WaPo: Conservatives Using ‘Coded Language’ Like ‘Woke,’ ‘CRT’ to Hide Racism

People talk before the start of a rally against "critical race theory" (CRT) being taught

Terms such as “woke” and “CRT” are mere “euphemisms” used by conservatives to express their “racism” in a socially acceptable manner, according to a recent Washington Post essay that argues that “anti-Blackness is limitless” and suggests people “go back to the source material” and simply use outright racial slurs instead.

The Monday article by Pittsburgh-based columnist Damon Young, titled “Woke is now a dog whistle for Black. What’s next?” claims a host of terms commonly used by Americans are actually “coded language” for black citizens. 

In terms of location, descriptions such as “urban,” “inner-city,” and “Democratic strongholds” are cited as examples of such code, as well as neighborhoods depicted as “sketchy” or “depressed” “ghettos” filled with “thugs.”

Black residents are also described as “transient” “Section 8” “renters” who are “employable only through ‘affirmative action’ ‘diversity’ ‘quotas,’” the author writes. 

Other terms listed are “at-risk,” “underserved” and “fatherless,” as well as “marginalized,” “low-income” and “welfare-dependent.”

“But we’re also ‘socialists’ and ‘low-information voters’ taught ‘critical race theory’ by ‘Marxists’ so we can be ‘anti-American,’” he asserts, adding that black athletes are often described as “naturally gifted,” “ungrateful,” “intimidating” and “somehow both ‘aggressive’ and ‘lazy.’”

Young, whose work has been featured in The New York Times and The Guardian, claims he has “lost count of how many different euphemisms I’ve read and heard to describe” blacks Americans like himself, in the decades since he “first became aware of the coded language used to indicate Black people.”

“I even considered creating a drinking game where I’d take a shot each time I’d heard a racist dog whistle during a politician’s speech, but I probably would’ve died,” he wrote.

According to Young, the “newest addition” to such vocabulary is the term “CRT,” an acronym for Critical Race Theory, an academic and legal framework promoted by many on the left claiming that American institutions — the government, economy, and culture — are based on racial hierarchy, with whites at the top and blacks at the bottom, and even that which appears race-neutral is, on closer inspection, rooted in racism. 

As a result, it urges reform in virtually all of its institutions.

“You have Black teachers, Black administrators or Black school board members? That’s CRT,” Young wrote. “Black authors in your curriculum? CRT.” 

“You happen to teach a version of American history that doesn’t capitulate to the concept of American exceptionalism? CRT,” he added.

Young then continued to mock the use of the term as an alleged euphemism.

“Soon, CRT will be given sentience. It’ll be blamed for sham robberies, phantom murders and the NCAA’s transfer portal,” he wrote. “Cops will stop and frisk CRT, and will plant guns on it when the search is clean.” 

“Parents will take their children out of schools, fearing that CRT will ask their daughters to the prom,” he added.

Though the matter may seem “absurd,” Young suggests, “There’s an insidious intentionality behind it,” positing that “White anxiety about this obscure legal terminology” helped create a “CRT boogeyman” as an “effective way to galvanize White parents by putting a name to their fear of the decentering of Whiteness in America.” 

“Continents have formed in less time than it would take for that decentering to happen, but things like ‘time’ and ‘reality’ don’t seem to matter to the White parents distraught about Nikole Hannah-Jones,” he added.

Another term the Post columnist lists is “woke,” which he claims was originally “used exclusively by Black people to describe the Black people so socially conscious that it bordered on parody” but “unfortunately, one of us left the gate open and said it in mixed company, and it eventually entered the mainstream as a synonym for political correctness.”

Eventually, the right “caught wind of it,” since they are “20 to 60 years behind everything,” and it “became their umbrella for literally anything that even hinted at possessing a sliver of social consciousness,” he wrote.

“My favorite is how the NFL — the same National Football League that makes each game feel like Flag Day — is now too woke for some conservative sensibilities,” he added.

According to Young, currently, the term “woke” is “mostly used by the right to signify the presence of Black people” where they were not expected to be.

Claiming to be “mostly interested in what’s next,” Young predicted the “dog whistle glossary” would see “new contenders” emerge as it does annually. 

“Anti-Blackness is limitless, so the pool of candidates to indicate the presence of Black people is bottomless,” he wrote. “It could be something as innocuous as ‘grits,’ or something as arbitrarily specific as MUMFAs (Monmouth University MFAs).”

He concluded by suggesting that “maybe we should go back to the source material, where racists don’t have to twist themselves into bigoted little knots.” 

“Just say n—-r with your chest,” he wrote. 

“Wait, that’s too offensive? Too explosive? Too dangerous to say in public? Whatever,” he added. “Who’s the snowflake now?”

The essay comes as American citizens and institutions are frequently accused of racism and bigotry while many on the left continue to depict the U.S. as a systemically racist country.

In June, a Washington Post article suggested black Americans may need to “flee” the country in the face of an apparently growing population of “crazy White people” who are “not to be trifled with.”

The previous month, a Post essay called on Black Americans “tired” of American hostility to consider relocating to Ghana to be “free from White America’s psychic violence.”

Earlier this year, a Post piece accused many Americans of denying and downplaying rampant racism nationwide, stating that the killers of Ahmaud Arbery “stand in for millions of Americans” throughout the country who believe that skin color deems one “less worthy.” 

Another Post essay blamed current math curriculums for “enshrin[ing] the names of White men” while “blurring” the contributions of others, demanding formulas with supposedly “racist” origins be removed from math textbooks.

Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.


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