Theologically Sound. Culturally Relevant.

Benjamin Watson

Refuting Benjamin Watson’s Definition of Woke

There are a number of celebrity activists platformed by Big Eva as Christian athletes, and few are more prominent than Benjamin Watson, former NFL tight end who has been championed in the pro-life movement for several years. Unsurprisingly, Watson’s activism against abortion aligns with the Big Eva mindset of employing social programs to make abortion “unthinkable” and is supportive of the feminist narrative that woman are victims of abortion.

On issues of Race, Watson is very much a social justice activist masquerading in the church and has been supportive of Black Lives Matter and critical of those on the right. In a recent column on his blog entitled “You Can’t Define “Woke.” So I will.” Watson once again attacks the right to browbeat them over the use of the word “woke.” The article’s thumbnail features a picture of Ron DeSantis and gives the impression that the general populace does not understand the word “woke” so it is up to Watson to provide clarity on the issue.

I grew up before “woke” became a four-letter word and before it became embattled in a culture war where misappropriation and redefinition are the weapons of choice. It is a menacing and cruel transaction when a larger power broker sledgehammers a monument of remembrance and hurls its fragments as weapons of destruction against the community it was erected to empower. A quick google search of “woke” will produce a sludge fest of articles and videos of politicians and pundits out-woking each other, stoking fear for likes and votes. They have purposefully misled hordes of followers without apology.

First of all, “misappropriation and redefinition” of language is a prevalent facet if political discourse that has always been used by various regimes and political movements. The premise of “newspeak” in Nineteen Eighty-Four, written by George Orwell in 1949, features the redefinition and removal of language as a prominent weapon of the state. Nothing is new under the sun, so why does Watson take issue with one term out of many being coopted out of context over time. Furthermore, he proceeds to claim that those in the political discourse are misapplying the word for political gain, which is presumably those on the right. Who else is hurling the term as a weapon against the “community it was erected to empower” which is code for black people and other minorities?

One of the earliest public appearances of the word “woke” in the black vernacular was in the 1938 song “Scottsboro Boys,” written about nine black teenagers falsely accused of raping two white women aboard a train near Scottsboro, Alabama, in 1931.

“I made this little song about down there,” musician Lead Belly said. “So, I advise everybody, be a little careful when they go along through there — best stay woke, keep their eyes open.”

Because the word “woke” first appeared in a song, the meaning must be equivalent to what it meant in the song is the argument Watson employs, which is totally ignorant of the fact that terms are coopted and changed overtime as a language evolves. Ironically, this song is about how “believe all (white) women” harmed the black community. Nevertheless, the context within the song appears to equate “woke” with vigilance.

After quoting an excerpt from W.E.B. Du Bois, Watson then proceeds to define wokeness from the founder of the NAACP’s writings.

In essence, being “woke” is understanding this double consciousness and all its implications. It is maintaining dignity, strength and pride while grappling with visitation rights in the land of your birth. Blackness is beautiful, but realizing you are a member of the “other” brings both pride and precaution as one contemplates the perception white America, the majority culture, may have of your ilk.

This notion of “double consciousness and all its implications” is exactly what the term woke means in its current context. Nothing has changed. In its present form, the term “woke” arose out of the assertion of social awareness or conscientiousness, often to perceived implicit or explicit problems through the lens of cultural Marxist ideologies. This encompassed hyper-sensitivities to language and the invention of microaggressions. The emphasis on “empathy” over truth comes from wokeness.

Watson then proceeds to employ the victim mentality that black Americans are the perpetual victims of being the “other” group in a majority white America, despite the fact plenty of groups have been “others” too. Never mind that majority of problems in black communities stems from broken homes, poor financial decisions that hinder generational wealth development, criminal behavior, drugs, and its longstanding commitment to voting democrat against empirical results.

How you move, who you are, and how you look may become a problem simply by virtue of caste. While the word sometimes referred to other scenarios like being wary of a cheating partner or slang for being awake instead of asleep, it was always rooted in an awareness of racialized violence against black people by white America, whether by individuals or institutions, carried out intentionally or in innocence.

Much of the violence against black America is by black Americans, but that is the simple response to his claims. People would be more receptive to arguments about institutional racism or violence if given empirical examples or tangible policies rather than blanket accusations and ambiguous situations. Cry “Racist” enough times and the word loses its luster. Did Uncle Sam target blacks with cocaine and encourage the destabilization of black families through the welfare state? Yes. Did not the Moynihan Report identify strong families as being the key for blacks to elevate themselves out of poverty? Yes, and that has always been the solution, but not one the likes of the NAACP, Jesse Jackson, or Al Sharpton have championed.

But it is easier for Watson and the like to argue slogans and blanket accusations rather than tangible policies where their underlying presuppositions would be challenged and tested. Even worse—a  solution is made. To paraphrase Orwell, the revolution is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. In other words, the BLM movement which Watson covers for does not actually want reforms that could help the black community, as that would result in policy outcomes, they want authority and influence. There always needs to be racism to extinguish or the movement fades and the money and control with it.

