Amid a national backlash against wokeness, prominent woke liberals have asked that you please stop calling them that.
The left isn’t sure whether it wants to change its politics or everyone else’s language.
Whispers of dissent on the left have given way to open anti-woke revolt by congressional Democrats and sympathetic journalists following the party’s election losses last Tuesday and President Joe Biden’s historically low poll numbers.
Democrat strategist James Carville blasts the “stupid wokeness” of Democrats for election losses in Virginia and across the country. pic.twitter.com/Jd29gjbsjj
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) November 4, 2021
James Carville, a veteran Democratic strategist, summed up the sentiment during an appearance on “PBS Newshour,” saying, “Well, what went wrong is this stupid wokeness.”
- “I mean, this defund the police lunacy, this take Abraham Lincoln’s name off of schools, that — people see that,” Carville said. “And we have got to change this and not be about changing dictionaries and change laws.”
- Merriam-Webster added “woke” to its dictionary in 2017, defining the word as, “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).”
THE BACKLASH TO THE BACKLASH
Like the average audience for people seriously using the word “woke” in a 2021 political discussion are James Carville and Fox News pundits so that should tell you all you need to know
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 5, 2021
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said in an Instagram video that Virginia showed Democrats need to mobilize the “progressive base.”
- She later added on Twitter that pretty much only “older people,” “James Carville and Fox News pundits” still say “wokeness,” which originated as black activist slang.
Malaika Jabali, an Essence Magazine editor, agreed in the Guardian, “It’s mostly people who don’t understand the original connotation of ‘woke’ who still say woke.’ They can have it. … terms indigenous to our way of thinking or advocating get co-opted and distorted beyond recognition in mainstream society.”
Derecka Purnell, a Guardian U.S. columnist, wrote, “Carville bastardizes the word ‘wokeness,” which black people use to remind each other of “the violence that white people inflict upon us,” such as “demeaning interpersonal interactions” and “structural white supremacist” policies.
Adam Serwer, an Atlantic staff writer, said on Twitter that “woke” often “expresses sentiments the people using it would be uncomfortable articulating directly.”
Joel D. Anderson, a Slate staff writer, tweeted that “woke” is a “racial slur” when used “pejoratively” by anyone who is not black, and, “man, sometimes violence — or threatening it — is the answer, i gotta say.”
Critics of wokeness have split over how to respond to demands that they give up the term “woke.”
- Thomas Chatterton Williams, a contributor to The Atlantic, said in a tweet, “the word ‘woke’ needs to be retired. we need fresher, more specific language.”
- “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right,” he followed-up in the Guardian. “Fairly or not, ‘woke’ and ‘wokeness’ now overwhelmingly signal that you’re not fundamentally interested in that rhetorical labor, and those who need the most convincing give themselves permission to stop paying attention.”
- Batya Ungar-Sargon, a Newsweek opinion editor, tweeted, “I’m happy to cede the word woke. Just tell me what to call views like Defund the Police or open the border or SATs are white supremacy, which flatter affluent liberals at the expense of working class people of all races. I will debate these views in whatever terms are acceptable.”
- Freddie deBoer, a popular socialist writer, wrote a Substack post headlined “Please Just F*cking Tell Me What Term I Am Allowed to Use for the Sweeping Social and Political Changes You Demand.”
But others — including Quillette editor Colin Wright, mathematician James Linsday, former math teacher Paul Rossi and Claremont Institute editor Spencer A. Klavan — have argued against letting progressives once again change the terms of debate.
Terms like “woke” and “CRT” become toxic because the movements they describe are toxic. That’s it. End of story. Find another name for them, and that too will become toxic. To escape, the people involved will again complain that you are misrepresenting them. Stop falling for it.
— Spencer A. Klavan (@SpencerKlavan) November 9, 2021
- “Possible, albeit not perfect, alternatives,” she tweeted, “Neo-racism. Kendi-DiAngeloism. Or just IBS—short for intersectional bullshit.”