On Friday 31 March, former BBC host and now C5 presenter Jeremy Vine did little to dispel the notion that old, white, middle-class men are a scourge on society. He inanely mansplained to a woman, while indirectly arguing with the dictionary as well – all live on his TV show. Vine also showed a clear whiff of racism, too – unsurprisingly. It was all over the word ‘woke’.
Vine: schooled in the word ‘woke’
During 31 March’s episode of Jeremy Vine On 5, author and broadcaster Natasha Devon was on. The discussion turned to wokeness. Devon asked Vine to “define what woke is”. The host floundered, spouting something about:
Woke is basically when you sort of, y’know, you kind-of read the Guardian and this and that…
It literally isn’t that, Vine – as Devon went onto explain:
Woke is actually and African-American term. It means to be awake to injustice in society. If you’re woke it just means you’re not racist, homophobic or misogynist.
I was bamboozled once when #JeremyVine described himself as ‘WOKE’. Now I know why.
Just like a right winger he’s decided he doesn’t like the humanity in the original meaning & created a new one which makes no sense at all.
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
— Glow (@SussexRoyalGlow) March 31, 2023
As Vox wrote, the use of woke in this context dates back to the 1920s:
In 1923, a collection of aphorisms and ideas by the Jamaican philosopher and social activist Marcus Garvey included the summons “Wake up Ethiopia! Wake up Africa!” as a call to global Black citizens to become more socially and politically conscious. A few years later, the phrase “stay woke” turned up as part of a spoken afterword in the 1938 song “Scottsboro Boys,” a protest song by Blues musician Huddie Ledbetter, a.k.a. Lead Belly. The song describes the 1931 saga of a group of nine Black teenagers in Scottsboro, Arkansas, who were accused of raping two white women.
So, woke comes from Black people resisting colonialism, white supremacy, and slavery. It’s entered more widespread use since the Black Lives Matter movement rose to prominence in the previous decade. Naturally, the right wing and liberals have jumped on the term with their usual racist and classist shithousery – and intentionally weaponised it to mean something its not.
So, you’d think as an experienced broadcaster, Vine would know the etymology of the word woke – and therefore accept Devon’s correct explanation. But Vine is an old, middle-class white man – so of course he didn’t.
Exposing your own racism and misogyny, Jeremy Vine-style
The host said in response to Devon’s explanation:
In YOUR [his accent, not the Canary’s] definition it means that, but not to everyone.
Devon seemed to want to try and tell him that her definition was literally the dictionary’s one. Because it actually is. But even then, Vine still wouldn’t have it, saying:
No, no – not to everyone. It’s come to mean something else.
No, it fucking hasn’t Vine. Racist, homophobic and misogynistic people have hijacked it to mean something else. The rest of us are very clear on the definition – as people on social media pointed out:
“It’s come to mean something else”.
Many racist homophobic mysoginostic people work hard to delegitimise the term and attempt to make it mean something else. But they have failed.
We know this because they can’t provide their new definition
— Stuart G (@AvidInquirer) March 31, 2023
That is the definition Jeremy, it’s just been hijacked as an insult by the likes of the sun or daily fail to try and legitimise being racist / bigoted / nasty to people usually … when used as an insult it often says more about that person and their attitudes than the ‘woke’ one
— Lulu (@Lulu_R81) March 31, 2023
Vine gave the distinct impression he’s a bit racist and misogynistic, too. Black people couldn’t possibly have their own words, and a woman couldn’t possibly be right on what they mean – could they, Jeremy?
Jeremy Vine might as well just say: "you black people are not important enough to define your own terms" just so we're all clear what he really meant. Same old same old.
— Tendai Chetse 🇿🇼 🇬🇧 (@TendaiChetse) March 31, 2023
I guess Jeremey gets to decide, not the Black community who created it.
There is a word for that.
— vob (@voblat) March 31, 2023
She gave him the chance to define it and he couldn’t. Then she correctly gives both a definition and it’s origin, and he dismisses her. Embarrassing.
— Kim Kinloch (@kim_kinloch) March 31, 2023
However, old white men exposing their extremely unpleasant underbellies via the corporate media is hardly new:
The willingness for men of this age to let you watch as their brains just sort of dribble out their ears on Daytime TV is becoming a sort of weird BDSM fetish. https://t.co/hwjabWQ2rQ
— rufus jones (@rufusjones1) March 31, 2023
Herein lies the problem.
Devon was articulate, accurate, and measured in her response. Vine was ignorant, racist and misogynistic in his. Clearly, his bosses realised his behaviour was rancid – or they were trying to silence people’s anger. The tweet from the official Jeremy Vine On 5 Twitter account that had the clip of the exchange in it had been deleted by 4pm on Friday 31 March.
Yet despite all this, he is the one whose name is on the TV show, and it’s his old white ass that’s sat in the host’s chair. Colonialism, where white people (driven by white supremist patriarchy) still hold the keys of power, remains rampant across society – and TV is a microcosm of this. While Vine’s pathetic performance on his show may seem inconsequential, it actually sums up the colonialist mess we’re living in.
Feature image via Jeremy Vine On 5 – YouTubeSupport us and go ad-free
We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support
The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.
The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.
So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.