For her newsletter, Anne Helen Petersen interviewed Garrett Bucks:
I spent the majority of my career on what I’d call a typical “white do-gooder” trajectory. There’s this unspoken assumption that, if you care about “social justice” as a white person, that your work is in other people’s communities. So that’s where I went: I taught on the Navajo Nation and in Chicago; I led a nonprofit in Milwaukee.
We’ve never had more information available to us, as white people, that something is intensely wrong with the system. Everything is broken.
But white people’s responses align with the social position where they’ve found themselves. White progressives go to white guilt: there might be some productive actions that come out of it, and some non-productive actions that come out of it. But if they’re on the more conservative side of the political spectrum, then the cognitive dissonance is going to be even deeper.
Can you talk a bit more about how this sort of activism becomes appealing for white conservative women?
For a white Evangelical, the idea of Black Lives Matter might make sense. But the need for collective shifts of power structures doesn’t make sense — at least in their world. Of course they would jump at something like QAnon, which, instead of suggesting that the “bad guy” is actually the system, suggests that the bad guy is an actual set of bad guys, individual and malevolent bad guys, doing specific actions that you can then oppose.
In this way, #SavetheChildren and QAnon becomes a very satisfying collective action project. You might end up doing it with other people — looking for pedophiles in your area, always on the lookout for white vans — but it comes from this very individualistic mindset of why the world is wrong, and how it can be changed.