In 2014 the word became intertwined with the Black Lives Matter movement, placing it front and center in the public square and a burgeoning national reckoning on race. And for some Americans, that was a bridge too far. “Woke” and its undefinable cousin CRT became the defense mechanism of choice. Maybe it was the uncertain circumstances surrounding Michael Brown’s killing compounded by calls for police accountability.

Watson is correct that BLM movement originated out of the death of Michael Brown, but obfuscates the historical fact that BLM crafted the fake narrative of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” in which an innocent Brown was callously gunned down by Darren Wilson. This was the media narrative heard around the world. The death of Brown was not about uncertainty, but the proliferation of false media narratives and the abrupt rush to judgment. Michael Brown’s martyrdom was about virtue signaling and castigating all who questioned the narrative or desired to wait for further information. Those who were slow to judgment were vindicated in this instance.

Maybe it was the summer of 2020 when the murder of George Floyd ignited a global movement as millions of people from every sociodemographic group marched around the globe and corporations pledged billions of dollars to racial equity initiatives. Maybe it was a renewed emphasis on how history impacts the present and a generation of young people (and older folks) who were suddenly learning history, shining a spotlight on what had previously been relegated to obscurity.

The martyrdom of St. Floyd was another Michael Brown, whereby Floyd overdosed on fentanyl while being detained by an incompetent set of officers. With Floyd, the virtue signaling immediately identified race as the motivation and proceeded to accuse America of the sin of systemic oppression of black people without evidence—again. The rhetoric presented was not newfound, but merely the same preloaded ideology that was leveraged by scam organizations to rake in millions from unwitting corporations and individuals at a time when critical thinking skills were at an all time low due to Covid.

Minor events in history, like the Tulsa Massacre, were platformed as sins our society needed to atone for, despite being 100 years ago. The statistical underachievement of black people was automatically attributed to racist systems, not subcultural issues or individual choices. Criminals were released back onto the streets, elevating crime rates. History has been reduced to the rehashing of grievances, interpreted through the intersectional lenses of Cultural Marxism. Rather than educate, it is designed to deconstruct.

While some are cognizant, others are ignorant, unaware, and unbothered by what they don’t know. A concept that was never on their radar entered their field of vision in its present form. A recent conversation with a white friend and colleague illustrated this reality. After he used the word in casual conversation, I asked, “What does that mean to you?” His response was candid but equally concerning. “I’m not sure exactly. It’s basically about policy and people who are pushing a more liberal agenda.”

Watson pretends that in 2022, people are still confused on what the word woke means and represents. The term is fairly mainstream and has been used especially in condemning much of the swill Hollywood has been producing for several years. He proceeds to use an anecdote to accuse white people of mishandling the word. Evidently, his white friend understands what the word actually means.

Instead, it had come to represent a smorgasbord of ideals from sexuality to social justice that, in his view, prioritized political correctness, undercut American values, and threatened the future of religious freedom. With such a wide swath of issues strategically placed in the “woke” bucket, there are several that I am patently against as well. But their purpose is to poison the well and block progress. Those ancillary issues have little to do with “woke.”

All those things are true, but Watson shifts the article into his definition of Woke because everyone else in the world misunderstands the word’s definition, except for Benjamin Watson. The term woke has been synonymous of movements pertaining to the homosexual agenda and transgenderism. One can look at the pride flags, which now include the triangular stripes to represent transvestites and black and brown people. The BLM movement and Gay Agenda have been merged for years, prioritizing wide receivers over tight ends even during the George Floyd Riots. If anything, Watson blames the right for these added ideologies under the banner of wokeness, a term that is supposed to be exclusive to the black struggle.

Benjamin Watson contends that he is against certain issues labeled as woke, but his prior support of the And Campaign and the “Fairness for All Act,” which is the Equality Act with “religious exemptions” begs to differ. One is not against the homosexual permeation in our society if they would support legislation that codifies the legitimization of sin into our law.

It discounts and delegitimizes a documented history of unjust, state-sanctioned attacks on black people through policy, programming, and personal prejudice. What’s so confusing about this phenomenon is that many who would readily confirm that such injustice exists and rightly condemn it will hide behind “woke” as a shield preventing engagement on the matter. The cognitive dissonance is alarming.

Once can acknowledge the historical realities without being woke. In fact, being able to distinguish between the 1950’s and modern times is key to any “dialog,” but woke agenda is about narrative, not facts. Within any post-modern agenda, it is about perception over reality. He contends that many people who utter the word would “confirm such injustice exists” but never goes on to define what injustices exists. One could argue they have to invent injustices because so little exists. That is why Bubba Wallace and Jussie Smollett became national stories based on hoaxes that were readily applied to an ongoing narrative. That is why Kyle Rittenhouse was accused of being racist and the media repeatedly claimed his “victims” were black when the men he shot were white. On the injustice Rittenhouse suffered at the hands of the state, there is silence, proving that it was never about justice for all. Truly, if they had better evidence of injustice they would not require false narrative driven events.

