Night at the Woke Museum

 

For all of six picoseconds, I considered a career in public history. It’s my great fortune that fate instead sent me into the regulatory-industrial complex, where I can (for now) generate paperwork free of the taint of left-wing cultural politics. I know the world of public history reasonably well. I spent time in graduate school studying American architecture — a subject joined at the hip to public history.

One summer, I even interned at the institution formerly known as the Ohio Historical Society. (It is now known, officially, as the “Ohio History Connection,” a pointless and obfuscating name I prefer not to use.) Like all state historical societies, the Ohio Historical Society has a blog. Nobody reads this blog, save for the archivists and interns who write the posts (and one or two of their teacher friends), but that’s hardly relevant since the site still gives us a peek into the minds of the second-tier intelligentsia who staff such institutions. Their astroturfing reveals what matters to them — what they find interesting and inspiring. It tells us, in short, where the action is.

And where is the action, you ask? Everyone these days knows the answer: in wokeness! OHS blog offerings from this spring include a multi-part series on “LGBTQ+ history” (complete with helpful tips for parents interested in introducing “allyship” to their children), pieces about “self-care” and “trauma,” explainers about climate change, paeans to Kamala Harris, cheerleading for women in STEM, and more. The blog’s “education” category quite literally consists of nothing but wokeness. No other subject is worth teaching, I guess.

The Ohio Historical Society also hosts genealogy workshops — semi-public lectures intended to help confused family historians navigate the dusty world of state archives. One upcoming workshop — titled “Where My Single Folk?” — will teach amateur genealogists to “create more inclusive family tree[s]” by “research[ing] unmarried, never married, widowed, [and] adventurous relatives.” (So boring, those nuclear families.) Another “cover[s] the direct and indirect ways genealogical and historical spaces have and have not been equitable,” while another equips researchers to see “clues in the genealogical record that may raise a ‘rainbow flag'” and sends them off “to find ancestors that may have been Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer.” (Great Uncle Bob did always have gaudy taste in clothing. We’re on to him!)

Anyhow, you get the idea. I could cite other examples in other cities and states — like the Chicago History Museum, which is mainly interested, at the moment, in driving away its white visitors. It’s much the same everywhere: an unending chant of “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion!” echoing through the stacks. Small-town and rural historical societies fare a little better than larger urban museums, but only because of their overwhelmingly elderly patrons — Baby Boomers (and older) bitten by the history bug around the time of the Bicentennial. As these people die off, the neon-haired move in.

It’s not surprising that large and relatively well-funded history museums should prostrate themselves before the idol of wokeness. They are, after all, filled with the credentialed, the brainy, and the do-gooding. But then, they’ve always been filled with such people. It was always the public-spirited and the nosy — the Karens of their day — who bothered to stand on the street corners with their picket signs, or who packed the museums in their reenactor’s garb. If anything, wokeness is just public-spiritedness transmogrified. The energy once channeled into the creation of our institutions has to go somewhere, now that the institutions are created. Western civilization is a walking corpse. If not for wokeness, it’d be a motionless one.

Just before wokeness burst onto the scene, the buzzword floating around American schools was “relevance.” “Like, how could Shakespeare possibly be relevant to me? It’s, like, 2014,” said every teenage girl in the land. This void — the void of irrelevance — is precisely what wokeness fills. Critical theory is one way of bringing the past into the present, and one way of answering the question, “Why should I care?” In a world marked by disaffection and atomization and aimless drifting, and a world in which everything worth doing has been done, it’s the only kind of history available to us.

I don’t mean to defend critical theory. I’d much rather defund it. But I think it’s a bit of a distraction from the real problem — a problem western civilization would face whether or not Michel Foucault or Nikole Hannah-Jones had been born. That problem is Douthatian decadence: a “feeling that the future [is] not what was promised, that the frontiers have all been closed, and that the paths forward lead only to the grave.”

So, what is to be done? Nothing. Nothing at all.

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  1. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Conservatives were too busy poo-pooing teaching or encouraging our own kids in pursuing excellence in liberal arts degrees that we ostensibly abandoned these institutions to people who seriously need conservative boundaries on their excessively free spirits.

    • #1
  2. D.A. Venters Inactive
    D.A. Venters
    @DAVenters

    This is depressing.  My only hope is in the knowledge that there are trends in historical studies, and this obsessive focus on identity groups will eventually pass.

