Author of Book Criticizing “Woke” Culture Can’t Define What It Means

Image via screengrab/Rising

By Giselle Balido

March 16, 2023

The word weaponized by Gov. DeSantis has been used as a slur by former President Donald Trump and several Trump-backed midterm candidates like Kari Lake. But some conservatives have a hard time explaining it.

After Gov. Ron DeSantis and other GOP politicians declared war on “woke,” the Republicans’ favorite slur has been used to attack everyone from leaders of The Walt Disney Co. to teachers in public schools trying to teach racial history in the US. According to conservatives, those who are “woke” are trying to destroy America by engaging in radical behavior like… 

Well, like what, exactly? That is the question that Briahna Joy Gray, co-host of The Hill’s online program “Rising,” posed to conservative author Bethany Mandel, who was promoting her new book, “Stolen Youth.” 

To say that Mandel, who proposes that the youth of today are being ideologically poisoned with “woke” leftist theories about race and gender, was flustered and at a loss for words is a major understatement. 

The author of a book on the dangers of being “woke,” could not define the term.

After an uncomfortably painful pause, the author who dedicates a whole chapter of her book to the unfounded dangers of “woke,” was unable to define the term. 

“Sorry, I … it’s hard to explain in a 15-second soundbite,” she finally said. 

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Others have not had such difficulty defining the term. Originally coined by progressive Black Americans, it was used in racial justice movements in the early to mid-1900s. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to be “woke” politically in the Black community means that someone is informed, educated and conscious of social injustice and racial inequality. 

America Reacts

The word “woke” has been used by Gov. DeSantis, former President Donald Trump, and several Trump-backed midterm candidates like Kari Lake to mean being “overly politically correct,” or “policing of one’s words.” 

But despite these efforts from the extreme right to demonize the word, a new USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll conducted from March 3 to March 5, 2023, found that 56% of Americans, and 78% of Democrats, said woke means “to be informed, educated on, and aware of social injustices.”

During her uncomfortable silence while attempting to define the term on which she based a great part of her book, author Mandel said, “this is one of those moments that goes viral.”

She got that right.


  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.



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