By now, many of you who are “woke” enough to follow current issues that populate or dominate the news cycle are aware of the incident involving Bethany Mandel. The conservative activist and author set the internet ablaze and went viral for her screeching response to defining “woke” during the March 14th edition of The Hill’s web series “Rising” to promote her new book Stolen Youth. The reason was that Mandel had difficulty responding to a question from co-host Briahna Joy Gray, in a clip (below) that amassed millions of hits online and ample amounts of gleeful commentary from progressive journalists and activists.
After her fiasco, the right-wing media personality stated to Fox News Digital that her questioner made a disparaging remark about parents on a hot mic before the interview began, effectively throwing her off her game:
“Just before we went on air, Briahna Joy Gray was on a hot mic. I heard her demeaning parenting in general in colorful and nasty terms, stating parents only have kids in order to perpetuate their own narcissism. Robby responded, “There are some good ones and some bad ones.” And so I logged on thinking, ‘This woman is about to come at me very personally, and I have to be really careful because one day my kids are going to see this, and I don’t want them to be hurt by whatever she says and whatever I say,’” she said. “And so I have to be very careful, and so I was already very anxious when the call started, and you can tell, my goodness, if you watch the whole video, I am anxious from the get-go.”
As can be imagined, her suspiciously defensive response drew more than a few eye rolls, side eyes as well as the ire of more than a few social media observers, including some on the right. While there were a number of conservative bloggers who tied themselves up into twisted pretzel knots engaging in all sorts of mental gymnastics to indefensibly defend one of their own, there were other conservatives who were willing to see the forest for the trees and took Mandel to task. Like their left wing counterparts, they knew it was time to give Ms. Mandel her “Bye Felicia” papers.
Mind you, this is a person who has actually written a book on the topic of wokeness yet found herself clueless when asked to define what the term represented! Truth be told, this is hardly surprising. As was/is the case with the term “critical race theory,” the social and cultural far right have no idea what the word “woke” represents, let alone on how to define, or provide an adequate definition to such terms.
We have seen conservative journalists ranting and resorting to levying blame at the implosion of Silicon Valley Bank at the altar of wokeness. Wall Street Journal columnist Andy Kessler’s disingenuously opined that Silicon Valley Bank collapsed because they had “‘1 Black,’ ‘1 LGBTQ+’ and ‘2 Veterans’” on the board. He further commented: “I’m not saying 12 white men would have avoided this mess, but the company may have been distracted by diversity demands.” Okay!
Kessler should be well astute to the fact that there have been predominately and/or all white male boards that have demonstrated rampant degrees of incompetence. Has he not studied or followed past and recent history as it relates to bank failures? More than likely, he has. Rather, he has chosen to engage in a perverse form of intellectual dishonesty in an effort to appease his conservative readership.
The reason why people like Bethany Mandel, Andrew Kessler, Christopher Rufo, and many others on the right have such a difficult time defining the term “woke” is twofold. First, they do not know what the term means. Secondly, their intention is to employ vague meanings to the word. It is designed to be void of any concrete definition. Thus, it can be distorted and weaponized to attack anyone, any event or movement they either dislike or see as an unalterable political threat to their political, social, and cultural advancement. Sad to say, such an empty and sinister value system leaves much to be desired.
Elwood Watson, PhD, is a professor of history, Black Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies at East Tennessee State University. He is a cultural critic and author of the book, Keepin’ It Real: Essays on Race in Contemporary America. (University of Chicago Press).