Not only is the word offensive when uttered by those who have no concern for black people, but it also damages those of all creeds who do. It shuts down thoughtful dialog and stifles the conciliation that will promote redress and produce solutions to ongoing disparities. I guess that is the point.

Watson proceeds to equate disparities with inequalities. Disparities exists primarily because of personal choices, not systems. In reality, the only people dissuading dialog are the woke mob, who will accuse any dissenters of racism. For most whites, it is probably easier to remain silent, but dare to bring up the breakdown of black families or subcultural issues, and they would likewise suffer the same fate. Watson does not desire conciliation, but capitulation.

Every time I hear such reckless usage, I cringe and get angry. I hear what generations of black Americans have heard through the words and actions of equality’s opponents. I hear that our concerns about policing are contrived, that documented employment discrimination is complaining, and that unfair housing appraisals are coincidence. I hear that our pain and our lexicon of liberation can easily be erased at a whim.

There are legitimate concerns with aggressive tactics employed by police, particularly their use as tax collectors, policies like “stop and frisk,” and other intrusions on civil liberties that police willfully engage in. Unfortunately, in places where these things are dominant, black people have political clout and electoral control. Look no further than Baltimore, New York, or even Ferguson. While individual cases of employment discrimination might exist, countermeasures like affirmative action also exists, which is just reverse racism. They also contend that the lack of blacks at Google or any major corporation is indicative of racism. It is the same narrative that feminist use pertaining to women in STEM fields or the mythical wage gap, a narrative that has long been placed on the backburner. Unfair housing appraisals are largely driven by environmental factors, as the cities became horrendous places and “white flight” to the suburbs was in reaction to the elevated crime. Unlikely a unique scenario, the property tax differential between Baltimore County (30% black) and Baltimore City (62% black) is substantial and negatively impacts the city’s property values, among other factors. But housing appraisals are purely the result of racism as Watson insinuates.

In his column, Watson shows a picture of Tucker Carlson and Jason Whitlock, both critics of wokeness. Evidently, Watson takes issues with Whitlock for being a big black body, but not a black voice, because he hurls the term “woke” as a weapon “of destruction against the community it was erected to empower.” Whitlock has long been a critic of the BLM movement, unabashedly highlighting its homosexual undertones, has long criticized the Black Matriarchy, and has been critical of the lyrical pornography of rap music. Is Jason Whitlock stifling dialog by employing the term woke? What about Delano Squires? Is he also harmful to black people? These two black commentators have never shied away from uncomfortable subjects pertaining to the black community. Watson would rather implicate Whitlock than have the testicular fortitude to critique him by name with specifics.

In this new bastardized form, it serves the same purpose, reminding us that our concerns and even our days of remembrance are inconvenient and unimportant to far too many. Recent misappropriation proves the enduring necessity of being “woke” because the residue of anti-blackness still resides in the underpinnings of American society. The potentially hurt feelings of the majority still remain a stumbling block to justice.

Towards the end of the article, Watson comes out and says the use of woke as a pejorative is equated to anti-blackness, that to use it is inherently racism. He further implicated that white fragility (hurt feelings) motivates the use of the term, painting the issue as Minority Black vs. Majority White. He links a CNN article about a Florida law about restricting CRT in public schools. By his logic, those who are against wokeness are against black people. Those who do not want their children to learn slanted views of history and Marxist ideologies have a “residue of anti-blackness.”

To be “woke” is to desire the justice America promised and to keenly understand where it has miserably fallen short AND valiantly overcome. Some people would rather all of us stay quietly asleep. I’d rather stay “woke.”

The problem is that the woke crowd does not think America has valiantly overcome its racism and was in fact, rooted in racism. That is why they tear down the statues of America’s founders over slavery. That is why they want the 1619 project and CRT embedded in public schools. They want to deconstruct America and replace it with something befitting to their Marxist ideology. They want a revolution, not a reformation.

Benjamin Watson attempts to safeguard the term woke, coopting it to his own skewed definition that is disconnected from its use in contemporary discourse. His argument is not only unconvincing to the right who he exclusively critiques, but the left as well, who have happily trojan horsed feminism and homosexuality onto the “woke” conscience. He stands nothing to gain running cover for evangelicals who prefer their democrat politics to what the bible says on every given issue. He cannot be bothered to address legitimate concerns rooted in biblical understanding by those on the right who share his melanin content. Instead, he wants to play the gatekeeper on what is and is not “anti-black” when his preferred policy stances would be, and have been, detrimental to the black community.

Who is really anti-black, Watson? Maybe you must awaken to the times we are in.

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One Response

  1. Whatever it might’ve meant in the past, the word “woke” has now been hijacked by critical theorists. It refers to critical theory and derivatives. The only thing I can say to Mr. Watson is welcome to our world, where words, gestures, symbols, history, and the Bible itself are constantly hijacked and redefined in order to sell a false narrative and to advance a godless agenda.

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