    You’re probably right about no one reading the OHS blog.  There is hope in that fact as well.  A competing institution, if it could be funded, could blow that away if it came to the issue with a different philosophy, a different focus.  I don’t mean to suggest one that is obviously a response to wokism, that would be almost as bad, but just an alternative that brings in on other aspects of history.  No institution dedicated to history can just ignore or deliberately downplay racism and discrimination, but it distorts history to focus only on that.  Maybe an institution like that already exists, and just needs attention.

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Kephalithos: So, what is to be done? Nothing. Nothing at all.

    I refuse to accept your conclusion, although I can appreciate your pessimism. I have too much faith in this country and its people to think there is nothing to be done. If that were true, why even write on Ricochet? Why bother? You may not have hope, but I’ll bet you’d like to have hope, even a small glimmer. And my hope will not be crushed by the Woke elite.

    • #3
  4. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I can’t recall when this infiltration began, where our history became so tainted that everything had to be scrubbed and re-engineered to portray something else (like Hilary’s old electronic devices). But it is “all-inclusive”, from gender to race, to climate, and everything in-between. You can feel its insidious influence – because it is signaling the end of the family, of faith in God and His goodness, exampled in Creation. The world being presented now is He made a lot of mistakes, including your sex at birth, and we need to correct it all. 

    We know from past history what happens when people try to remove God from his throne and sit themselves in it.  We are in for it…..

    • #4
  5. Buckpasser Member
    Buckpasser
    @Buckpasser

    Kephalithos: So, what is to be done? Nothing. Nothing at all.

    Banning God from public life pushes more people to that conclusion.

    • #5
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Kephalithos: One upcoming workshop — titled “Where My Single Folk?” — will teach amateur genealogists to “create more inclusive family tree[s]” by “research[ing] unmarried, never married, widowed, [and] adventurous relatives.”

    So among the Woke, grammar be optional.

    • #6
  7. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Excellent piece, Keph. 

    This matter of wokeness has been around longer than most people think.  I saw the beginnings of it around 1975 when deans and other administrators at universities began to interpret affirmative action as little more than a hunt for women and blacks to hire.

    I was on a hiring committee about that time, and we began to search resumes and supporting data for signs of blackness.  We actually took the resumes of those we thought were white males and put them into a stack of applicants that we were not going to hire.  The poor saps thought they had a shot at a job. 

    That is, universities became racist, or “woke,” institutions about that time. I wanted no part of it and told the department head that I didn’t want to be on any more hiring committees until they became fair to all applicants. 

    • #7
  8. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Any institution that celebrates the 100th anniversary of White Castle gets my vote.

    • #8
  9. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Kephalithos: So, what is to be done? Nothing. Nothing at all.

    I refuse to accept your conclusion, although I can appreciate your pessimism. I have too much faith in this country and its people to think there is nothing to be done. If that were true, why even write on Ricochet? Why bother? You may not have hope, but I’ll bet you’d like to have hope, even a small glimmer. And my hope will not be crushed by the Woke elite.

    People often say things are hopeless when they are plagued by hope and find it too painful to bear. 

    • #9
  10. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Percival (View Comment):

    Kephalithos: One upcoming workshop — titled “Where My Single Folk?” — will teach amateur genealogists to “create more inclusive family tree[s]” by “research[ing] unmarried, never married, widowed, [and] adventurous relatives.”

    So among the Woke, grammar be optional.

    It is a black idiomatic formation designed to look hip. Never mind that it links race to out-of-wedlock births. 

    • #10
  11. GlennAmurgis Coolidge
    GlennAmurgis
    @GlennAmurgis

    The only hope I have is kids rebelling from their parents

    • #11
  12. She Member
    She
    @She

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Excellent piece, Keph.

    This matter of wokeness has been around longer than most people think. I saw the beginnings of it around 1975 when deans and other administrators at universities began to interpret affirmative action as little more than a hunt for women and blacks to hire.

    I was on a hiring committee about that time, and we began to search resumes and supporting data for signs of blackness. We actually took the resumes of those we thought were white males and put them into a stack of applicants that we were not going to hire. The poor saps thought they had a shot at a job.

    That is, universities became racist, or “woke,” institutions about that time. I wanted no part of it and told the department head that I didn’t want to be on any more hiring committees until they became fair to all applicants.

