Performative Wokeness on the Banks of the French Broad

I had a very short-term awful roommate situation in my early 20’s (Craigslist, natch). I shared a house with three other guys whose names I don’t recall because I’ve trained my brain to blackout that half a year, but I distinctly remember the most awful of the three one time scolding me for purchasing something I can’t recall from somewhere I can’t recall because in his words “they exploit their workers and put them in danger.” I’m sure he was correct—we’re all on smartphones which in some manner exploit factory workers and/or miners in an African or Asian country we’ll all pretend to know and care about if some public relations crisis that doesn’t implicate how ignorant we are about the creation of our daily creature comforts too much comes up. 

Now, this kid purchased weed several times a week, so I recall replying, “yes, because no one ever dies, so a fake-woke slob like you can get high 4x’s a day.” He had no reply because I, in a somewhat rare moment…was correct. Editor’s note: Readers, I did not say “woke”—”woke” didn’t exist then the way it does now, but I’m positive whatever I did say evoked the essence of fake woke. Fine, I’m sure I didn’t say “slob” either—I’m not that brave.

I thought about this slob recently when I spent an afternoon writing at the small park on the French Broad near High Five Coffee‘s Woodfin location. I worked at a picnic table a couple of feet from a large group of outwardly-woke Ashevillians celebrating a birthday. How do I know they were outwardly woke? Easy! They advertised such on their t-shirts! One wanted everyone to know that “Black Lives Inspire.” Another still stumped for “Bernie 2020.” One woman had a vintage Earth Day t-shirt with “save the planet” emblazoned upon the back. Remember her.  

The woke birthday revelers left their picnic area when I went to use the bathroom because on my walk back to my table, they were gone…yet their litter remained!  

What else is there to say? This kind of hypocrisy masked by virtual signaling isn’t unique to Asheville, although I think it’s easier to catch here. I picked up their litter and deposited it in the very-close-by trashcans, smug over the one-two punch that I, a basic, middle-class white man, cares more about the environment than a woman who’d surely lecture me about drinking bottled water (of course, they all had sticker-bedecked reusable water bottles) and the fact that I would be able to publish my good deed on the internet for all to see (why do the good deed if it can’t be documented, right?). 

I go to the park outside High Five’s Woodfin location often to work. They have a scattering of picnic tables, Adirondack chairs right on the river’s edge, and the coffee shop is open daily 8 AM-6 PM with a selection of hot beverages, sandwiches, and local beers. It’s a great place to relax, and while I’ve never been there when it’s empty, it’s comparatively less crowded than the riverside parks in Asheville proper.

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