sort of conclusion. However, there is no question that people became “race scientists” and portrayed their biased opinions in an academically acceptable format that led to their own perpetuation.

But the fact is, racism does not need to be at the level of the Holocaust to be racism. You don’t need to be lynching Sikhs while calling them Muslims and chasing all the Black people out of your town to be a racist.

Racism is also the erasure of people’s experiences.

We have not stopped aiming for a better future, but it is vital that we try to understand what happened to us, why it happened, and why it is still happening. We have poured our hearts into understanding why our grandparents could not return to their homelands following the Partition of India.

As children, we wanted nothing more than to know why they were sad and un- able to go back. Their history is not just the past, it is their life, the lives of our ancestors, intertwined closely with our own experiences.

The past never relinquished its hold on us and it is not something we always notice — it is always present, like a ghost of a person that lived so long ago no one re- members it as a person. But even when they are forgotten, ghosts do not disappear.

Colonialism, for example, is such a ghost. Colonialism pervaded over every aspect of our history, our lives, our beings, and our identities. Moving on would mean leaving ourselves behind.

Why can’t we move on?

Because we are still hurting, and we don’t yet know why.

The speakers were not convinced of this. They asked—why do we need to talk about colonialism?

Why are we always blaming the system or the patriarchy or the Church? Why are we just talking about the white Christian Europeans and their Slave Trade and not the Arab Slave Trade? Also, women have it so well here—look at India and Pakistan, where women are forced to abort or kill their fe- male children; Isn’t it just terrible everywhere else?

But the truth is, the West used us and then left us behind. Suffrage had no room for Black Women, the Sexual Revolution left queer people behind, Civil Rights achieved freedom but equality is a while away — progress so of- ten is that of those visible. We are told, by the dominant groups, that because they see us now, we have progressed. We are told that things were worse before or are worse elsewhere and we should talk about that instead.

We are talking about them. These conversations are happening. And we will not defend the Arab rulers that also went throughout the “Old World” and ravaged many kingdoms, nations, and peoples.

But we are having these conversations and recognizing the effects that these events have had on our communities. Those are our conversations to have. You are a guest in those spaces. You are there to learn, not tell us about our own history.

We do not trust you; we do not need you; we do not care whether you are grovelling for your ancestors’ crimes. Your guilt (rarely present) is irrelevant, your gaze is an invasion, your presence a form of voyeurism that we no longer care to entertain.

One of the speakers was concerned that we, the far-left, Marxist, critical theorists, are ultimately aiming to usurp Western society.

And they’re not wrong. Western society, as it stands right now, is broken. It is oppressive, racist, unequal, arrogant, and stubborn. We cannot live as ourselves in this society—we check too many boxes that, by the speakers’ definition, place using the extreme unexplored borderlands of the periphery, just short of complete absurdity.

We do not belong here.

We are, by their definition, threats to their civilization—their good, virtuous, Christian societies based on the natural order of the patriarchy (a structure that Indigenous people also followed, apparently)—simply by existing.

If my breath threatens to topple your houses, if my every step shakes your person to the core, if my voice blasts your eardrums, then we will continue breathing, travelling, and speaking until there is nothing but rubble where your paper cathedrals once stood, and we will undermine your society a little bit every day until the day we die.

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