    Completely agree.  It was the mid/late 1970’s.  That’s when I was a graduate student, and I could see it, too.  New professorial hires had strange expertise, or no expertise at all, but began to fill out quotients for (at that time it was women/women’s studies and black/black studies) required diversity measures.  I got out of academia shortly thereafter, but Mr/Dr She didn’t retire until 2003, and so I was very cognizant of the evolution of wokeness as it played out at what had hitherto been a rather conservative Catholic University.  I suppose, taking the long view, that I should point out that a couple of the wilder hires in the English Department have, over the course of three or four decades, mellowed a bit, and even become quite rational in their views.  But the rot continues, and probably at a faster pace than can be ameliorated by such things.

    • #12
  13. She Member
    She
    @She

    TBA (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Kephalithos: One upcoming workshop — titled “Where My Single Folk?” — will teach amateur genealogists to “create more inclusive family tree[s]” by “research[ing] unmarried, never married, widowed, [and] adventurous relatives.”

    So among the Woke, grammar be optional.

    It is a black idiomatic formation designed to look hip. Never mind that it links race to out-of-wedlock births.

    I found this amusing (the format, not the content) when I ran across it the other day, on the Google UK News page. I think it must have been linked to the main UK News page by mistake.

    It’s an article from the BBC News Pidgin site.

    Having grown up in West Africa, I used to be very good at Pidgin myself.  But I never thought of it as a fully-formed language, or thought to list it as one of my spoken languages on a resume.  A mistake, it appears.  From Wikipedia:

    Pidgin is one of the most widely spoken languages in West Africa (with up to 75 million speakers in Nigeria) but it does not have a standard written form. [So any written representation is just a rendition of how it sounds.]

    And from the article:

    Who be Ms Johnson
    Ms Johnson na well known anti-racism campaigner wey organise Black Lives Matter protest last summer, for her home city of Oxford.  She be graduate of Oxford Brookes University, plus she be leading figure for di Black Lives Matter movement for di UK and a member of di Taking the Initiative Party leadership committee.

    Di party for inside statement on Instagram say Ms Johnson na mama of two children and she be “powerful voice” wey always dey fight for black pipo and against di injustices wey dey affect di black community.

    Many don praise her courage and determination to stand up for di rights of black pipo, and always dey speak against injustices and inequality.

    Ms Johnson before now don tok about living in a society wia her black sons go dey accepted and wey get better system wey fit help dem grow. She say she dey determined to to continue to dey campaign and want to make a difference within her own community.

    Somehow, it makes a bit of a difference that the people speaking this version of English are engaging with it as a second language, and that makes me inclined to offer them a little more slack than that I give to someone who’s been through twelve grades of a New York public school and who still can’t put a coherent sentence together.

    • #13
  14. Kephalithos Member
    Kephalithos
    @Kephalithos

    She (View Comment): Having grown up in West Africa, I used to be very good at Pidgin myself. But I never thought of it as a fully-formed language, or thought to list it as one of my spoken languages on a resume. A mistake, it appears.

    There’s a Hawaiian Creole translation of the Bible called . . . wait for it . . . Da Jesus Book. Here’s the opening of John:

    Da time everyting had start, had one Guy. “Godʼs Talk,” dass who him. Dat Guy an God, dey stay togedda, an da Guy stay God fo real kine. 2 Dass da Guy, da time everyting had start, him an God stay togedda. 3 God wen make everyting, but da way he do um, he tell dis Guy fo do um. No mo notting dis Guy neva make. 4 He da Guy, if you like come alive fo real kine, you come by him, cuz dat kine life come from him. Wen peopo come alive lidat, jalike dey stay inside one place dat get plenny light. Den dey can see an undastan. 5 No matta stay dark, da dark no can pio da light. Everytime get light.

    • #14
  15. She Member
    She
    @She

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    She (View Comment): Having grown up in West Africa, I used to be very good at Pidgin myself. But I never thought of it as a fully-formed language, or thought to list it as one of my spoken languages on a resume. A mistake, it appears.

    There’s a Hawaiian Creole translation of the Bible called . . . wait for it . . . Da Jesus Book. Here’s the opening of John:

    Da time everyting had start, had one Guy. “Godʼs Talk,” dass who him. Dat Guy an God, dey stay togedda, an da Guy stay God fo real kine. 2 Dass da Guy, da time everyting had start, him an God stay togedda. 3 God wen make everyting, but da way he do um, he tell dis Guy fo do um. No mo notting dis Guy neva make. 4 He da Guy, if you like come alive fo real kine, you come by him, cuz dat kine life come from him. Wen peopo come alive lidat, jalike dey stay inside one place dat get plenny light. Den dey can see an undastan. 5 No matta stay dark, da dark no can pio da light. Everytime get light.

