Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) asks if you can really hold a legitimate hearing to examine a word — and its imagined proliferation in the US government — if that word doesn’t even have a definition.
The word she refers to is ‘Woke’ — as in the “woke agenda” — and, like beauty, its meaning is in the eye of the beholder.
For a MAGA Republican “woke” is an all-purpose slur to be used against those who suggest the rebalancing of systems that show historical bias or who talk about gender fluidity or other GOP taboos — it signifies a stand against meritocracy and instead favors a less equitable method of the distribution of power and money, based on race or some other secondary factor. That’s the MAGA/GOP line.
For progressives, Woke has a simpler definition: It describes a state of being open-minded, alert and responsive to injustice and the ways injustice manifests in society. Being responsive may mean consideration of a higher minimum wage if it promotes societal good, marriage equality, or a willingness to consider diversity in the workplace as a positive that may require stepping on the scale.
Republicans have tried & failed to give a slang term legal meaning. https://t.co/eeII9KAtJJ
— Lawrence O’Donnell (@Lawrence) March 9, 2023
Since its definition is always in flux, Ocasio-Cortez in the video testimony above allows woke to be defined by those in the GOP who hope to cancel it.
She achieves this by enumerating the specific items under the hearing’s consideration, pulling them out individually rather than allowing them to remain obscured in a reactionary haze of woke resistance.
Using this technique, Ocasio-Cortez mentions the following as part of what the GOP defines as the woke agenda currently crippling the federal government:
“There’s no definition of what woke is,” she says, “but on paper, what’s actually being criticized in this hearing is that the so-called ‘woke policies’ are remote work for federal workers, especially those that live in rural areas and those who have disabilities.”
Ocasio-Cortez continues naming items the GOP says are part of the woke agenda, as per the committee’s considerations: “Paying interns so that critical opportunities don’t just go to privileged kids whose parents can afford to pay for their rent? That is what is woke here — that is what the other side is calling woke here…That we want…firefighters stay on the job and have dignified conditions and not leave because they can make more money as a greeter at Walmart. This is what this whole term woke means. Or diversity and inclusion so that the people who work in our federal workforce are actually in proportion to those who live in this country.”
“This,” she says later, “is the horrifying woke agenda.”
Of these, the GOP agrees with Ocasio-Cortez very publicly on the last one, and much more quietly on the others. DEI (Diversity Equity Inclusion) policies are being torched by MAGA conservatives all over, again on the presumed basis that these eschew meritocracy and result in race-based and gender-based mediocrity.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is among the most prominent GOP lawmakers that have declared war on woke, blasting the so-called “woke agenda” and saying that his Sunshine State is where “woke goes to die.”
GOP congressional members have seen the effectiveness with their constituencies in following DeSantis’s lead, thus the hearings in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives about disemboweling the woke agenda allegedly pervading the federal government.
Ocasio-Cortez tries in these hearings to define what woke is by listing what the congressional GOP is against.