From CRT to M&M’s, DeSantis and GOP’s war on ‘woke’ speaks … – USA TODAY

Like many Americans in this age of stupid things, I face an existential question: Am I woke?

I assume not, because Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t tried to ban me, as he recently did an AP high school course on African-American studies.

But who knows? Maybe I’m stealth-woke. Maybe my very presence in society indoctrinates America’s youth with…well, I guess I don’t really know the specific content of woke indoctrination, since nobody stoking fear about it has ever explained what the heck they’re talking about.

Oh no! Queer people exist? Please don’t tell my children

In giving his reasons for blocking the AP course, DeSantis whined that it contained a section on “queer theory.” As he spoke those two words he sounded like someone was holding a cat turd under his nose. Apparently, anything “queer” is woke, because it might suggest to impressionable youth that queer people exist. I guess.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses the crowd before publicly signing the Stop Woke bill in April 2022.

The bottom line is DeSantis and other Quixotic clodhoppers in the perma-fabulist world of the Republican Party have made “woke” a ubiquitous slur, attacking everyone from leaders of The Walt Disney Co. to teachers to M&Ms. Why? Apparently because the “wokies” are trying to destroy America by engaging in radical behavior like “promoting understanding,” “thinking about others” and “making the world a slightly less awful place for people who historically haven’t had much say in how things work.”

DeSantis shows who he is:DeSantis blocks an AP African American studies course – and reveals his true colors

‘Woke’ never seems to apply to things that help straight, white people

“Woke” is an umbrella term on the right. Sometimes it refers to students learning about things like gender identity or slavery, sometimes it deals with the kind of shoes a cartoon M&M is wearing, sometimes it involves climate change.

But there’s one consistent element: It always gets applied to things that make certain straight, white people uncomfortable. I’ve never heard someone on Fox News bemoan the wokeness of a young-adult novel featuring the wedding of a white man and a white woman. They don’t holler things like: “THAT’S WOKE BECAUSE IT’S INDOCTRINATING MY CHILD WITH HETEROSEXUALITY!”

Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill passed in March 2022 is aimed at restricting speech on sexual orientation and gender identity in public school classrooms.

No, it’s always, “THAT BOOK IS WOKE BECAUSE IT SUGGESTS THAT BEING GAY AND LOVING SOMEONE IS A THING THAT HAPPENS!!” Or more sober reflections like, “We must ban this course because it might make my white child feel bad that slavery happened and, worse yet, that racism still exists in America, harumph.”

Does it stand for something else? Is it W.O.K.E.?

Maybe “WOKE” is an acronym for “White people Obfuscating to remain Keenly Entitled.” Or “Weirdos Opposed to Kids’ Education.”

I dunno. I can’t make sense of the whole thing.

‘Woke’ or joke?:DeSantis is trying to keep straight, white men like me perpetually angry.

Microsoft recently had the temerity to announce it was updating Xbox game consoles to be more energy efficient and help cut down on carbon emissions, prompting the fury fetishists at Fox News to lose their minds and say the company is “going woke because of climate change.” 

Fox News host Jimmy Failla said: “They’re trying to recruit your kids into climate politics at an earlier age.”

How dare a woke Xbox distract us from gender fluid M&Ms!

This was such a serious threat to the country it distracted the warriors-against-woke from their previous battle against what Tucker Carlson called “obese and distinctly frumpy lesbian M&Ms” or some other such nonsense.     

Fox News host Tucker Carlson, presumably troubled over the wokeness of M&Ms.

Making matters dumber, I heard Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus on Fox Business the other day complaining about the “woke generation” and its focus on climate change, saying: “We’ve already overspent. And if anything, climate control has caused most of the problems we have today.”

But then I read Home Depot is installing solar panels across the rooftops of 25 of its stores in California, part of the company’s plan to “produce or procure 100% renewable electricity equivalent to the electricity needs for all Home Depot facilities by 2030.” 

All right, anti-woke crusaders, make up your darn minds

So concern about climate change is woke and problematic but also part of the environmentally conscious plan the company — whose co-founder hates wokeness — is touting?


In Congress, lawmakers are wrestling over raising the debt ceiling, which should be a simple step to avoid a global financial crisis. But Republicans have dug their heels in, and one budgetary proposal getting attention comes from the right-wing Center for Renewing America. It’s called “A Commitment to End Woke and Weaponized Government.”

Critical race theory

In 90 pages of text, the word “woke” appears 77 times, but never once with anything approaching a definition of the word itself. It could just as effectively have been called “A Commitment to End Flarpgasms and Weaponized Government.” The word is irrelevant — its only intent is to spark a visceral “the libs are gonna make it so I’m not at the top of the power structure” response in people who, deep down or right on the surface, feel they have a right to remain at the top of the power structure.

What are debt ceiling ‘extraordinary measures’?:GOP bake sale and selling Biden’s Corvette.

We must rid our school of FLARPGASM!

DeSantis could hold a press conference in Florida and decry the “flarpgasm” of an AP African American studies course, and his supporters would cheer and wink and nod and be proud they live in a state whose motto is, “Where Flarpgasm Goes to Die!”

Woke is, at the risk of rhyming, a joke, albeit an insidious one. It’s hard for a person or politician to stand up and say, “I’m not comfortable with people who are transgender or queer or gay or lesbian, and I don’t want to better understand Black people’s historical experience in America.” 

Rally against teaching critical race theory at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Virginia on June 12, 2021.

But it’s easy for them to stand up and say, “I HATE WOKE!” It’s easy to push back against a meaningless word, and it gets the message across to fellow travelers just fine.

What it misses is this: The rest of us are smart enough to see through the charade. It’s too cute by half.

We aren’t sleeping through your woke-centric babbling, folks. Quite the contrary.

We’re woke indeed.

Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on Twitter @RexHuppke and Facebook, or contact him at

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