    Wow.  That would make sense though, since I think Creole people, at least in the Eastern US, had a strong West African component to their background.  

    • #15
  16. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    She (View Comment): Having grown up in West Africa, I used to be very good at Pidgin myself. But I never thought of it as a fully-formed language, or thought to list it as one of my spoken languages on a resume. A mistake, it appears.

    There’s a Hawaiian Creole translation of the Bible called . . . wait for it . . . Da Jesus Book. Here’s the opening of John:

    Da time everyting had start, had one Guy. “Godʼs Talk,” dass who him. Dat Guy an God, dey stay togedda, an da Guy stay God fo real kine. 2 Dass da Guy, da time everyting had start, him an God stay togedda. 3 God wen make everyting, but da way he do um, he tell dis Guy fo do um. No mo notting dis Guy neva make. 4 He da Guy, if you like come alive fo real kine, you come by him, cuz dat kine life come from him. Wen peopo come alive lidat, jalike dey stay inside one place dat get plenny light. Den dey can see an undastan. 5 No matta stay dark, da dark no can pio da light. Everytime get light.

    Not bad.

    • #16
  17. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    She (View Comment):

    I found this amusing (the format, not the content) when I ran across it the other day, on the Google UK News page. I think it must have been linked to the main UK News page by mistake.

    It’s an article from the BBC News Pidgin site.

    Having grown up in West Africa, I used to be very good at Pidgin myself. But I never thought of it as a fully-formed language, or thought to list it as one of my spoken languages on a resume. A mistake, it appears. From Wikipedia:

    Pidgin is one of the most widely spoken languages in West Africa (with up to 75 million speakers in Nigeria) but it does not have a standard written form. [So any written representation is just a rendition of how it sounds.]

    And from the article:

    Who be Ms Johnson
    Ms Johnson na well known anti-racism campaigner wey organise Black Lives Matter protest last summer, for her home city of Oxford. She be graduate of Oxford Brookes University, plus she be leading figure for di Black Lives Matter movement for di UK and a member of di Taking the Initiative Party leadership committee.

    Di party for inside statement on Instagram say Ms Johnson na mama of two children and she be “powerful voice” wey always dey fight for black pipo and against di injustices wey dey affect di black community.

    Many don praise her courage and determination to stand up for di rights of black pipo, and always dey speak against injustices and inequality.

    Ms Johnson before now don tok about living in a society wia her black sons go dey accepted and wey get better system wey fit help dem grow. She say she dey determined to to continue to dey campaign and want to make a difference within her own community.

    Or there is this.

    So! Ah buy a TV, dis say Roku TV so ah haf a roku no problem setups

    All de TV showing yuh is roku stuff., all ah wont es a TV
    Yuh turn et on TV stuff not going thru ah hole lot a roku an jumping over bricks tuh fine wah yuh wont.

    Ah TV wit remote yuh press de button presto! ! TV.

    So ah return et, now ah return thru UPS 4 blocks from me,
    How yuh getting dis big TV dere es ah nudder question.

    So ah put et on meh cart ( de one from Daddy, ) an log de ting up dere.

    Ah forget meh printer doh wont tuh work, ah cyan print out
    de mailing label. De charge $3 tuh print et.
    Now ah lookin fuh a new TV, Nuttin fancy jest a TV 📺 😀

    • #17
  18. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    She (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Kephalithos: One upcoming workshop — titled “Where My Single Folk?” — will teach amateur genealogists to “create more inclusive family tree[s]” by “research[ing] unmarried, never married, widowed, [and] adventurous relatives.”

    So among the Woke, grammar be optional.

    It is a black idiomatic formation designed to look hip. Never mind that it links race to out-of-wedlock births.

    I found this amusing (the format, not the content) when I ran across it the other day, on the Google UK News page. I think it must have been linked to the main UK News page by mistake.

    It’s an article from the BBC News Pidgin site.

    Having grown up in West Africa, I used to be very good at Pidgin myself. But I never thought of it as a fully-formed language, or thought to list it as one of my spoken languages on a resume. A mistake, it appears. From Wikipedia:

    Pidgin is one of the most widely spoken languages in West Africa (with up to 75 million speakers in Nigeria) but it does not have a standard written form. [So any written representation is just a rendition of how it sounds.]

    And from the article:

    Who be Ms Johnson
    Ms Johnson na well known anti-racism campaigner wey organise Black Lives Matter protest last summer, for her home city of Oxford. She be graduate of Oxford Brookes University, plus she be leading figure for di Black Lives Matter movement for di UK and a member of di Taking the Initiative Party leadership committee.

