She couldn’t define ‘woke,’ yet she claims it's destroying America. Newsweek rewarded her with an entire op-ed.

Whitney Alese
Published in
5 min readMar 20

Bethany Mandel

Bethany Mandel sputtered and stalled. When asked by journalist Briahna Joy Gray to define what the word “woke” meant, Mandel, in a viral clip, seemed to struggle to define the word. A word she wrote an entire chapter on in her book, Stolen Youth: How Radicals Are Erasing Innocence and Indoctrinating a Generation.

A word she claims is destroying America she couldn’t even define.

Mandel eventually sputtered some form of a definition on The Hill’s Youtube show Rising that was completely antithetical to the colloquialism woke’s actual origins and meaning. Mandel says, “It’s hard to explain in a 15-second sound bite.” Gray responds, “Please take your time.”

As Mandel says in the clip, “this is one of those moments that goes viral.” And it did. The video circulated on various social media platforms garnering millions of views and countless comments.

Mandel recently had the opportunity to explain her side in a Newsweek article. When addressing the interview and her struggle to answer Gray’s question, Mandel says, “It was a fair question; after all, it’s the centerpiece of my book’s premise. But by that point, the panic attack had arrived and I was rendered speechless. Eventually, I sputtered out what I thought was a decent definition of the word, but by then it was too late.”

It was indeed too late. Mandel, a vocal conservative, being unable to succinctly define the word that she alleges is “indoctrinating a generation” was the confirmation of what many believe. They cannot define woke or critical race theory or any of the terms they use to create fear and panic because many of them do not know what those terms are. They were just told they need to fear them.

Gray herself later shared a statement following the virality of Mandel’s flop, saying, “I want to be really clear, I did not intend for this to be a gotchya moment, I asked her to define ‘woke’ because…

Whitney Alese
Writer for

Whitney Alese is a writer & podcaster, featured in WIRED Magazine (Sept 2020) & I-D Magazine (Dec. 2021), and NBC (Jan 2023). She is based in Philadelphia.