After white people redefined ‘woke’ and ‘critical race theory,’ these 6 words or phrases might be next

OPINION: Now that critical race theory, Black Lives Matter and "woke" have all been successfully redefined as anti-white pejoratives, which common word or phrase does the Caucasian Rebranding Team have in its crosshairs?

woke, critical race theory,
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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio. 

In February 2017, shortly after the inauguration of America’s first colored president (Black is the absence of color; Donald Trump colored himself orange), I received a devastating phone call.

Ten years ago, long before every fourth person had a podcast, I began my own. On the third episode, I interviewed a comedian who eventually became one of my frequent collaborators, partners and co-hosts. My friend, who kept his fingers on the pulse of white America, informed me that the show he had created would have to end or change its name. I didn’t understand. His show had aired for three years and was named after a phrase that was common in Black culture, so I asked what was suddenly so bad about his show’s name.

“White people found out about it,” he replied

I understood. 

And that is why the “Stay Woke Show” no longer exists.

What happened to the term “woke” cannot solely be attributed to conservatives, Republicans or people who affix a strap to their wraparound sunglasses. I contend that those who consider themselves to be “allies” began the slow death of “woke” when they coopted the 80-plus-year-old phrase and redefined it as a virtue signal. White people calling themselves “woke” is the ultimate oxymoron because, if they were truly woke, they would never use it.

To be fair, there is a long history of white America’s ability to whitewash words and redefine them for their own use. Critical race theory was around for four decades before Christopher Rufo redefined it as a now-illegal narcotic that social studies teachers bought from Nikole Hannah-Jones’ 1619 cartel. Being an anti-racist meant you were against racism until it was redefined as “anti-white.” Bill Maher helped doom the movement for politicians to use more inclusive language when he made “politically correct” part of his smarmy brand of white liberalism. Black Lives Matter originally meant Black lives mattered. 

It is impossible to predict which word or phrase white people will seize upon next in their campaign of linguistic demonization. However, theGrio decided to examine a few words and phrases that are currently in the crosshairs of Caucasian influences. Here are our top six contenders that could be up for rebranding.

Stay woke.

6.  White supremacist

Actual definition: “the belief that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races, or “ the social, economic, and political systems that collectively enable white people to maintain power over people of other races.”

New definition: Super-racist.

A lot of people mistakenly believe that white supremacy is like racism on steroids when, in fact, white supremacy is a byproduct of racism, discrimination and inequality. Most of the policies and actions we call “racist” are actually the result of white supremacy.  

It is a statistical fact that majority-Black school districts receive less funding than their majority-white schools. Very few people believe that white people came up with a plan to sabotage the futures of Black children. The funding disparity is a result of segregation, Jim Crow, housing discrimination, economic inequality and more. However, the cumulative result of those policies is an educational system that ensures white children have better educational outcomes. This isn’t a belief or a feeling; it is a reality confirmed by a mountain of research, scholarship and evidence.

Therefore, people who are unwilling to change a system that advantages whiteness over everything are white supremacists. 

Examples: Professional Caucasian Megan McArdle once wrote an entire article warning me to be careful who I call a white supremacist because it “ hampers our ability to discuss the phenomenon that the anti-racists actually want to discuss.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene contends that calling someone a white supremacist is “like calling a person of color the N-word.”

5. Culturally Relevant Teaching

Actual definition: Incorporating students’ “customs, characteristics, experiences, and perspectives as tools for better classroom instruction.”

New definition: CRT — not to be confused with critical race theory, which should not be confused with the redefined critical race theory that white people made up, which should not be confused with concerned Republican tears.

Also known as “culturally responsive teaching,” culturally relevant instruction is part of a 30-year-old pedagogy that essentially incorporates a child’s background and culture into the learning process. But since it has the same initials as the graduate-level legal theory pioneered by law professor Derrick Bell, Lululemonists managed to demonize culturally relevant practices and other effective teaching tools such as socio-emotional learning and historical accuracy.

Examples: Dr. Gloria Swindler Boutte, a certified genius who pioneered culturally relevant teaching, found herself on a right-wing website’s list of “teachers who say they’re willing to violate [the] law to keep pushing CRT.  was accused of teaching.” Berkeley County Moms for Liberty president Christi Dixon told South Carolina legislators that “critical race theory, also known as culturally responsive teaching, is not a book, a lesson or a project. It is a worldview.” 

4. Diversity

Actual definition: the condition of having or being composed of differing elements, especially the inclusion of people of different races.

New definition: Choosing undeserving, less-qualified people at the expense of cisgender, white, Christians who have sex in the missionary position.

People who wear flip-flops to church truly believe that being intentional about including non-white, non-cisgender people is antithetical to the idea of “merit.” White people are statistically more likely to attend K-12 schools with more money and resources. They are more likely to have parents who attended college, which is a major determinant of standardized test scores and college admissions. You’re more likely to be hired if a white person recommends you for a job. They don’t have to compete because whiteness is their advantage.

But if a person who didn’t have all those advantages beats them out for a position, they must be a “diversity hire.

Examples: Vice President Kamala Harris, Supreme Court Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson and any Black person who triumphed over white mediocrity were called “diversity hires.” Privileged white nationalist Tucker Carlson wondered if diversity makes us weaker.

3. Affirmative Action

Actual definition: The use of policies, legislation, programs and procedures to improve the educational or employment opportunities of members of certain demographic groups (such as minority groups, women and older people) as a remedy to the effects of long-standing discrimination against such groups.

New definition: See “diversity.”

Examples: Candace Owens, Jason Whitlock and Clarence Thomas hate affirmative action after benefitting from it for years.

2. Equity

Actual definition: Justice according to natural law or right, specifically freedom from bias or favoritism.

New definition: Injustice against white people who specifically benefitted from bias or favoritism.

The movement to redefine this word rests on the subtly disingenuous premise that equates “equity” with “equality of outcome.” To be fair, I completely understand why so many white people perceive any effort to intentionally level the playing field as an affront to the idea of merit. They are accustomed to having the world tilted in their favor. However, no one is fighting for equal outcomes. Most people understand that some people are smarter, more capable or more talented. We just want equal opportunity.

Example: Ron DeSantis is making equity illegal in Florida. When Laura Ingraham said “Equity is the antithesis of equality,” she cited the document that once declared Black people worth 60%  of whites.

1. White

Actual definition: No real definition

New definition: A racial slur used against patriots who stand for the flag, support the troops and believe in law and order (except when they’re storming the Capitol).

White has never meant anything. 

It was a myth created to tie incompetent, barbarian empire-builders to the legacy of Greek and Roman civilizations who learned everything from Africans. Then it meant “not Black or Native American.” Over time, Jewish people, Hispanics and even Africans were welcomed into whiteness.

But have you used the word “white” to describe someone who is white lately? Don’t try it. In many states, you could be arrested for stating a statistical fact. Even though they control every branch of government, the banks, corporations and the entire call-the-police industry, white women will bawl like someone taught their kids about Black history if you refer to them as “white.”

I don’t know what it means.

Example: White people. The phrase “not all white people.”

Other candidates: Privilege, protest, insurrection, truth, fact, definition, democracy

Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in September.

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