    Di party for inside statement on Instagram say Ms Johnson na mama of two children and she be “powerful voice” wey always dey fight for black pipo and against di injustices wey dey affect di black community.

    Many don praise her courage and determination to stand up for di rights of black pipo, and always dey speak against injustices and inequality.

    Ms Johnson before now don tok about living in a society wia her black sons go dey accepted and wey get better system wey fit help dem grow. She say she dey determined to to continue to dey campaign and want to make a difference within her own community.

    Somehow, it makes a bit of a difference that the people speaking this version of English are engaging with it as a second language, and that makes me inclined to offer them a little more slack than that I give to someone who’s been through twelve grades of a New York public school and who still can’t put a coherent sentence together.

    Is ‘pipo’ legit? 

    • #18
  19. She Member
    She
    @She

    TBA (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Kephalithos: One upcoming workshop — titled “Where My Single Folk?” — will teach amateur genealogists to “create more inclusive family tree[s]” by “research[ing] unmarried, never married, widowed, [and] adventurous relatives.”

    So among the Woke, grammar be optional.

    It is a black idiomatic formation designed to look hip. Never mind that it links race to out-of-wedlock births.

    I found this amusing (the format, not the content) when I ran across it the other day, on the Google UK News page. I think it must have been linked to the main UK News page by mistake.

    It’s an article from the BBC News Pidgin site.

    Having grown up in West Africa, I used to be very good at Pidgin myself. But I never thought of it as a fully-formed language, or thought to list it as one of my spoken languages on a resume. A mistake, it appears. From Wikipedia:

    Pidgin is one of the most widely spoken languages in West Africa (with up to 75 million speakers in Nigeria) but it does not have a standard written form. [So any written representation is just a rendition of how it sounds.]

    And from the article:

    Who be Ms Johnson
    Ms Johnson na well known anti-racism campaigner wey organise Black Lives Matter protest last summer, for her home city of Oxford. She be graduate of Oxford Brookes University, plus she be leading figure for di Black Lives Matter movement for di UK and a member of di Taking the Initiative Party leadership committee.

    Di party for inside statement on Instagram say Ms Johnson na mama of two children and she be “powerful voice” wey always dey fight for black pipo and against di injustices wey dey affect di black community.

    Many don praise her courage and determination to stand up for di rights of black pipo, and always dey speak against injustices and inequality.

    Ms Johnson before now don tok about living in a society wia her black sons go dey accepted and wey get better system wey fit help dem grow. She say she dey determined to to continue to dey campaign and want to make a difference within her own community.

    Somehow, it makes a bit of a difference that the people speaking this version of English are engaging with it as a second language, and that makes me inclined to offer them a little more slack than that I give to someone who’s been through twelve grades of a New York public school and who still can’t put a coherent sentence together.

    Is ‘pipo’ legit?

    As far as how it’s spoken, yes.  I thought it was also interesting that in the “Hawaiian Creole” Pidgin Bible quoted in #14, the word is “peopo.”  Same word.

    • #19
  20. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Museums are in a tough spot. All that Western art. Basements filled to the ceiling with works that haven’t been rotated out in years. Big airy rooms devoted to Christian tableaus. Their original mission was accumulate the product of Western culture in all its eras and styles, as well as examples of other cultures to provide a sense of the world beyond Europe, to compare and contrast, expand the limits of one’s aesthetic assumptions. Now that’s a celebration of whiteness and a flagrant example of Orientalism,  the colonial perspective. 

    Then: What to see.

    Now: How to think. 

     

    • #20
  21. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Museums are in a tough spot. All that Western art. Basements filled to the ceiling with works that haven’t been rotated out in years. Big airy rooms devoted to Christian tableaus. Their original mission was accumulate the product of Western culture in all its eras and styles, as well as examples of other cultures to provide a sense of the world beyond Europe, to compare and contrast, expand the limits of one’s aesthetic assumptions. Now that’s a celebration of whiteness and a flagrant example of Orientalism, the colonial perspective.

    Then: What to see.

    Now: How to think.

    It is perhaps worth noting that art in the Renaissance was nurtured and promoted when it illustrated the important text, and it was used to demonstrate piety. Art that didn’t illustrate the important text had to be defended against claims of immorality. 

    The same is true of Soviet Era art. 

    And more recently American art. 

    • #21
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