It’s time to let America’s amnesiac wokesters in on a secret: They embraced the term “woke.” They defined it, wrapped themselves in it, screamed it from the rooftops, and invested it with religious passion. The rest of us merely responded.
The woke, having forgotten all this, are now charging conservatives with inventing or distorting the word and using it as a semi-racist right-wing bogeyman term. MSNBC’s Alex Wagner, for example, claims that conservatives know that woke ideas are “sensible” but don’t have to acknowledge as much if they don’t define the word. At the Washington Post, Philip Bump says, “‘Woke’ simply describes anything that is inherently alarming to the right.” Also at the Washington Post, Ashley Parker and Liz Goodwin write that “conservatives began using ‘woke’ in pejorative terms to undermine Black and liberal ideals,” and Candis Watts Smith, author of Stay Woke: A People’s Guide to Making All Black Lives Matter, says the that the word “evokes Black folks or Blackness” and “on other things [it] kind of spills over.” The association with race, she says, isn’t accidental.