Read Marlon James on 'woke credentials,' and how liberals fight hardest against each other

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Marlon James hated the Walker's 'Scaffold' piece, but also doesn't like the race to score 'woke credentials.' Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

Chapter one of the Walker Sculpture Garden's "Scaffold" controversy played out this past weekend.

In chapter two, the question shifts to how this was allowed to happen at all. A prominent place was awarded to a giant and "difficult artwork," which, when challenged about its causing offense, neither the museum nor the artist felt was worth the fight.

The reopening of the sculpture garden has been postponed until June 10, one week later than planned. Leadership of the Walker, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, and the artist, Sam Durant, are meeting with a group of elders from the Dakota Sioux, whose ancestors made up the 38-plus-2 hanged at Mankato and Fort Snelling.

According to a statement the Walker issued Monday, Dakota elders are  requesting "that others who feel allied in this endeavor, but who are not Dakota, or whom may represent other communities across the state and region, to please be patient and respect the process that is currently underway."

A similar plea for patience from "others... allied in this endeavor" came from the author Marlon James, the Jamaican-born Man Booker prize winner and writer-in-residence at Macalester College.

James (a known liberal worthy of a "professor watchlist") spent parts of the weekend watching the controversy blow up in his Facebook feed. What he saw bothered him.

Not that he meant to defend the Walker, its "awful installation," nor Durant, nor "the art of all privileged people making money off other people's adversity." James was instead concerned with how Twin Cities progressives discussing the piece attacked one another, displaying a viciousness conservative counterparts reserve only for their political enemies on the left.

On Saturday, James posted:

"Every crow thinks he's the blackest, but now everybody has been throwing down in the [Twin Cities], showing off their woke credentials, by showing how many less woke people they can roast over the coals, or whose roasting they can like on Facebook, straight white men being, as always the easiest target. You gotta love this about us progressives: We ALWAYS save our most vicious attacks, and our most lethal venom for people on the same fucking side."

 Monday, James revisited the idea in a longer post which examines Facebook's role, "decency" in political arguments, and how the left hobbles its movement by expending so much energy fighting its own.

James' post has been shared more than 300 times as of Tuesday morning. We've reprinted it in its entirety below.

Nothing I’m about to say is anything new, but this weekend, more than any other, I came to realize that of its many flaws, Facebook’s worst was that it is an inept medium for disagreement, a shitty one for argument, a hostile one for any kind of confrontation, and yet a frightfully efficient way to instantly end friendships and alliances. This might be because liberals give themselves credit for something they actually suck at, which is to have a constructive argument. I saw so much of it, that at one point I suggested starting a debating course as a public service. Maybe Facebook is just a vessel, and the people who use it are merely showing themselves to be the assholes they really are, and amplifying it. Or maybe being online, even with friends and allies you see in real life, still gives you a mask of anonymity, where you never have to care about tone, or how you will be read, or even if the person you are speaking to has feelings.
So Saturday I saw a white male liberal activist and Native American activist, get into the kind of confrontation one would never see in real life. Things of course exploded as quickly as you thought it would. Neither person came off well. But it was interesting how much blame was given to the white guy, for just being in the situation in the first place, a situation he did not start, or choose to escalate. This is not some Trump Supporter, but a liberal activist with a record for social service, and yet here he was, literally being accused of worse crimes than Trump. I’m not saying that for dramatic effect; he was actually accused of being both party to genocide and displacement of native peoples, and as a final insult, profiting off the tragedies of people of colour.
There’s more. When straight white male mentioned how much being called all these things by allies and friends, most of whom he has worked closely with, hurts, because you know, they weren’t true, the whole fracas took a different turn. Before, he was just the genocidal/gentrifying arm of white male patriarchy. Now he was showing something even more pathetic: white male fragility. He needed to shut up and listen, even if the person was abusive, because hey, it’s not about YOU. We progressives love our terms, after all conservatives got that from us. Our emotional shorthand, that allows us to make sweeping, yet snap judgments of people without once taking into consideration the people we are judging. And make no mistake—I have done that too. And the refrain, that this IS discussion is bullshit. If what you are saying attempts to close discussion instead of open it, (usually by proving one’s sufferation credentials as a form of mic drop) then you have a seriously unsophisticated grasp of what argument means.
We progressives do love our binaries. Everything is us/them, if/then, either/or, with us/against us, oppressor/victim. Every single action is judged on two and only two variables, so much so that I’ve started to wonder if any American ever learned to count to three. And because we have no code of conduct online, we have no time for decency. We do nothing to compensate for the fact that it’s impossible to gauge tone and context just from our words, so we slip into ad hominem attack in less than two lines, and outright war in four. Sure conservatives are just as vicious, vindictive and petty. But they save such things for their enemies.
So where are we this Monday? Progressive movements, lesser in number than they were on Friday, friendships that are over, and groups of voices that have thinned out. Also this: a lot of very self righteous people still holding on to the fallacy that they stood up for something, when all they did was cut and slash the people right beside them.
Conservatives may be a lot of things, but it would be a cold day in hell before kill friends first, kill enemies later, become their code of conduct. Progressives love to think they are at war with conservatives, but right wingers laugh at such nonsense, because they already know you don’t need to bring a gun to your enemy’s suicide. I would love to place all the blame on Facebook, but that would be kidding one self. And maybe I’m just a foreigner looking in, with a radically different idea of what arguments should sound like.
But I look at you all, and all I see is a two term Orange President.


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