How did American “wokeness” jump from elite schools to everyday life?
YOU COULD use a single word as a proxy. “Latinx” is a gender-neutral adjective which only 4% of American Hispanics say they prefer. Yet in 2018 the New York Times launched a column dedicated to “LatinX communities”. It has crept into White House press releases and a presidential speech. Google’s diversity reports use the even more inclusive “LatinX+”. A term once championed by esoteric academics has gone mainstream.
The espousal of new vocabulary is one sign of a social mobilisation that is affecting ever more areas of American life. It has penetrated politics and the press. Sometimes it spills out into the streets, in demonstrations calling for the abolition of police departments. It is starting to spread to schools. San Francisco’s education board, which for more than a year was unable to get children into classes, busied itself with stripping the names of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington from its schools, and ridding department names of acronyms such as VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts), on the ground that they are “a symptom of white supremacy”.