The demeaning of ‘woke’ — or when attention to injustice becomes too much

Endesha Ida Mae Holland smiled as she recounted the events of the Mississippi voter registration movement for the 1994 documentary “Freedom on My Mind.” That movement, from 1961 to 1964, was marked by the bravery of activists and the violence meted out by those who felt threatened by the very idea of Black citizens exercising their fundamental rights.

Holland’s upbringing as a young African American in Mississippi, her work in the struggle and the retaliation that followed had left her unprepared for her first encounter at a Southern lunch counter following the passage of civil rights laws she fought so hard for. She said that when the clerk politely greeted her, it was so overwhelming and appreciated, she ordered everything on the menu, just to experience the balm of kind words covering her again and again.

At the close of Freedom Summer — only a few years after a Black farmer who tried to register to vote was shot and killed by a Mississippi state representative, who got away with it — respect seemed a triumph to someone whose humanity had been denied for so long.

Remember the phrase “political correctness”? It’s not so in vogue these days, mostly because it has outlived its usefulness.

I remember when it was all the rage, an effort to reframe any rude and insensitive lout as a bold rule-breaker. My feelings about all the fuss? Despite protests to the contrary, there was never a prohibition against making rude remarks, no law that punished anyone who chucked racist or misogynistic or homophobic comments toward acquaintances or perfect strangers or who viewed the world through a lens of hardened stereotypes.

When ‘America First’ is a ticket to last place

It came and went in a second, in political time, a proposed idea that proved too racist for the politician reportedly behind it. But an “America First” caucus that was disavowed, sort of, by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and several of her Republican colleagues who at first seemed ready to sign up should be treated as more than a ridiculous sideshow.

The notions that fueled a “draft” stating the group’s principles have lingered, becoming part of a conversation that’s becoming a little less shocking and a lot more routine.

That’s one takeaway from Greene’s enormous fundraising haul, despite her lack of House committee assignments and useful endeavors. Even though the Georgia Republican backed away when the caucus’s endorsement of “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” leaked out, the very idea seemed to excite some GOP lawmakers and ignite a constituency that is larger than many “real” Americans would like to admit.

You know, the real American citizens of every race, creed, color, orientation and national origin, who believe in the ideals of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence without reservation, despite the country’s history of both triumphs and failures on that score. They are the Americans not surprised, but still disappointed that too many of their neighbors, co-workers and elected representatives are willing to toss democracy if that’s what it takes to hold on to the power they perceive to be slipping away, and justify it all with a sense of superiority — cultural and otherwise.