Conservative author and columnist Bethany Mandel was mocked online after she was unable to define "woke" when asked during a live television interview and predicted the moment would "go viral."
The words "woke" and "wokeness" have served as buzzwords for Republicans nationwide who've pushed back against progressive ideals by co-opting slang from African American vernacular meaning "alert to racial prejudice and discrimination."
Republicans have often evoked another conservative bogeyman in their remarks, namely critical race theory, a body of legal and academic scholarship that aims to examine how racism and disparate racial outcomes have shaped public policy via often implicit social and institutional dynamics.
You'd think Mandel would understand the concept on some level but she could not explicitly define it despite previously having written articles railing against "wokeness" in conservative publications.
You can hear what Mandel said in the video below.
When asked to define wokeness, Mandel replied:
"So, I mean, 'woke' is sort of the idea that... um... this is going to be one of those moments that goes viral."
"'Woke' is something that is going to be sort of hard to define and we've spent an entire chapter defining it. It is sort of the understanding that we need to totally reimagine and redo society in order to create hierarchies of oppression."
"Sorry, it's hard to explain in a 15-second soundbite."
Mandel was indeed correct the moment would go viral and she has been mocked online as a result.
Conservative thinkers like Mandel have often suggested "wokeness" poses a threat to public education—even if they are unable to define just what the threat actually is.
In 2021, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis made headlines after he announced the “Stop Woke Act,” legislation intended to stop schools from teaching critical race theory.
Critical race theory is taught in colleges, not in public schools, and certainly not to young children, but DeSantis has continued to push these falsehoods as he courts conservatives who’ve given in to these conspiracies at a time when efforts to reposition the consequences and legacy of slavery as elements vital to the historical narrative continue to gain traction.
Despite his preoccupation with "wokeness," DeSantis has avoided defining the term outright even as he embarks on a book tour that has largely capitalized on striking down "woke" ideologies.
His own attorney was mocked for saying in court that someone who is "woke" "believes that there are systemic injustices in the criminal-justice system, and on that basis, they can decline to fully enforce and uphold the law," prompting accusations that he equates Black people with lawlessness.
CORRECTION 3/17/23: A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to Bethany Mandel as Bethany Frankel. The error has been fixed.