Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, chief warrior in the crusade against “wokeness,” has hurled the word at so many targets as to render it meaningless. Fortunately, some members of DeSantis’ office have opened up about what they consider the definition of the word “woke” to be—and said a lot about their politics, while they were at it.
The question of the meaning of the word came up during a Florida trial over the potential reinstatement of Democratic State Attorney Andrew Warren, whom DeSantis suspended after Warren signed a pledge not to prosecute abortion seekers or providers. DeSantis argued that Warren’s pledge signaled a failure to perform his duties. A judge is currently deliberating the case.
During the trial, attorneys for Warren asked DeSantis aides to define “woke.” Per Florida Politics:
Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ Communications Director said “woke” was a “slang term for activism…progressive activism” and a general belief in systemic injustices in the country.
That’s the thing we’re supposed to believe is tearing the country apart. Belief in systemic injustices. There’s more:
Asked what “woke” means more generally, [Desantis’ General Counsel Ryan] Newman said “it would be the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them.”
Newman added that DeSantis doesn’t believe there are systemic injustices in the U.S. He also emphasized he believed Warren’s “wokeism” led him to sign the pledge not to prosecute abortion crimes, the primary factor that led to his suspension.
It’s important to remember that Ron DeSantis can’t hide behind the excuse of ignorance or incompetence, as former President Trump often did. Surely, during his undergraduate coursework at Yale or his law studies at Harvard, DeSantis encountered some discussion of redlining, environmental racism, discriminatory policing, or any of the other injustices that might be described as “systemic.” DeSantis knows that these exist, but in denying them, he divorces his actions from historical context and gives himself cover to perform stunts like arresting (mostly Black) Floridians for registering to vote when they didn’t know they had been barred from doing so. If DeSantis says “woke” often and loud enough, he just might be able to distract voters from the retrograde nature of the policies he’s enacted.