Bret Weinstein was called out on social media for using “woke” as a pejorative. Which, so that we are clear, any white person who uses this word this way is, without a doubt, engaging in a racist action. Given that an action is either racist or antiracist, a white person electing to use this term this way is unequivocally the former. Here is the video in which he defends his usage of the term:
His defense starts off right, that the positive usage of this term has a long and honorable history. But, everything after that is wrong, especially the part about how he claims it originated as a term Black people applied to white people, and the frustrating thing is that all it would take is one search on Wikipedia for him to educate himself. Given the ease of access to this information, we must conclude this man is being deliberately ignorant.
The Origin (from Wikipedia)
The origin of this word has zero to do with applauding white people. In fact, as demonstrated by the plain English (something Weinstein, a diehard obscurantist, struggles with) in the above excerpt, we see the opposite is true; it originated as a reminder for Black people to be cautious of white people, and evolved to its more general usage of urging people to be politically aware. It is worth noting that this term emerged from Black music and Black labor movements. It did not emerge on college campuses or as means for white people to brag to each other about not being racist because their Black friend called them woke. Weinstein’s attempt to center white people this way in discussing the origin of this term is wildly uninformed and irresponsible.
In the 21st century, the admonition to “stay woke” was used by early Black Lives Matter activists, in keeping with its tradition as a call to be alert to the dangers of white supremacy, and specifically in this case how it manifests in police violence against Black people. This usage was appropriated and subverted by reactionary white supremacists during the 2014 Ferguson protests, and people who use it disparagingly today are making the deliberate choice to use an alt-right appropriation that is wielded as a blanket disparagement of “political correctness” (aka, “having empathy” or “being decent to people”). This usage is fundamentally rooted in anti-Blackness — as it sprung from hate directed toward Ferguson protestors, as a means to undercut and attack the legitimacy of Ferguson protestors — and to use it this way is to make the deliberate choice to participate in the erasure of Black voices.
My opinion is white people should not use this word to describe a person or belief or action. There are many other words one can use in any given situation. Even using it in its original form is suspect for white people, because adjudicating whether someone is woke or not has never been white people’s call to make. And for white people who use it pejoratively, they are committing an openly-racist, white supremacist act. I see that as a major red flag. If they persist even after being educated, as Bret Weinstein has done and will apparently keep doing, it is clear to me they are invested in upholding white supremacy, and I will regard their opinions accordingly.