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First, let’s start with a simple truth: White people have no business defining what “woke” means.
White people in general, but especially white conservatives, have spent the last few years colonizing, Columbusing, gentrifying and bastardizing this word that is derived from African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and is simply defined as the Black collective’s awareness of white supremacy.
What white people have done to the word “woke” is a literal example of white supremacy. And to add insult to caucasity, conservatives who have changed the understood meaning of our word to fit their own racist narrative still can’t seem to define “woke” for themselves.
Meet conservative author Bethany Mandel.
Mandel recently made an appearance on the Hill’s streaming show “Rising” with host Briahna Joy Gray to talk about her new book “Unchecked Privilege: The Whiny White People’s Guide To Pretending Addressing Oppression is the Real Oppression.” (I’m joking. The book is actually called “Stolen Youth: How Radicals Are Erasing Innocence and Indoctrinating a Generation,” but that just doesn’t scream “Aggrieved Caucasian Millenial Bible” the way it should if you ask me.)
While Mandel was whitesplaining that most Americans don’t agree with wokeness, despite a recent survey that indicates most Americans do (although to be fair, the poll also says slightly more people view it as an insult rather than a compliment), Gray interrupted to ask her a simple question: “Would you mind defining woke? It’s come up a couple of times and I just want to make sure we’re on the same page.”
It’s a fair inquiry. After all, Mandel invoked her credentials as a certified WWWW (White Woman Woke Whisperer) to assert herself as an authority on wokeness in her book, so why shouldn’t she be able to define the term on demand?
Well, she damn sure couldn’t.
“So, I mean, woke is sort of the idea that, um ….” Mandel began before just kind of getting stuck looking like a white nationalist deer in headlights. After looking like she had briefly considered pretending her internet connection froze during the Zoom meeting, Mandel continued to stammer before she finally lamented that “this is gonna be one of those moments that goes viral.”
“Woke is something that’s very hard to define and we’ve spent a whole chapter defining it,” she said as she continued to struggle to articulate literally anything. “It’s sort of the understanding that we need to totally reimagine and redo society in order to create hierarchies of oppression. It’s hard to explain in a 15-second soundbite.”
So, just for the sake of argument, let’s take a second to unpack Mandel’s “15-second soundbite” version of her definition of “wokeness.”
Who is “reimagining” society and what is it being reimagined from?
A society that is hyper-aware of systemic racism and dedicated to correcting it is only a reimagining by white people’s standards. For Black people, it’s literally the version of America we’ve been imagining and fighting for since the first boat dragged us here.
A society that recognizes the rights and humanity of the LGBTQ community is only a reimagining in the minds of heteronormative thinkers. That’s the society queer people have wanted to live in for generations.
The point is, what Mande defines as an effort to “create hierarchies of oppression” is really just a reflection of a society that is evolving, improving and correcting itself from generation to generation. And this is how societies have always operated in spite of the perpetual attempts by conservatives to turn back the clock. And the idea that “radicals” are indoctrinating the youth is beyond absurd when young people are absolutely leading the “wokeness” movement.
But then again, when a white person rights an entire book chapter defining a Black expression, you can be pretty certain that absurdity is all you’re going to get.
How about just leaving the defining of Black terms Black people?
Some fellow whitesplainers tried to defend her. But no.
Meanwhile, A Tribe Called Beth tried to explain her flub by blaming the Black woman who interviewed her. She claimed she was thrown off after hearing Joy on a “hot mic” while the host was “demeaning parenting” and that’s why she failed so miserably at presenting an articulate definition of “woke.” (Whew, because for a second there, I just thought maybe she didn’t know WTF she was talking about.)
A message to whitesplainers of wokeness in the immortal words of woke Soul songstress Jill Scott:
“Or maybe we can just be silent!”