Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Reckon with This

We cannot rethink history to console those it embarrasses.

George Case
George Case

There are many designations lately applied to social justice movements on behalf of women, non-white people, the LGBTQ community, and other groups: #MeToo. Black Lives Matter. Gay Pride. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Some have tagged these campaigns with the dismissive labels of “Identity Politics” or the “Woke Left,” while more analytical observers have used the umbrella description of “the Successor Ideology,” to characterize a new set of progressive values espoused by younger generations of activists. But one term may sum up the entire range of modern advocacy around anti-racism, feminism, and gender more broadly than any other, and that term is the Reckoning.

The Reckoning is not an organization, a motto, or even a defined objective; dictionaries tell us that the word itself only means “the settlement of an account” or, more ominously, that a “day of reckoning” is “a time when something must be atoned for or avenged.” Today’s Reckoning is a multifaceted effort by educators, journalists, and political figures to re-evaluate the entire sweep of the Western narrative according to novel considerations of how deeply the story has been tainted by hitherto overlooked forms of discrimination and oppression. Where conventional accounts have duly acknowledged (say) the existence of slavery or the suffragettes, the Reckoning holds that white supremacy and the patriarchy were—and still are—essential to our social systems; that our notions of public and private life, from governments and laws all the way down to our art and entertainment, have been but convenient myths obscuring fundamental cruelties and inequalities that have gone unrecognized until now.


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